This week, TACUSPA (Texas Association of College and University Student Personnel Association) held their annual conference in Austin. The conference featured several excellent speakers and, since it’s important that we share what we learn, here are some items from my notes.
Gwen Dungy, Executive Director of NASPA, reminded us to play to our strengths in these turbulent times. We are great at networking and communicating. We need to come together to share ideas and resources (I think that’s called collaborating). She reminded us that working together across all these boundaries we’ve created is the most important thing we can do to reinvent higher education. She referenced Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great*, reminding us that we need to be hedgehogs – single-minded about what we do. What are we passionate about? Student success. What can we be best in the world at? Retaining students. (At UTSA, I would add retaining students who haven’t traditionally been well served by Higher Ed.)
Susan Komives, Professor and Program Director of College Student Affairs at The University of Maryland, asked some interesting questions that I think are worth answering for ourselves and perhaps in our various groups.
− What are the important issues that need our collective attention?
− What outcomes are we seeking that are shared across the university?
− What needs attention in your own office right now?
− What would help your organization be more creative?
Lynn Rossi Scott, Shareholder in the Law Firm of Brackett & Ellis, gave an interesting and somewhat scary presentation on Social Media and The Law, most of which I’m not going to print here. I will say that we have a responsibility, both educational and, in some cases, legal, to educate our students. We teach and advise about the issues related to posting pictures of “students behaving badly”, but we need to think more broadly about these issues.
Stan Carpenter, Dean of the College of Education at Texas State University, who presented at our Student Affairs Spring Conference, shared the same information re: A Scholarship of Practice. He also asked some interesting “what if” questions. − What if we ask students what would make campus better?
− What is the value of virtual community?
− What if the move toward using more and more sophisticated technology in teaching and learning continues?
As you can see, our speakers left many of the answers to participants to discover. But that’s as it should be, since every campus will have different answers in different combinations to many of these and other questions. I share them, because asking good questions is the first step to finding good answers. And we need good answers more than ever these days. I look forward to our conversations as we come together in our community of diverse individual perspectives to find our answers to these, and the other questions facing higher education in general, and UTSA in particular.
*Collins, Jim. (2001). Good to Great. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.