Writing

Circuit Breakers

So-called “circuit breakers” are being used to stop the spread of the Coronavirus on college and university campuses. Specifically, schools are making the decision to pause in-person instruction to stem the spread of the virus, mirroring the success similar moves have had to spur decreases elsewhere. It is becoming more evident that the return of students to campuses and in-person teaching have both contributed to local outbreaks. The temporary pause in in-person instruction – what has come to be called a “circuit breaker” – has become “the new favored tactic of colleges and universities trying to curtail the spread of coronavirus.”


Pandemic, Partisanship, and Polarization: The Urgency of Bridging the Gap on Our Campuses

As university presidents, system chancellors, boards, and even governors have weighed in on the pandemic response including campus re-opening plans, strategies for keeping people healthy, and even policies around testing and quarantine, it was inevitable perhaps that criticisms would be raised and attacks on leadership would follow. Less obvious, perhaps, was that those criticisms and attacks would come from virtually every direction and from every constituency…

The Disciplinary Trench

Inside Higher Ed, August 2020

If you stay in the trench, you can’t see what’s in front of you, let alone what’s on the horizon. Reflecting upon years of discussion about American higher education, we’ve noticed that the very structures and principles that have made our model great are potentially holding us back. It’s time to ask ourselves: Are those principles and structures ones that we would design were we to start from scratch?

Specifically, does our current system of organizing our institutions as academic schools, colleges and departments still make sense? Have our organizational structures evolved as we have added — but rarely subtracted — new departments, programs and centers? Is a proliferation of departments good for students, faculty members, employers or the university?

Building Institutional Resilience into Colleges and Universities

Trusteeship magazine, Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities (AGB), July/August 2020

Higher education was hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the large numbers of students on campuses, the timing of the outbreak, and the financial challenges many institutions already faced. For colleges and universities to successfully emerge from the pandemic, they will need to make important decisions and changes. Institutions must be willing to invest in ensuring resilience.

Original (full length) essay can be found here.

Communicating Culture in a Distributed World

Communication has taken on much broader meaning and greater significance for organizations of late, both inward- and outward-facing. Nowhere is that truer than for colleges and universities, as the higher education sector struggles with long-needed change, financial and organizational constraints, volatile public perceptions about cost and value, and now the impacts of COVID-19.

In recent months, colleges and universities have expanded their communications, both in terms of frequency and content, to all their constituencies. They have done so to provide timely and vital information about response plans and changes in operations, as well as to maintain confidence and support in the institution, its leadership, and its plans for the future.

Building Institutional Resilience

In 2019, I published a paper entitled “Defining Resilience” that framed the critical questions engineers must ask when considering resilience among the performance requirements for infrastructure systems such as buildings, bridges, highways, ports and harbors, and so forth. This at a time that concepts of resilience were front and center in the minds of engineers, facilities owners and operators, bankers, and insurers, largely as a result of losses (primarily financial but also human life) and other challenges faced following recent natural, technological, and anthropogenic disasters. Resilience was a relatively new concept in structural engineering design, but one that was quickly gaining recognition as a critical design consideration if not requirement, particularly when considering networked or interconnected infrastructure systems built in regions subject to natural hazards.

Higher Education is Now Functioning with Much More Humanity: the new normal of teaching college classes

AdWeek, April 2020

The sudden shift to remote teaching and learning following the Covid-19 outbreak and global pandemic has been a remarkable experiment for students, faculty, instructional staff and colleges and universities at large. We are learning on the fly, from one another and through trial and error about how to teach online, how to communicate with students in and out of class and how to maintain continuity in a severely fractured academic year. While not perfect, we are now meeting our students where they live.

Original (full length) essay can be found here.

The Great Pivot

The sudden shift to remote teaching and learning following the COVID-19 outbreak and global pandemic has been a remarkable experiment for students, faculty, instructional staff, IT staff, and colleges and universities. We are learning on the fly, from one another, and through trial and error, about how to teach online, how to maintain communications with students in and out of class, and how to maintain continuity in a severely fractured academic year. Whether by collective intention or not, schools have largely stayed away from assessment of teaching during this crisis and our ‘transition semester.’ This is not the time, that time will come later. What are the five key lessons learned through this great experiment in online (remote) teaching and learning? (Remember, it’s not just online, taught in purpose-specific digital production studios. Faculty are teaching from their homes.)