MARCH 2012 VOLUME 28, NUMBER 3
THE NEWSLETTER FOR ACADEMIC DEANS AND DEPARTMENT CHAIRS
Leading Upward By Jeffrey L. Buller, PhD
hen most people think of leadership, their mental image is of a process that is directed downward through an organization. In other words, the leader leads and the followers follow. There’s a chain of command, a hierarchy, a pecking order, and a food chain, with the person in charge at the top of the structure (or some substructure) and his or her influence radiating to the various bureaucratic levels underneath. Even though the leader may adopt alternative strategies to a military or corporate command-based style of leadership for example, pursuing servant leadership, transformational leadership, leadership by example, goal-oriented leadership, and/or some other nonautocratic approach the lines of authority still only move in one direction: from a higher to a lower echelon. Nevertheless, colleges and universities are rarely as simple as they appear on organizational charts. There are all kinds of dotted-line relationships among individuals, and, particularly in times of severe budgetary constraints, individuals start to play multiple roles that used to be assigned to two or more people. And each year there seem to be fewer and fewer higher education institutions where a dictatorial, top-down leadership style is the standard operating procedure. Academic leaders approach their responsibilities in a different way today than did provosts, deans, and department chairs 20 or 30 years ago. They now give
attention to leading their colleagues laterally, as recommended by authors such as Roger Fisher, Alan Sharp, Ho Wing Sit, and Ling Bundgaard. See Fisher and Sharp (2004) and Sit and Bundgaard (2009). Most important, they need to consider the most effective way of leading upward. The phrase “leading up” is probably most recognized through the work of Michael Useem, the director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. See, for example, Useem (2003). While Useem’s interest is primarily in corporate and military organizational structures, the concept certainly has relevance to higher education. Leading upward is not about controlling, managing, or manipulating your boss. It’s about viewing your role holistically, seeing your institution as an integrated system, and becoming more effective in your own leadership approaches. Look at the idea this way: you probably view various aspects of your program(s) quite differently from those who report to you. A tiny section may look to a faculty member like the best possible academic environment in which to teach and learn. To you, on the other hand, that very same situation may look more like a significant threat to productivity, financial sustainability, and growth in the number of majors in your area. In much the same way, your supervisor has a view of your program that is not likely to be identical to your own. But you’ll need to A MAgnA
know and understand what that view is like in order to carry out your initiatives. Department chairs need to consider how decisions look from a dean’s perspective, deans need to keep in mind the provost’s perspective, and so on. That perspective can determine the difference between success and failure as you plan for the future, seek additional funding, and set your priorities. For instance, if your supervisor believes that the path to success is to be found through increased enrollment or larger grant proposals, that goal has to become your goal too as you think strategically about your program. If you’re embarking on a course that involves absolutely no progress toward those objectives, you’re unlikely to receive the sort of support you’ll need to make your leadership effective. And if your plans actually contradict or hinder those of your supervisor, you may well encounter so much friction that even minor aims become unreachable for you. The alternative is to begin leading
In This Issue 3 Supporters and Critics: Both Are Essential to Change 4 Organizing Principle and Strategic Framework Help Prioritize Programs and Assessment 7 Overhauling the Core Curriculum the Lynn University Way
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LEADING UPWARD... From Page 1 upward by asking questions like the following: 1. What does my supervisor need from me? 2. What does my supervisor want from me? 3. What do I need from my supervisor? 4. What do I want from my supervisor? Needs and desires are treated separately here because, although they usually go together, there are times when they diverge. For example, your supervisor may need more student credit hours from you but want your program to stop wasting so much of his or her time with endless phone calls, complaints, and grievances that seem to originate in your area. In addition, leading upward includes the recognition that your boss also has a boss. For this reason, we can add two more questions to our list of what we need to know in order to lead upward: 5. What does my supervisor’s supervisor need? 6. What does my supervisor’s supervisor want? The goal then is not to lose sight of these six important questions as we move forward. The optimal situation is, of course, to discover some area where the answers to all six questions overlap. That utopian “sweet spot” may be extremely difficult to identify, but it’s not impossible. Finding an area where your needs and desires meld with those of the person to whom you report sometimes becomes a matter of explaining how goals that may appear to be disparate are actually closely related. In higher education, we’re used to thinking this way when we’re applying for sponsored research. We have a project for which we want
