Category Archives: innovation

Finding the right time…

It was a decision that had to be made.  In my comment following this excellent presentation, do I only reference the parts of what I heard about the vision for IT at our College or do I also attempt to help everyone who is not in student affairs understand that IT can also play an important role in improving the educational experience of students by supporting the work of counselors and advisers who want to use technology to be more efficient and effective in their work with students?

Why did I have this dilemma?

The CIO made a most impressive presentation introducing concepts of the hype cycle, the trough of disillusionment, the slope of enlightenment and the plateau of productivity. He talked about the history of technology, where the College has been in its use of technology, where we are going, and various faculty and student initiatives in regard to instruction.

The bottom line is I loved the presentation! Yet, something really bothered me.

During the presentation, the CIO was quite specific in outlining how what he was proposing would work with the “academic areas.” Following the presentation when the administrators were making comments, the academic vice president framed his remarks with the words “on the academic side.”

I was surprised to hear this clear delineation of what was academic and, by inference, what was not, especially at a critical time when the entire College has been restructured to insure that advising is done by everyone to some degree.

To insure consistency, accuracy, continuity and a developmental model for advising, counseling faculty in student services are encouraging the use of a system where advisers are encouraged to place notes about their work with students so if a student changes a major or decides on a major after being advised as an undecided students, the next adviser has some prior information about the student.

The system also allows students to select the same adviser by scheduling their own appointments. The system will insure that students are on a pathway towards a degree or certificate, and data can be collected from the system to gauge the impact of interventions to help students succeed in their courses.

A wealth of information can be collected and shared among students, faculty, and administrators with a system that is technology dependent. Why the CIO and the vice president for academic affairs found it necessary to carve out the “academic side” in talking about the future of technology at the College was a puzzlement to me.

I chose not to attempt to enlighten my colleagues at this presentation because there is a time and place for everything, and my attempt at enlightenment following an outstanding presentation would have been seen as negatively disruptive, and no one can hear our message if there is the noise of negative disruption.

I will find other times and occasions to talk about holistic learning, the value of advising, and the fact that all of our work with students is “academic.”

Affirmations on Innovation and Collaboration

Fareed Zakaria had a special on CNN on Sunday, November 30, 2014, about innovation, which caught my attention because I have written about and given speeches on the topic for many years.

More than anything, I want faculty and student affairs educators to be innovative in the manner in which they help learners achieve their educational and career goals. Another ongoing theme and wish that I’ve written and spoken about is the value of collaboration among all parts of the college and university, especially between academic and student affairs.

On this same Sunday morning special, Zakaria interviewed Walter Isaacson whose recent book is on innovators and innovation. I’m paraphrasing, but Isaacson said that in creating his new book he discovered that, more than a facile mind and a willingness to pursue the dreams of one’s imagination, an important element that promotes innovation is collaboration. He said that unlike our image of the lone genius creating something new, those who would be called innovators more often than not worked with others who brought the needed talent to realize a vision.

As I listened to Isaacson talk about his discovery, I was talking back to him and saying “Amen” to his realization. Hearing Isaacson gave me the confirmation I needed to continue my message to academic and student affairs to pull together to innovate in colleges and universities for the sake of learners who need new ways to access the bounty of higher education.

Another guest interviewed by Zakaria for this special was Linda Rottenberg who spoke from her experience of reading thousands of business plans and working with more than a thousand entrepreneurs. Her “aha moment” was that one need not be a creative genius to be an innovator. What one needed to be was a “Doer.”

I loved hearing this because student affairs people often say that they are “Doers.” When there is a problem to be solved or a wrench has been thrown into the best laid plans and everything looks hopeless, two or three student affairs people in the room will tell you, “No worries. We’re student affairs people and we fix problems. We’re doers.”

Hearing these interviews on a Sunday morning was my church that gave me the spirit to keep beating the drum for collaboration, ringing the bell for innovation, and appreciating the work of student affairs professionals.