There are a number of students, staff, and faculty in my life who I have gotten to know along my academic and professional journey – as colleagues and as friends. I have been fortunate enough to experience college/university life as a student, professional, and instructor at various types of institutions and in more than one country. Each new experience has afforded me to work with insightful colleagues, learn about effective practices, understand a variety of student populations, and consider innovative ways to support students, staff, and faculty.
In a recent Inside Higher Ed article I shared my thoughts on why our divisions in higher education need to think beyond their own areas. Some of the challenges ahead in higher education will require our departments/divisions to step our of their silos to collaborate and reach shared goals for our institutions. It does require some risk; however I think there are larger rewards for reaching out and conversing with others. In considering some of the opportunities and challenges in higher education – such as financial, legislative, staffing, and more – perhaps it is just the right time to sit down to chat and connect to others on campus. Institutional units will need to put their heads together to think creatively and collectively about some of these issues – if they are not doing so already.
Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about what a “kinder campus” means in higher education. I am currently participating in a Collaborative Learning Community (CLC) at UNT that brings students, staff, and faculty together to work towards a shared solution to a problem/challenge at our institution [more to be shared on this later]. Since we have diverse representation on this CLC, as the co-chair with another faculty member we have been considering the following needs to keep our group moving forward:
- introductions are important – find out what everyone “does” on campus
- use common language and define terms
- establish purpose and goals for the CLC
- share and distribute information/facts that are not known
- establish a meeting time/day of the week
- create agendas to guide, not limit the conversation/sharing
- record meeting minutes for those who might be absent
- online space for resource sharing
- flexibility and understanding for attendance is a must
- define roles to guide actionable items & project initiatives
- bringing food/treats is never a bad thing
Although cross-departmental meetings can be challenging, as it requires stepping outside our own domains and sharing across disciplinary boundaries, I have had some of the most productive conversations and ideas to emerge from these gatherings.
Are you part of a collaborative working group at your higher ed institution? What tips do you have to “be kind” and connect with colleagues outside your division/department?
2 thoughts on “A Kinder Campus to Collaborate”
Laura – I love this question. And I love that collaboration is valued enough at your institution that they’ve put together the learning community to foster it. In my personal experience, and in the research that I’ve done, I think really taking the time to get to know the other group’s (faculty, administration, SA, AA, etc.) culture – their vision for what is important, how they go about meeting their goals, what are their values and assumptions – and try to understand it can make a big difference.
Beyond that – I think one of the things you touch on – getting to know the PEOPLE in the room – helps, too. Not every situation is relational, but attending to relational issues can improve most situations.
Collaboration can be difficult unless it is valued. I think institutional embeddedness and culture can present challenges for cross-divisional working group. I think it is always about connecting people, and allowing others to understand and be aware of what everyone does on campus. Thanks for your comment, Michelle.