According to the second annual “Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes” study, “Americans strongly attest to the value of internships in preparing students: nearly 9-in-10 Americans believe students with work experience from an internship or paid employment related to their field will have more successful careers in the long-term.” Here at UW-Parkside there are a number of internships in all four colleges. I’ll have to start working on establishing more social science internships to complement the strong program we have in Criminal Justice!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a department chair is mentoring junior faculty members. At the U of Minnesota I set up regular meetings with a group of tenure-track faculty and one contract assistant professor. The structure of each meeting: a check in about research projects in progress, discussion of a topic I thought may be of interest, open discussion, and then a check out about action items. My new college is small enough for me to be able do the same here at UW-Parkside, and yesterday was the inaugural meeting for three new tenure-track assistant professors and one lecturer in his first post-graduate school academic appointment. The associate dean also attended and shared great advice. For some of the future meetings we’ll invite the other junior faculty members in the college. My topic of discussion was an advice for new assistant professors article from InsideHigherEd.com. Please let me know if you come across additional articles that I can share!

As a dean I have tons of tasks that need to be tracked; each day I create several new to-do items and complete existing entries. While at the U of Minnesota my main task management system was “Remember the Milk,” which allows a user to enter, edit, and complete tasks online or via smartphone and tablet apps. I liked it, aside from 2 issues: it costs $25 a year for the “pro” version (the free version limits the number of times per day you can synch tasks across devices), and the system has a bug where a task entered while in one time zone will get shifted up a day when you travel to a different time zone. When I moved to UW-Parkside I tried alternates: Outlook tasks, and Reminders for iOS devices. Both were unsatisfactory, so it’s back to Remember the Milk. Check it out if you need a good task management system!

As was the case at the University of Minnesota, here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside I’ll be working with living-learning communities. The Dean of Students wanted me to have an initial meeting in the second or third week of classes, after the initial rush of orientation activities passed. She also suggested that I write a letter to introduce myself before the first face to face meeting. I’ll share the draft in a post today. I’m looking forward to meeting the students!

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Students in the Exploration Living-Learning Community:

My name is Walt Jacobs, and I am a professor here at UW-Parkside. I am also the Dean of the College of Social Sciences & Professional Studies, which means that I oversee everything in seven departments: Criminal Justice; Geography; History; International Studies; the Institute of Professional Educator Development (IPED); Politics, Philosophy, and Law; and Sociology and Anthropology.

Like you, this is my first year at UW-P. Also like you, I am living in University Housing! Before coming to UW-Parkside I was at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for 14 years. Last year I helped start a Living-Learning Community (LLC) there, and I definitely want to continue working with them here at UW-Parkside, so this year I will be helping out with the Exploration LLC by attending some of the activities that the Office of Residence Life always schedules. I’d also like to do a few extra things this year with you, such as

  • Have dinner in Brickstone once a week.
  • Organize a once a month movie discussion after seeing an on-campus movie in the cinema.
  • Organize a once a month Open House where you’d have the opportunity to meet faculty and students in one of the seven departments in the College of Social Sciences & Professional Studies.

The Office of Residence Life has scheduled a meeting on XXXX in YYYY for me to meet with you to start the conversation about how we can work together over the year. I look forward to seeing you then!

The fall semester is finally here, as yesterday was the first day of classes at UW-P! I love first days of the semesters, as they feature unique energy created by the students’ excitement about new classes, twinged with just a little bit of fear and anxiety. It was fun walking around “the bridge,” a skyway that connects many of the buildings on campus. I missed an opportunity to connect with students, however, when one person in a group of three complimented me on my suit. I thanked her, but kept walking, as my natural inclination is to chat only when (a) I know the person; or (b) I’m intentionally out to make connections, as was the case later in the day yesterday when I went over to the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. I’ll need to get into the habit of making time to chat in a wider range of situations…

For the past 20 years the Tuesday after Labor Day has been the start of the fall semester for me. Today, though, is different, as classes don’t start until tomorrow at UW-Parkside. Students were on campus, so it was busier than any time during my preceding two summer months, but the numbers were limited, as new students were losing steam at the end of three days of voluntary orientation activities. Each college was asked to organize an orientation session were new students met with the dean for an hour, and then went to speak with department representatives for a second hour about majors and classes. I can’t speechify for more than 15 minutes, so I organized a twist where each department head co-presented with me about general aspects of the college and the departments, and then students went to breakout sessions with the department heads for more specific department information. That was fun, but I’m really looking forward to the real energy and excitement generated by a full complement of students on campus for day one!

