Recently I’ve been thinking about two poorly designed items here on campus. The first concerns sets of trash bins next to the residence halls and apartments; in each pair one bin is for recycling, and the other is for garbage. The problem: they are both the same size and color (green), but the recycling bin has small stickers that are easy to miss. So what happens? You guessed it: the recycling bins usually have trash in them. I’m used to blue recycling bins with large signage. I wonder why that is not the norm here?

The second bad design: the bike racks look nice, but they are too narrow for the U-locks that are ubiquitous on all other college campuses I’ve been on that have “regular” bike racks. Here students have to use the much less secure chain lock, and frequently they just lock the front wheel, as that’s the only think that (partially) fits into the bike racks. Maybe bike thefts are rare here, but I miss normal bike racks!

When asked questions about my vision for the college, I always answer, “it’s not so much about my vision for the college, the more important question is about OUR vision for the college.” I have several structures in place for collaboration and collective decision-making, such as a lots of meetings with department heads. I’m in the process of starting a student advisory board (more on that in a post after the first meeting later this month), and recently started the UnBox committee. As you may have guessed from the title (or if you remember a post about “The Unpossible”), the charge of the UnBox committee is to brainstorm new and unusual practices. I selected folks who are new to the college or who have reputations for coloring outside of the lines. I have reps from the faculty, non-intructional professional staff, administrative staff, and students (a first year student as well as an upper-division student). The first meeting was mostly about brainstorming ways to get one of my ideas off the ground (the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope; I’ll elaborate on this in another future post), but in future meetings I’m sure that they’ll generate some new possibilities for the college to consider. I’m looking forward to those gatherings!

Six years ago today I joined Facebook. As I noted in the post “Using Facebook as an Academic Administrator,”  I joined Facebook after asking freshman students if I should join that or MySpace. The student who specifically said that Facebook is more “professional” is now a Facebook friend and a former Fulbright scholar who studied in Germany. He was right!

AMC TV’s Breaking Bad wrapped up its five-season run on Sunday, and many people are buzzing about the concluding episode. I thought that it was great, and I am enjoying reading about what others think, such as commentary by the two lead actors. I’ve also been thinking about other series finales, good (Roswell), bad (The X-Files), and ugly (Lost). What were some of the finales that you loved or hated, readers?

Last week I wrote about task management tools. In one of the comments a reader suggested that I try trello. While I liked it, it doesn’t quite knock Remember the Milk (RTM) from the top spot, as RTM handles my specific functions more efficiently. I received a note that $25 is due on October 2 to renew my RTM Pro account, so if anyone has any other favorite task management systems let me know before then, please!

Back in July I discussed a forthcoming role transition: wearing suits much more often. I delayed as long as I could, but today kicked off that new reality, as I unpacked new suits, shirts, ties, and shoes last night, and I’m wearing a new outfit today. (My wife has a practice of letting new clothes “age” for a few weeks before she wears them, so I happily followed that practice over the summer.) A colleague sent me an article about Black dandies in the academy. While I don’t think I’ll ever be stylish enough to be called a dandy, I might eventually enjoy dressing up. Wow!

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!