support; the funding agency has priorities that are outlined in the RFP or their bylaws. The goal of the proposal then becomes to find where linkages exist between our needs and the agency’s interests. Leading upward involves using this same process but with regard to our supervisors and other internal stakeholders. If your needs and desires happen to be exactly the same as those of your supervisor and his or her boss, then that’s terrific, and it’s likely that you can count on their institutional backing as you proceed. But if the similarities are not immediately obvious, your task becomes discovering ways in which your goals relate to other people’s agendas and can help them achieve their overall goals. What do those you report to need to know in order to say yes to your ideas? If you can identify that, you will have created a situation in which those above you on the organizational chart are happy with your initiatives, you are in a far better position to make progress on your objectives, and you have demonstrated positive academic leadership by leading upward. References Fisher, R., & Sharp, A. (2004). Lateral leadership. London: Profile Books. Sit, H.W., & Bundgaard, L. (2009). Lateral approach to taking charge: Simple principles for new bosses on building authority and partnerships. Moraga, CA: Lateral Approach Publishing. Useem, M. (2003). Leading up: How to lead your boss so you both win. New York, NY: Random House. Jeffrey L. Buller is dean of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of Academic Leadership Day by Day: Small Steps That Lead to Great Success (2011) and other books on higher education administration, all of which are published by Jossey-Bass. ▼
Change Supporters and Critics: Both Are Essential to Change By Rob Kelly
hen Juliette Bell became provost and vice president for academic affairs at Central State University in 2009, she had several ideas about how the institution could be improved. Specifically, she sought to restructure the university’s academic colleges to increase enrollment in STEM programs and establish a University College to improve student success rates. The university had a traditional structure that consisted of three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, and the College of Business and Industry. The engineering programs were located within the College of Business and Industry, and the science programs were located in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We found that many students who were looking for engineering programs did not recognize that we had engineering, because it was not prominently indicated anywhere in the names of the colleges. We thought that accentuating our focus on STEM disciplines by establishing a College of Science and Engineering would be very helpful in recruiting more students and would build upon our success in those areas,” Bell says. As for student success, the university had a Center for Academic Success, a support unit that focused on students with high needs and offered some functions that were targeted toward incoming freshmen. However, this center was not very effective at serving the needs of all freshmen. “We determined that we needed to do something different, beginning in the freshman year, to ensure greater student success, focusing on improving academic success in the classroom, higher course completion rates, and ACADEMIC LEADER
graduation rates,” Bell says. Bell’s previous institution, Fayetteville State University, had a very active University College that had been successful working with first-year students, and Bell sought to establish a similar structure to provide a holistic approach to students’ first year. As is common, Bell faced some resistance to her restructuring ideas. Some of this can be attributed to people’s reluctance to change. “It’s interesting, because here at Central State, our tagline is ‘Change Is Central,’ so I have to pull that out every now and then and remind people that we know that we have to change in order to remain relevant and meet the needs
dollars,” Bell says. Overcoming the resistance to the University College idea required more work. One reason for this resistance was that the university had experimented with a University College in the past. It was focused primarily on remedial activities, and some faculty members felt it was ineffective. It was later dismantled. The University College model that Bell brought forth was different from the one the university had in the past. Rather than focusing on remediation, the University College model that Bell envisioned would serve as a “gateway for all incoming freshmen with a coordinated set of activities that would
“It’s interesting, because here at Central State, our tagline is ‘Change Is Central,’ so I have to pull that out every now and then and remind people that we know that we have to change in order to remain relevant and meet the needs of our students.” of our students,” Bell says. Other factors that created resistance were lack of information, concerns about reallocation of resources, and the memory of past initiatives. Bell was proactive in getting people to understand the framework of the problems she sought to address; providing data about student success, retention, and graduation rates; and sharing national data and best practices, including successful University College models. As for the perennial issue of resources, the creation of the College of Science and Engineering was supported by a large grant to create a center of excellence in STEM. “Getting some external resources helped allay some of those fears about having to shift around
promote their movement into their selected majors.” To overcome the resistance to the University College, the university put together a cross-disciplinary planning committee that included a mix of supporters and critics. Over a sixmonth period this committee researched the concept, visited campuses that had successfully implemented a similar program, and wrote a white paper detailing its findings and a plan. Once the plan was introduced, Bell held open forums. “We decided it was very important to have a lot of communication on the issue and to answer any questions and concerns that might PAGE 64 3
Mission Organizing Principle and Strategic Framework Help Prioritize Programs and Assessment By Rob Kelly
oes your institution have an organizing principle—a succinct statement that clearly defines your institution? Do you know the overarching mission statement without having to pull it up on your computer? Most institutions have some sort of vision or mission statement or organizing principle, but if it is not frequently invoked and discussed, it doesn’t really serve its proper function—focusing the efforts of every unit on a common overarching goal. Margaret Drugovich, president of Hartwick College, a 1,500-student liberal arts college in Oneonta, N.Y., has created an organizing principle and accompanying strategic framework to help set priorities and drive improvement. Drugovich was drawn to the college by its history of incorporating experiential learning into its curriculum. She viewed this approach to learning as a strong but not clearly articulated characteristic of the college, and subsequently encapsulated this ideal in the college’s organizing principle: “Hartwick will be the best at melding liberal education with experiential learning.” “I have long been an advocate of bringing experiential learning together with a liberal arts education and not compromising on either. That’s why Hartwick was so attractive to me. This is an organization that made a commitment to this long before people started talking about experiential learning. My original thought was that if we got some fundamentals right—if we marketed the college correctly, for example—and really helped the public understand what we do, we would have a very salient offering. There had
been some times in the past 15 years where the college wasn’t positioned appropriately and didn’t have its appropriate market share. I thought that if we set a few priorities about how to go forward, we would find success,” Drugovich says. The organizing principle is a simple statement that reflects the institution’s underlying culture and aspirations, and provides direction and prioritizes the work of units across campus. It is supported by the strategic framework, which consists of the following seven points:
every program. And even though colleges and universities are diversifying their product line to serve educational needs in their regions, they really can’t serve everyone. So you really need to get focused on what you’re going to do, and this organizing principle and strategic framework have really helped us do that,” Drugovich says. The organizing principle and strategic framework are intended to serve as tools to help in the decisionmaking process throughout the college. “My job is to keep this out in front of
“I think organizations now understand that they can’t do everything anymore. They can’t serve every student. They can’t offer every program.”
• Improve student experience and satisfaction • Maximize the academic program • Expand our financial base • Improve the college’s image and reputation • Maximize employee performance • Maximize college governance • Maximize financial performance Drugovich developed the organizing principle and strategic framework just before the 2008 recession. As at other institutions, the recession brought priority setting to the fore. “[The organizing principle and strategic framework] have become very valuable to us as we try to focus our efforts and really set priorities. I think organizations now understand that they can’t do everything anymore. They can’t serve every student. They can’t offer
people and to help them become comfortable with using it as a tool for their own decision making. So when budget managers submit budgets, they have to justify them based on the goals and the organizing principle and strategic framework,” Drugovich says. “If it doesn’t relate to this framework, we really need to ask ourselves why we are doing it. I’ve really pushed that issue.” To keep the organizing principle and strategic framework on people’s minds and to demonstrate her commitment to these ideas, Drugovich makes it a point to talk about them at monthly meetings that are open to the entire Hartwick College community. “If you don’t have leadership buy-in and the president’s buy-in, you can’t do this, because in the dailiness of getting work done it really requires this kind of PAGE 54 ACADEMIC LEADER
ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE... From Page 4 purposeful, focused leadership. And that’s got to come from somewhere, and when you’re trying to do an initiative like this, it really needs to come from the president’s office,” Drugovich says. In addition to the implementation of the organizing principle and strategic framework, Hartwick has clarified its mission statement, which has helped each unit focus its assessment efforts. “Now that we have a very simplified mission statement for the college, each vice president needs to go to his or her divisions and craft a mission statement for the divisions that relate to that. And then based on those large organizational goals in the framework, the vice presidents have to look at the work their divisions do and ask, ‘How does the work that we do relate to each one of these goals?’” Drugovich says. Before Drugovich became president, Hartwick had made some progress in assessment. “We had some really good [assessment] work going on across the campus, but it was sort of sporadic. . . . We had done some work with department chairs. Most of the work that was interesting and organized was actually in the academic units of the institution. So by that time we had developed assessment plans for each program in the academic division. There was a college-wide assessment committee that had been working on some educational initiatives and some culture building for assessment and doing some training, but the real key piece of it was Margaret’s leadership and organizing principle,” says Lori Collins-Hall, chair of the sociology department and a leader of assessment on campus. ACADEMIC LEADER
