Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Academic Affairs Structure Review

The President’s Think Tank recently encouraged me to write a post with an update on the status of reorganization considerations in the Academic Affairs area. I asked our VP for Learning and Academic Affairs, Dr. Maryrose Eannace, for a sense of where she is in leading the process. Dr. Eannace subsequently provided me with the following, that I think serves as a wonderful perspective on process as well as spirit – I rightly have left it in tact for your review.
A Guest Blog by Dr. Maryrose Eannace

How do we go about re-organizing the Academic Affairs Unit? With the collaborative and creative input of involved community members! With courage, positive anticipation, maybe a frisson of fear and a dose of caution. Alice Walker, in a commencement address to the graduates of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco (May 2002), shared the following Hopi exhortation:

We have been telling the people that this is the
Eleventh Hour
Now we must go back and tell the people this is the

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth.

Create your community.
Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.

The Elders say we must let go of the shore, and
push off and into the river, keep our eyes open, and
our head above the water.

See who is in there with you and Celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves.

For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth
and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over.

Gather yourselves!

Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and
your vocabulary.

All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner
And in celebration.
“We are the ones we have been waiting for…”

--The Elders, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona
As quoted in Walker’s We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, New Press 2006.

For the past four months, I have been gathering thoughts, ideas and opinions about effective and exciting potential structures for our Academic Unit from members of our college community, colleagues in the SUNY community college network and many others. A small design group has been busy researching and constructing models of what might work for us. The timeline is pressing, driven by strategic indicators (our vision) and an ever challenging budget (our current realities).

This month and next, I will be holding conversation forums with unit faculty and staff. All interested community members are welcome. The first conversation is scheduled for Monday, November 24th from 12:30-2:00 in IT225 and the second is slated for Thursday, December 4th from 2:30-4:00 at PH300. I am also happy to meet with individuals and groups at other times. The goal during this stage is to generate lists of possibilities that we can craft into workable, effective models for richer academic engagement and strategic goal fulfillment.

In January 2009, we will examine a proposed re-organization model for the Academic Affairs unit, with an expectation of feedback and refinement. By early February, we will be putting budget numbers to the model, with anticipated adjustments based on budget dictates. By March, I would expect to take the proposal to the President’s Cabinet. If all goes well, the Board of Trustees should have the final proposal in hand for their review by April. By May, we should start planning for transition.

Phew! It feels something like a gallop! But I’m inspired by Margaret Wheatley’s exhortations, in her Leadership and the New Science, concerning change and restructuring. She encourages us to “analyze wholeness,” recognizing how change will affect the whole and she suggests that “If we can’t analyze wholeness, how then do we learn to know it?”(140). I delight in her suggestion that appreciating system dynamics and individuals is a “dance of discovery” (143).

As we move forward together, in our ever-changing, ever-responsive college community, I invite you to think about replacing “struggle” with “celebration.” I invite your creativity, your “huzzah moments” (which I define as bigger than an “aha moment” and closer to an epiphany—but less overworked.) I also respectfully suggest that we honor the history that brought us to this strong place of potential and change—and that we not let that history tether us to the banks. “The river has its destination.” We are on our journey together—with our eyes open, our head above water—in celebration of the journey and the destination.

If you have any thoughts on her commentary, you can contact Dr. Eannace at meannace@mvcc.edu.