BY JOE NELSON
Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
For the UAS Whalesong
We are entering year four of significant budget cuts. When the largest budget item is the payroll, it is no wonder we are feeling a little stressed out. Budget reductions result in workforce reductions. We are also roughly half way through a cumbersome reorganization (aka, Strategic Pathways). Up to this point, the endgame has been vague and the logic behind some of the changes has been elusive. As a result, the appetite for change seems to be shrinking.
Reorgs are stressful, that is a given. Budget reductions are stressful, that is a given. To some, this might feel like a rock and a hard place. In this place of higher learning, we can find a constructive path forward if we focus on the one reason we are here – student learning.
Today we need to get comfortable with a course correction. Strategic Pathways and the initial budget reduction decisions did not start with a clear focus on improving student success, but we are refocusing efforts there now. Enrollment meetings have been happening. People are starting to better understand the fact that ‘enrollment’ is really about ‘student success’ – which really is just code for ‘effective education’ – everyone has a role in delivering it.
Given the fact that we anticipate a few more years of budget reductions, we (the University) should be expending much of our precious time and energy shoring up the base of students we have right now. We do that by doing our core jobs better than we ever have, with a passion and curiosity equal to the passion we had during our first and second year on the job.
Students are here to learn by working hard in and out of the classroom. For many, being a college student is stressful with or without a fiscal crisis.
Strategic Pathways is somewhat like a divorce. Similar to the family structure, the university structure will change, for better or worse. Ideally the kids (students) are shielded from most of the negative, unnecessary stress involved in the always ugly process. Of course there are places for the kids’ full participation in the process, but those are in safe places intended for the tough conversations, they are not over the dinner table.
Students are here to engage in learning. To the extent that Strategic Pathways is bleeding into the classroom or areas where students are expecting to be students, rather than casualties of a messy process, I apologize to you – the students.
There is plenty of national, state and local toxicity out there in cyberspace, radio, and television – in places you can tune out (if you have self-control and a positive disposition). In those places where you are captive (e.g., classrooms, conference rooms…) it is incumbent on the leaders to stay constructive. We are all human, however. So, if you find yourself in a position where the toxicity is seeping in to your classroom/meeting unnecessarily, feel free to gently redirect the conversation by reminding people why we are here.
If you have ideas for improvement or you enjoy the pathways conversations – there are plenty of channels for communicating your suggestions. We should be thankful for those opportunities, as well.