The organizing principle created an environment that enabled assessment to be integrated. “I think, more important, it probably stopped us from creating a whole bunch of unrelated things just because each area felt it had to be doing assessment,” Collins-Hall says. Collins-Hall has collaborated with units across campus to devise and implement appropriate assessments. “I asked them to think about how they would assess things specifically in relation to these pieces [the organizing principle, strategic framework, and mission statement], telling them that they won’t be using time and energy to assess things that won’t contribute to the measures and how well we’re helping students achieve the learning outcomes and assess how well we are achieving our mission.” To be successful, assessments need buy-in and should not be imposed from outside the unit. There has been some resistance, as there always is initially, due to fear of change and to things viewed as predominantly administrative mandates. “When I talk to people about it, I explain that this isn’t top down; the organizing principle doesn’t come with any mandates or must-dos. It says only that this is what we do (our mission/vision) and we need to do assessment to prove that we do it and do it well. I work very intentionally and collaboratively with each area of the college and ask, ‘What do your assessment activities need look like to accomplish this goal?’ When people said to me, ‘Just tell me how to do it’ or ‘Tell me what you want,’ I saw that as possible animosity toward and fear of top-down [mandates]. And I said, ‘I don’t know. Can you help me understand what it is that happens here
and what’s important? Then I can help you think through the kinds of assessment strategies you might want to use to capture those learning outcomes.’” Although Drugovich has built upon Hartwick’s existing culture, seriously considering the institution’s defining characteristics and tying those to resource allocation decisions could lead to changes that are not popular with the entire institution. “There will be inevitable points of tension that will arise from this,” Drugovich says. “For example, I’ve asked the faculty council to lead the faculty through a process of determining and sending me recommendations by December 2012 on whether we have the right configuration of academic programs to educate men and women who are now coming into the higher education landscape, and whether these students are being well served by the things we offer. That may, in fact, result in recommendations to eliminate a program. Most organizations don’t like to do that, but I’m trusting my colleagues to do the right thing. I decided to engage the faculty on what it means to be an educated man or woman. So we’re going to put that responsibility in their hands to do that assessment and to send those recommendations my way.”
CHANGE... From Page 3
come up,” Bell says. To broaden input, Bell created seven implementation teams, one for each of the following aspects of the initiative: • • • • • • •
Pre-enrollment Advisement and mentoring Curriculum Assessment Wellness Logistics Communications
The model that emerged from these teams offers living and learning experiences designed to “assist students in developing positive relationships with faculty, staff, and other students that will foster a strong academic and co-curricular foundation at CSU and provide programs for students to learn the skills, habits, and dispositions they need to achieve academic success.” It includes an office of academic advising and assistance, a learning skills center, student support services, and a wellness component. Some programs expressed concerns about access to potential majors, a concern that needed to be addressed in order to get approval from the faculty senate. The concern was that channeling all first-year students and transfer students with fewer than 30 hours through University College would limit the ability of programs to recruit majors. For example, a music department faculty member who served on the planning committee expressed concern that students who were music majors need to be engaged with the music program from day one but might not get that opportunity under the University College model. The initial plan for the University College called for students to formally
declare their majors at the end of their first year. Under the revised plan, if a program decides it’s necessary for students to declare their majors, and the students have had appropriate interaction with the program, those students can declare their majors when they enroll. “Many programs really like the idea of students being pre-majors or intended majors, because they have certain requirements that students should meet before they formally enter those programs. Being in the University College allows students to engage with the programs to ensure that they’ve met those requirements before they declare their majors,” Bell says. In the spring of the first year, students can take a career exploration course in which faculty members help students learn more about particular majors and careers. Those who declare their majors when they enroll in their first year still participate in the University College. In addition to having an advisor from the University College, they also work with a faculty advisor in their major.
