Monday, April 20, 2015

10 Student-Centric Commitments for Higher Education Leaders

When I was in college I set my sights on becoming a history professor at a major university, which led me to enroll in a Ph.D. program in that subject.  My career has taken numerous twists and turns away from academia since then, yet I eventually found my way to employment as both an instructor and administrator.  

The youthful idealism that inspired my study of history and continues to inform my perspective on higher education often has been dashed by stark financial and political realities, which appear to focus on the needs of non-student stakeholders. I suspect this state of affairs will continue in one form or another for some time, unfortunately.  

I retain enough of my idealism and fervor, however, to act based on the conviction that individual student success is my success. If students succeed, I succeed; if not, I need to reevaluate what I did and plot new strategies for the future. This belief informs ten commitments that guide my work in higher education. I offer them here for consideration by peers, as well as alumni, donors, and others who have a vested interest in the long-term welfare of their institutions. 

I consider myself a role model for students in terms of personal and professional behavior.  I work to embody the knowledge, skills, and attitudes students need to succeed while they are in school and after they graduate.

I consider students as co-creators of their educational experience. I view them as virtual peers in this sense, and vest in them the responsibility for their overall progress. At the same time I recognize that being in school, especially as an adult, poses certain challenges. I welcome these challenges as opportunities to help students, calling on my experience and education as a guide. 

I respond to student communication promptly, and am readily available to help whenever, wherever, and however I can. 

I urge students to seek me out if I can help when they are at a loss for where to find a solution to a problem they encounter when navigating the complex and often perplexing bureaucracies of modern higher educational institutions. My formal job description has never limited me in this respect. I recognize that no task is too small for me to handle, and the proclamation that “it is not my job” is unacceptable. 

I am available to students after they have graduated for assistance with any matter where they believe I might be able to help. 

I strive to meet students where they are in terms of their individual personal, academic, and professional development—not where I was when I was their age or where I am at the time we connect. I recognize that my personal history and professional path are mine alone, and that each student has a unique story and needs to define success on his or her own terms. To this end, I relish opportunities to help students identify and work to achieve meaningful goals. 

I relentlessly pursue a program of personal and professional self-development. I need to grow as an individual emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually to better serve my students and other stakeholders in higher education.  

I strive to be humble, authentic, and caring. I aim to be direct and, at the same time, kind in terms of how I deal with people. Still, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I promptly admit when I am wrong and apologize. I learn from each situation so my future actions are more consistent with the kind of person I aspire to be.  

I accept total responsibility for how and what I communicate.  At the same time, I recognize that I need to continue to improve my written and oral skills.  

I consider every interaction with students as a teaching and learning opportunity for all parties.  That is, the educational experience encompasses every aspect of student life in higher education—not just what happens in a classroom.  

No comments: