Work in Progress - May 10, 2015

  • Sunday, May 10, 2015

It is amazing to think that this is going out seven days before spring commencement…what a fast year! While we’re not done yet, the end of the academic year is in sight.

VPSD Search

The search for our next VP for Student Development is also nearing its conclusion. I am grateful for the work of the Search Committee, which has identified three finalists to invite to campus during the week of May 11. I recognize that finals week is not a great time to get the attention of the campus community; I also know it marks the last such opportunity until August. You have already received communication about the candidates and their calendars; please participate as you are able in this important process.

Performance Reviews

In recent years, the process of performance reviews has been uneven—in some areas, there is a thorough process completed regularly; in other areas, performance reviews have been done sporadically if at all.

I believe that leaders owe their staff regular performance reviews which, if done well, should represent the culmination of discussions throughout the entire year. Such reviews should include updates on progress toward mutually-agreed upon goals, specific feedback about performance, discussions about what was learned during the year, and identification of goals for the upcoming year.

I have asked each of the vice presidents to make sure that the evaluation process—including both a written/electronic component and a face-to-face discussion--is completed for staff members in their areas by August 1. Exceptions will be made for individuals whose work lends itself better to a different timeline or who are already on a regular review cycle; the faculty review processes already in place will remain in place. Staff can expect to hear more from their vice presidents and/or supervisors in the upcoming weeks about the format and timeline in their department.

Student Input

As you know, I have met with students a number of times this semester, including pizza with students at our Deming Way campus last week. Some of the key themes emerging from those sessions include the following:

  • Parking: We are in the process of reviewing options to improve parking availability moving forward on the Monroe St. campus. In a recent meeting, I was briefed on some of those options. Of course, this is a complex topic—also involving residence life and course scheduling, among other topics.
  • Tag system (general education): I heard a number of questions and comments around this topic, pertaining to what is counted as lab science, concerns about additional time to completion in some areas, and scheduling conflicts between COR courses and required courses in the major. Assessing the effectiveness of our general education curriculum has already been identified by our academic leadership as a critical topic; in fact, we will be pursuing a project along these lines as part of our ongoing accreditation for the Higher Learning Commission.
  • Wellness/fitness options: While a long-term solution to the scarcity of on-campus facilities for wellness is not yet in place, we are investigating making equipment available in more spaces around campus, accelerating the replacement of equipment in the fitness center, and expanding hours of service.
  • Interest in gender neutral restrooms: Our facilities staff is currently exploring and pursuing existing options suitable for availability to all members of our community.

The World around Us

Some brief comments on items in the news:

  • I was asked recently by a member of the greater Madison community whether we’d have any interest in acquiring the Madison College campus downtown. I told him that I didn’t think so—the scale of that building is awfully large for us. I do believe this is a time to deepen partnerships across educational institutions—including with Madison College, with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Edgewood High School and Campus School, MMSD and local school districts, etc. I look forward to spending time with the leaders of many of those organizations (among others) this summer.
  • There has been some recent press coverage about the leadership and financial management at GHC, our health care provider—those of you covered by GHC likely received the same email I did. I have been aware of the emerging situation at GHC over the past few weeks; based on what we know at this point, I have no concerns about the stability of the organization or any potential impact on the services we receive. If that situation were to change, we have the opportunity to address that as we look toward benefit renewal at the start of the calendar year.

Don’t forget…

  • Commencement day is May 17, and details for the day are available online. 
  • Groundbreaking for the New Residence Hall and Regina Hall upgrades will be at 4 p.m. on May 28—please contact Megan Gossens in Advancement for more details.

How does a College President Spend the Summer?

I really don't know, but I do have an idea of how I’ll be spending it:

  • Recharging: For the past few years, I’ve spent the week after graduation with friends playing (bad) golf, telling (bad) jokes, and eating (a lot of bad) food. In June, after Erin and Sean’s school year wraps up, we’re hopping in the car and heading west for about a week. Yes, we will be stopping at Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, etc. And yes, we will have device chargers in the car. I’m sure we will sprinkle in a few long weekends with family and friends as well.
  • Reconnecting: With the changed pace of summer, there are more opportunities to connect with long-time friends, community leaders, alumni, and supporters of the College—often, not surprisingly, around the social calendar. This will be even more important this summer as we continue to introduce Gary Klein and his wife Melissa to the Madison community.
  • Rebuilding: By the time the school year starts, we will have our second new vice-president. This is a great opportunity to build a new team to advance our previous work—and to turn our attention to the challenges and opportunities that await moving forward. In addition to building our President’s Council anew, we’ll continue fleshing out the process for articulating our next strategic plan; I anticipate working closely with the Deans’ Council on this as well.
  • Reflecting: I’m going to take some time to assess what seems to have gone well (and why), what didn’t go so well (and why), and how these lessons might be applied moving forward. That reflection will be informed by an evaluation process that includes feedback from those faculty and staff who worked with me most closely this year.

Not surprisingly, the frequency of these emails will change over the summer—you’ll likely hear from me about once a month during that time. I know I’ll have the chance to see many of you both in the next few weeks and over the summer—please know how grateful I am for your continued work to create the kind of educational environment that equips our students to build a more just and compassionate world. Best wishes for a successful end to the academic year, and for an enjoyable start to summer!