Advice for advancing change One of the challenges of bringing about change is avoiding the perception that an idea is an administrative mandate. On the other hand, great ideas may not get implemented without support from the administration. (Some faculty members at Central State tried in the past to establish a College of Science and Engineering without success.) Bell suggests addressing the following questions to facilitate change:
you’re trying to address,” Bell says. • WHAT? — Articulate a clear vision of what needs to be changed. “My vision was that we needed to establish a University College because I felt strongly that it would be a way to address our student success needs,” Bell says. • WHO? — Get broad-based support, including from advocates and critics. This lends credibility to the process. “I also learned through this process that by being engaged in the work, many of the critics became advocates,” Bell says. • WHEN? — Set appropriate timelines. “In academia,” Bell says, “things can go on for a very long time if you don’t establish some goals and milestones, especially because you have committees working on a variety of issues.” • HOW? — Don’t micromanage. “Engage your team and others to really develop the how—the implementation plan and the activities— because they are the ones who are likely going to be doing the work,” Bell says. Contact Juliette Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org. ▼
• WHY? — Explain the rationale for the change. “‘Why do we need to change?’ is the first question you’re going to get. Having data, planning documents, and various other information helps clarify the problem
Curriculum Overhauling the Core Curriculum the Lynn University Way By Rob Kelly
efore the redesign of its core curriculum, Lynn University had a fairly typical distribution model in which students selected core courses based on their interests. While interest is a good criterion for course selection, it isn’t necessarily the best way to ensure that students gain the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed. The idea for the curriculum redesign came out of the 2005 strategic plan— Lynn 2020—a vision for where the institution would be in 15 years. Drawing on the work of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences asked the faculty to consider what student learning outcomes are essential to 21st-century general education. The administration set the timelines and broad outlines of the redesign, but the specific changes came from a group of task forces led by Katrina CarterTellison, chair of the Dialogues of Learning (the name of the new core curriculum), over a two-year period.
Work groups As chair of the Dialogues of Learning, Carter-Tellison served as the highest-ranking faculty member working on this redesign. She expected some resistance to change. “For many faculty, the thought was, ‘What are we doing? Why are we fixing this? It’s not broken,’” she says. She has found that the project has opened many people’s eyes. “I’m a sociologist, and I’m as up to date on what the ASA [American Sociological Association] is doing as the next sociologist is,” Carter-Tellison says.
“But do I know what higher education is doing? I didn’t really. Do we know how students learn and what the latest research says about how students learn? Probably not.” Implementing the new core curriculum meant creating a series of completely new courses, a process carried out by a dozen work groups. The strength of the work groups was their diversity, and Carter-Tellison recommends this approach to other institutions engaging in core curriculum redesign. “Bring together a disparate group of people,” she says. For example, when looking at quantitative reasoning, she enlisted the help of faculty from psychology and business rather than relying solely on math faculty. “We put together a group of people who didn’t all come from the same disciplinary perspective. We’d say, ‘OK, in the area of quantitative reasoning, what’s the latest work out there? What are some foundational pieces we all should be reading?’ And everybody would get a binder. We would begin a discussion not from, ‘I teach statistics in the College of Business, and I think this is what people should know.’ We began with, ‘Here’s the current literature. Here’s what people are saying that students need to know. Here are the latest test results. Here’s what AAC&U is saying,’ and then we tried to pull everybody to the center and away from disciplinary corners. That was the goal of those common readings,” CarterTellison says. Each group focused on a specific question, such as the following: • What does it mean to be able to write at the college level? • What do students need to know
about science to be scientifically literate? • What books should students be reading? Having work groups address specific aspects of the core curriculum was an important element of the curriculum redesign. It probably made the process more manageable, Carter-Tellison says, giving faculty members a small piece on which to focus.