P.S. At the end of the college/department hybrid session we also watched the first five minutes of the TV show Undeclared, and then the department heads started their breakout sessions with a discussion of the clip. I waited outside of the main lecture room to direct late students to the breakout rooms, but wished that I could have heard the discussions…

Today I attended the 2013 UW-Parkside convocation. While it was nice to see folks from many different sectors of the university gather to celebrate successes and learn about new initiatives, I’m a bit disappointed that we don’t have the type of convocation I’m used to attending, a gathering for new students where they hear a few short speeches, learn some of the traditions of the university, and are motivated to start the year strongly. Last week I spoke with the Dean of Students to suggest that we should co-chair a committee to explore possibilities for establishing a campus signature event; I’ll have to see if she also wants to add a new student convocation to the planning agenda. If so, we’ll definitely need to look into including a dynamic sophomore speaker like the one this year at Georgia Tech!

The song “The Unpossible” by Kaleidoscope Jukebox begins with a discussion of the limitations of the word “impossible”:

Our language…you might say our language lacks a word.
We have the word impossible, but we need to differentiate between two sorts of things.
The impossible is that which by definition can never be done.
We need another word: unpossible.
That which can’t be done just yet.

This song popped into my head today while thinking of times over my first two months as a dean when I’ve been told “we can’t do that here.” Luckily, there have only been two occurrences where that could not be overcome. The first time was when I requested wrjacobs@uwp.edu as my email address to match the wrjacobs@x construction I’ve had for the past 20 years. After six years with wrjacobs@indiana.edu I requested wrjacobs@umn.edu at the U of Minnesota and was initially denied, but an administrative assistant eventually tracked down someone who could do it, so I thought that the same thing could happen at UW-Parkside given an initial “our system can’t generate that” response, but no dice. The second instance was a request to let my administrative assistant use my designated dean’s parking space since I’d be parking at an on-campus apartment building. The “we can’t do that here” response was driven by fear of a precedent being set. Umm, I don’t really see future deans lining up to live in the student apartment complex and asking for others to use their reserved parking spaces, but whatevs.

In my meetings with department heads post I outlined consultative structures that I hope will facilitate the generation of ideas about alternative ways of business. Proposals will probably focus on practical problems, and rightfully so! I think that I’ll form another advisory group, one composed of faculty, staff, and students who are specifically interested in brainstorming unpossible ideas. I’ll call this the UnBox committee. Stay tuned for more details!

During my first year year at UW-P I am living in the on-campus student apartment complex. This complex never fills, so a few apartments are reserved for faculty and staff for transitional housing. The apartments have cable TV as part of the very inexpensive rent, but we don’t receive premium channels like Showtime. I’ve been a fan of the Showtime show Dexter for years, and figured that although I would not be able to watch it live, I could buy a subscription on iTunes to download to my iPad. Alas, it seems that the only legal way to watch Showtime shows during the first-run season is via a Showtime subscription; iTunes and Amazon streaming isn’t enabled until after shows go into re-runs. I think I can wait to watch the latest Dexter season, but it’s going to be hard to do that with my other Showtime show, Homeland. I think I might have to add Showtime to the package at the house in Charlotte, and catch up on episodes during visits to see my wife, who is living there for at least one more year to get more experience in a relatively new job. I think that our current promotional package is about to end, so hopefully I can sign up for another package that includes Showtime. Wish me luck!

Today I had the initial meeting with the person who will be the interim associate dean for 2013-2014. I wanted to make the meeting short, since he is technically not on contract until next Monday, but we ended up talking for two hours! I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me, as after the second meeting of department heads last month one person gave me a gentle reminder that they were not on contract until the end August, so I should not be holding so many meetings. I think I’ll be fine, as the new associate dean was formerly a department head, but he was not the one who made the comment. I did make a promise to the heads that I would try to not schedule any all-group meetings in August, and it looks like I’ll be able to keep it!

We’ll go into a heavy meeting rotation in September, however, as each department head (some are chairs, other are directors) will usually attend three meetings: a meeting of chairs, directors, and the dean group (CDDG); a council of heads (CoH) meeting that does not include the dean, associate dean, and dean’s assistant; and an individual meeting of the department head with the dean. What happens in each structure? In the CoH the heads will discuss the dean’s requests, create initiatives to present to the dean group, and share best practices; they’ll have a space where they can brainstorm without having to worry about the dean’s reaction before solid proposals can be created. In CDDG meetings the department heads, dean, associate dean, and dean’s assistant will discuss dean group ideas, discuss CoH suggestions, discuss central administration initiatives, and engage other business. In the head-dean meetings departmental concerns and ideas will be addressed, and two-way mentoring will happen. In sum, I want to have lots of spaces for consultation, which includes ideas brought to me in addition to ideas that I have to share. Hopefully the open atmosphere of the two initial CDDG meetings will carry over to all of the other meetings. Bring on September!