organizational leadership

Many institutions of higher education have a short term of classes between fall and spring semesters. Often in January, these “J-term” classes can be a way for students to pick up a few extra credits to either catch up or get ahead in plans to graduate in a timely manner. Here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside this week wraps up a 4-week J-term session we call “Winterim.” (A quick aside: 3 days of classes were canceled because of bad weather!) For the most part, classes were scheduled as a result of instructor interest: an instructor would propose a course, and if it met minimum enrollment guidelines it was offered. In my college I also approved a couple of classes that were below minimum enrollment standards, but they were proposed by a graduate student and a brand new assistant professor, so I wanted to try and support them. Luckily we have a little bit of one-time extra money in the budget for this fiscal year, so we could do this.

Going forward I’d like to be more strategic in scheduling Winterim courses. Oh, we’ll still support instructor interest, but I also want to make sure that we have classes that support students’ timely degree process; e.g., we offer classes required by students’ majors. Also, with pending budget cuts we’ll have to make sure that all classes will attract enough enrollment to cover expenses…and maybe with luck we can make a profit that can be used to support other initiatives! Ah, the challenges of organizational leadership.

We have reached the fundraising goal for the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope: $1200 to provide three $400 awards for students to engage external audiences about what they are learning & researching in the social sciences! Thanks to everyone who made a contribution and/or spread the word about the project. Next month students begin their projects, and I’ll post an update.

My college currently has a search for two new faculty members, and a pool of six finalists has been selected for on-campus interviews. Today I had a 30-minute meeting with the first candidate, and I’ve been scheduled to have similar meetings with the other five finalists. This is a new type of meeting for me, so this morning I was a bit nervous: “What should I ask these folks?!” In the end I decided that I’ll ask each person an opening question — “Why do you want to come to UW-Parkside?” — and then chat about differences between UW-Parkside and their current institutions. I’ll also give them plenty of time to ask me questions, and will leave time for the candidate to take a break before the next appointment in their hectic schedules. This plan worked well with the first candidate today, so I think that I’ll stick with it!

On Saturday I attended my first UW-Parkside Commencement ceremony, where I performed a new task: reading the names of graduates in my college. I was quite nervous about that, as I did not want to mispronounce anyone’s name, and had never read names before. Additionally, I was told that the phonetic spellings that some students write on the cards they hand you do more harm than good. Three or four times I hesitated before reading the names, and the students in those instances helped me by whispering the pronunciation, and I think I did OK with the rest. Whew!

I did make a mistake with the first three students, however: I just read each student’s name instead of her/his name, degree, and major. I corrected myself with the fourth student, and it was smooth sailing after that.

One additional change for this Commencement vs. the ceremonies I attended at the University of Minnesota: I borrowed one of the robes kept by the Office of the Chancellor instead of having regalia rented for me. Since I’ll now be wearing regalia much more often as an administrator than I did as a faculty member I think I’ll go ahead and buy my own. It’ll be nice to get that cool doctoral tam!

Earlier today I attended a preliminary oral examination for a Ph.D. candidate in higher education studies. Actually, I should say that I skyped in to the meeting, as it was for a student at the University of Minnesota. It was fun to discuss theoretical and methodological issues about his forthcoming dissertation on digital storytelling, but as we proceeded the most compelling questions and ideas that popped into my mind were about possible program development around digital storytelling here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. So even in a traditional faculty-centric setting I most strongly resonated with administrative elements. Full-time administration is definitely the place for me at this stage of my career!

One of the important tasks of a dean is to recognize the accomplishments of the faculty. When a faculty member receives an award or notification of a publication I send her/him an email note, and we post a notification to the college’s Facebook page. I have also sent congratulatory greeting cards to award winners; I selected blank cards with different covers and wrote brief notes to each person. For the next iteration of hand-written cards I’m thinking about ordering custom letterpress stationery. This will be a bit expensive, but the process of creating the stationery will be fun!

A couple of days before Thanksgiving last week a faculty member asked me to provide some information for a grant application that is due at the end of December. I told him that I would get to it after Thanksgiving. The next day he sent another request about getting an answer to him immediately. If the info was something he needed before doing anything else I would have made time, but the requested data is essentially “I support this project because of A, B, and C” that can be inserted the day before the deadline. I sent the faculty member a polite note to remind him that I had a number of tasks due before Thanksgiving and I would provide the information the next week, as promised. Yesterday one of the directors of a university program told me about a favorite saying: “Your urgency is not my emergency.” I may have to start using that!

$760 has been contributed online to the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope, and we received a $200 check. So we are just $240 away from our $1200 goal! Students are submitting their proposals this week. Please help us reach the goal of providing three students with $400 each. For more information and/or to make an investment go to Thank you!

The Social Sciences Kaleidoscope will be a web portal for social media channels students will use to engage external audiences about what they are learning & researching in the social sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. A call is out for students to participate in the spring 2014 semester. A committee will select three projects, and each student will receive $400 (to match what they get in the university’s Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program [URAP]). Students will use Vine, YouTube, podcasts, tumblr, digital stories, etc. to document learning and engage peers and members of larger communities. For more information, see our fundraising page. Please also consider making a donation; any amount helps!

In a November 12 post I outlined a plan to create a career readiness plan for my college. The plan could include granting internship credit for jobs students already have as a compliment to the traditional internship model of sending students out to new assignments. Does anyone know of any examples I should investigate? Thanks in advance for your suggestions!