Demonstrating commitment To demonstrate the administration’s commitment to this project and to further streamline the process for faculty, all meetings related to this initiative were scheduled for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, between noon and 2 p.m. No classes were scheduled during this time, thereby enabling faculty work on the project without distraction. By not scheduling classes during this time, the administration carved out substantial blocks of time to get the work done. “All the university’s major academic endeavors were focused on revising the curriculum, and it was all hands on deck. We had probably 75 percent of our faculty working on this endeavor. Every faculty development project and every meeting focused on this endeavor,” Carter-Tellison says. The administration also made a point to recognize faculty members for their efforts, assuring them that if they participated in the redesign their work would count toward promotion. (Lynn does not offer tenure.) “We assured people that the work they contributed to the institution would not be for PAGE 84
LYNN UNIVERSITY.. From Page 7 naught. We would count this work on the committees as substantive. I think that was very important. It was also important to recognize that when people express their concerns about change, they are concerned about their own stability and their place in the institution. We invested a lot of time reassuring people that if they took this journey with us and contributed to this process, there would be a place for them at the table,” Carter-Tellison says.
Outcomes What emerged from this process was the Dialogues of Learning, a four-year, fully integrated thematic curriculum that consists of five themes: Belief and Reason, Justice and Civic Life, Self and Society, Quantitative Reasoning, and Scientific Literacy. Each dialogue consists of three phases: a foundational phase during students’ first and second years and transformational and integrative/capstones phases in years three and four. The redesigned courses consist of common content as well as content specific to each course. For example, every first-year student is required to write four types of essays and three types of speeches, and to read from selected texts. “To a certain extent it’s standardized, but in other ways it created an enormous amount of flexibility and freedom, because each faculty member can choose his or her own theme,” Carter-Tellison says. “For example, Self and Society is a general umbrella, but we have one faculty member teaching it through the eyes of the self in the 1960s and another one teaching it through what children learn from Dr. Seuss. It’s all about the interaction of self and society, but as an individual faculty member, I have 8
much more freedom from a thematic perspective as long as I use this collection of readings and this series of assignments.” The majority of the core courses are offered through the College of Liberal Education or the College of Arts and Sciences. Upper-level courses are embedded in the majors. For example, a psychology major will meet her quantitative reasoning requirement through Psychology Testing and Measurements, a course that has been redesigned to include all the outcomes for quantitative reasoning. “[Redesigning the core curriculum] has had a ripple effect through all the schools and all the majors, because they all had to be rethought. In fact, we’re going to redesign the majors around this core. It has had a profound effect. I don’t think any of us, when we began, realized the effect it would have,” Carter-Tellison says. In addition to changing the student experience, the curriculum redesign has had a positive effect on the faculty. “I think it created a sense of ownership. I think it empowered people who, for a long time, dealt only in their particular area of teaching. I think it created usefulness for people in the institution. You’re now not just the English teacher but also the person who created and contributed to a body of work that the institution now owns. I think the College of Arts and Sciences moved from the margins to the center of what the institution is doing,” CarterTellison says. Assessment is an integral part of the curriculum redesign, and an associate dean analyzes assessment data at regular checkpoints. In addition, Carter-Tellison updates the academic
council about what’s happening in the curriculum and what changes are being made. “It’s a constant process of evaluation and reevaluation and adjustment for change. I like to say that a good curriculum is living and breathing. It must be constantly fed and must constantly change to meet the needs or our students,” she says.
Advice Carter-Tellison offers the following advice about how to create a curriculum redesign process that’s likely to succeed: • Bring together a disparate group of people. • Make time for the work. • Demonstrate commitment. • Encourage faculty to look beyond their disciplines. • Assure participants that their efforts will count. • Keep curriculum change on the agenda. ▼
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Published on Jul 13, 2012
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