Friday, April 06, 2007
Looking for a Hook
In a few days I'm flying out to Red State for an on-campus interview and presentation.
They want 15 minutes on “issues facing higher education in America today.” They're a cc.
I've got more material than I know what to do with, literally. So, faithful readers, help a blogger out:
If you were looking for a new admin, and the candidates had to present on “issues facing higher education in America today,” what issues would you want to hear addressed?
So, DD, how you gonna show us the money?
A specific issue besides that of the role of the community college would be that of forced K-12 NCLB testing and the potential it has for a generation of higher-ed students who excel at the test but lack experience with creating new knowledge or adapting to new situations outside the test. If this is a concern of yours, you undoubtedly have thought about it already and will have no problem thinking of what to say. After all, you are one articulate dude. Good luck!
What I would want to hear when you present is---how much have you researched our school and how do you contextualize the problem you are presenting with our institution and what kind of vision do you exhibit; ie, not just presenting the facts but the solutions.
I told you it was obvious. However, I have heard administrative candidates who didn't exhibit vision and thus didn't sustain our interest.
Then there are the issues that will set you apart as a visionary, the ones that will mark you as a Dean of Distinction.
"Today's Students: Lazier or Stupider?"
"The Ever-Growing Zombie Menace and How to Protect the Campus from Their Shambling Threat."
"Water Fluoridation, the First Step Towards Communism."
Trust your brother. He knows the score.
a personal bugaboo, even though I'm not with a CC any more, is retention. I propose aligning retention data with meeting a student's goals, i.e., if a student's goal is to return to get a brush-up on computer skills or to learn a new language, if that student does not complete a degree, then said student should not be counted as non-retained. How to work out a mechanism for doing this is your job. ;-)
You may want to link this with a critique of Sanjaya on American Idol. Or maybe not. :-)
OK, all kidding aside, I think that's one of the big things cc's have to offer: almost all of the convenience of an online school, almost as cheap, but with value-added aspects.
Or online as an advantage? Our cc is apparently now offering all of the AA requirements without ever coming to campus.
Given the insightful advice you've posted yourself, and the excellent suggestions above, I really have nothing useful to offer. But I do want to say that I'm fascinated, this saga is way better than television. I hope you'll be able to share some details of your experience, and the results.
Second? How to get the faculty to work TOGETHER.
Anyway, although I do not know which red state you are going to but remember that the south and west red-blue or purple tend to be growing faster and facing different issues than the slower-growing true blue northeast.
More students, more students period. So the issue of how to deal with population growth, enrollment growth. The role cc's play in preparing ESL students for higher ed, vo-ed, etc. Here a big deal is cc's working very closely with employers to prepare students for very specific careers and other aspects of "workplace readiness".
Make sure that you know where the money comes from for the cc you are looking at, there can be some interesting arrangements in red states, often funding is strictly through a district-wide property tax, so wide variations in funding of cc's in different parts of the state.
The talk overall was disappointing, because: 1) the structure was a bit rambling 2) too many (good) quotations from (good) big name thinkers, but without an emphasis on what the candidate thought 3) not enough attention to the particular issues facing MY school and what the candidate might do about them 4) overall sense of vagueness rather than concrete examples. Faculty I spoke to agreed with me--and in the Q&A, faculty basically said "here's an issue that WE have, how would you deal with it?" We also wanted to know what the candidate's priorities would be as dean, though we didn't really get that.
Like someone else said, I wanted to hear a vision. The upside of this disappointing talk was that we were pretty sure this would not be a dean who would run roughshod over the faculty imposing their own way.
So even if they said "issues facing higher ed" I would conceive of it as "nationwide issues facing this particular institution". I don't think you need to provide solutions (for fear of running roughshod over faculty/tradition) but I suspect that I at least would have liked to hear a talk that covered "these are the challenges this school faces--this is the national context for these challenges--these are some options we can choose from--here is how I solved this challenge in the past--here are some factors particular to this school that need to be accounted for in any solution."
Sorry that's long and doesn't really answer your question, but I hope it's useful. Regular reader, not sure if I have commented before.
I don't think anyone's mentioned assessment, yet, but particularly with the Spellings report and the recent responses to it, that seems fairly pressing.
And I'll also agree that local conditions are the best. They'll want to see not only that you're intelligent and reflective (which we already all know) but also that you're thinking yourself into *their* institution, right?
Not a pretty picture. It will be a challenge to do this right, to ensure that students are indeed learning and yet not take out the spontaneity and joy in learning.
Knowing your audience, once again.
Provost Level: Learning. Technology, for Better or Worse? (hey, gotta blog on that) Retention of "prep" students. Assessment. Adjuncts.
Local problems: Having a 76% increase in applications (seriously) can be as dangerous as a 20% drop when you don't turn anyone away, so know your future CC's situation.
If you can avoid the feeling that this is a "stump speech", and instead make it relevant to the institution, that would be great.
Good luck, DD!
In the business world, lots of companies fail because they misidentify their customer or because they don't really know who their customer is in the first place.
The textbook market. At most CCs and state schools the cost of books is rapidly approaching that of tuition. That is because you have a market where she who specifies (the professor) is not he who pays (the students). Textbook publishers are becoming fiendishly clever at finding ways to cut the used book market dead (homework systems that self mark, the profs like that) while charging the students heavily for access if they don't buy new books.
My second issue is NCLB, or how to kill public schooling in 10 years or less. You now have an entering class that knows all the tricks associated with feeding back the answer the test is pushing them towards. Unfortunately this is in the direction of a mile wide and an inch deep.
One, I, too, want to hear more about this experience and want to thank you for sharing.
Two, in my short time in the academic world, I am floored by the "politics" that go on among faculty, so I like the idea of addressing how to get faculty to work together rather than against each other.
Thanks again for sharing!
I'm not saying "tell them what they want to hear" without pause (most people see through that really quickly), but to do some background research to learn what topics may (or may not) be of interest. It may also help you avoid a topic that might resonate in a bad way.
Which means that technical and nontraditional, continuing ed-type students get short-changed during registration/scheduling. The only classes that are reliably NOT dropped are those which cater to ordinary college freshman/sophomores. Since it's the other (technical, non-trad) half of the student body who are more likely to be property owners, no wonder so many voted no. They are disgruntled. The school is not living up to its marketing materials when it comes to offering viable classes in its technical programs, which means that graduation is prolonged for many people who simply can't get the classes they need to finish....
This school also had a Dean quit recently (got fed up, I suppose), so perhaps you are interviewing with us...?
especially to the extent that various state (and federal) interests can be enforced or extended w/r/t things like people's immigration status, attitudes or acts are seen to implicate homeland security, or acts that publishers think are violations of their monopoly (without respect for historic and important educational exceptions).
Oh, and you probably should **not ** lecture on the usefulness of their future administrator blogging about them from time to time...