Cross-Campus Collaborations Improve Student Outcomes

AACRAO, College and University, Summer 2021

Challenges confronting higher education have led to outcomes-driven approaches such as performance-based funding, forced greater emphasis on student persistence and completion, and spurred campus-wide student success efforts. In examining ways to achieve integrated student success efforts across campus, this article explores issues related to structure and alignment, faculty versus student affairs culture, and risk points to address when implementing institution-wide strategies.

ATG Capstone

As I prepare to move, and button up chapters of our Vermont life and our time at UVM – with full confidence we will return often to visit our friends and “Vermont family” – I wanted to take the opportunity to write one final piece in the Across the Green series, a capstone to the series I started in 2013 as a new provost to regularly share thoughts, plans, and progress with the UVM academic community. The series continued after my six-year term with shorter ATG Brief essays on a broad range of higher education topics that I hoped might continue to be of interest to some of the regular readers of Across the Green over the years. I was always grateful for the feedback I received on these essays. In this final “capstone” essay, I have only two objectives: (1) to say thank you, and (2) to share my wishes for the UVM academic community I was so privileged to serve.

On Mentorship and Mentors

Structural Safety, January 2021

Little has been written about the value of professional mentorship in the field of civil engineering, yet most would argue its importance. New engineers, new faculty, and new professionals in nearly every field benefit disproportionately from effective, timely, and sustained mentoring. Their careers are launched on a positive trajectory, their careers develop, and they advance more quickly, they often find more professional satisfaction in their careers, and – not surprisingly – they often go on to become mentors in their own right. In this paper, the authors (both civil engineers and leaders, one in professional practice and one in academia) reflect on two important mentors they were fortunate enough to share. We wrote this paper for three purposes: (1) to highlight the importance of great mentors to one’s career, (2) to thank two individuals that had profound impacts on us both, and (3) to inspire others so seek out mentors, to commit to being a mentor, and to find as much joy in participating on both sides of the mentor–mentee relationship as we have found in our careers.

Thankful Is As Thankful Does

To say this has been a difficult year is an understatement. In fact, the events of this past year are beyond any we thought possible, any we imagined. The confluence of events, circumstances, and where we find ourselves as a nation and a planet have led to an unimaginable set of challenges – distinct and mutually amplifying, pressing and urgent. But we have also witnessed unimaginable resolve, resilience, and acts of humanity. We are facing challenges that call upon the best of humanity to address. We do so in against odds, in the face of fear, and profound loss. But we push forward, we adapt, we persevere, we respond with humility and humanity.

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.