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Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer said something on this week’s Sunday Morning news show that caught my attention and put me on a reflective path.
Langer said that human beings are unique in their ability to think about the future, which leads us to be thinkers about our unique and collective futures (Weisfogel & Ross, 2020). While recognizing that plans create an illusion of control and that plans are guesses, these uncertain times call for us to contemplate and hope about what is to come. Langer goes on to say, “But what we need to recognize is that if something leads us in a different direction, that could end up even better for us.” So, in other words, by taking time to ponder, we each may be able to find a pathway toward a different but perhaps more enjoyable destination.
I thought about this all day.
Since returning to teaching four years ago, I have focused my research in three areas. First, I have continued my career-long work in critically assessing the impact of Strategic Enrolment Management on the twin goals of achieving institutional health and student success. Second, I renewed my interest in the international student experience by exploring student perspectives on the way we teach in our colleges and universities and how we can improve our teaching of culturally and linguistically diverse international students. Third, after coauthoring two open educational resource (OER) textbooks and making increasing use of OERs in my teaching, I am beginning to focus on how we can achieve deep and interdisciplinary learning by enhancing our use of OERs.
While each of these research threads are different, it occurred to me that there is common ground between them; namely, the amplification of the student voice. If ever there was a time to pay more attention to student views, it is now. The COVID-19 Pandemic has left so many of us questioning the future. This includes students, faculty and staff, and those who lead our postsecondary educational institutions.
Psychiatrist Pavan Madan, who was also interviewed on Sunday Morning, spoke about the anxiety that is impacting us all. Dr. Madan suggests that “we put our big dreams aside for now and focus on the small, more manageable details of daily life” (Weisfogel & Ross, 2020).
So, in this public space, let me say that during the balance of the time we have in the Pandemic and for the time to follow, I will commit to amplifying the student voice in all I do.
If this interests you, consider joining me (Clayton.Smith@uwindsor.ca). I am thinking that both the journey and the destination will be quite enjoyable.
Weisfogel, A. & Ross, C. (27 December 2020). Going to Plan B: When COVID pulls the rug out from under you. Sunday Morning. New York: CBS. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/going-to-plan-b-when-covid-pulls-the-rug-out-from-under-you/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab8c&linkId=108041071
In idealistic-pragmatist, Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline (1990), one of the five disciplines is personal mastery (the others are systems thinking, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning). Senge writes, “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs” (p. 139) So, for our institutions to grow, each of us must find our own path to personal mastery.
Senge describes personal mastery as “the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively” (Ibid, p. 7).
For enrollment managers, one of the ways of achieving personal mastery is through developing professional competencies and proficiencies in Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM). For those new to SEM, here is one of my favorite definitions:
Enrollment management is a comprehensive and coordinated process that enables a college [or university] to identify enrollment goals that are allied with its mission, its strategic plan, its environment, and its resources, and to reach those goals through the effective integration of administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis.” (Kerlin, 2008)
This can be achieved by reading some of the SEM classics and the SEM Quarterly journal, or by continuing the development of personal mastery by engaging with colleagues engaged in their own professional development.
Some will choose graduate programs or courses/experiences that culminate in a certification of some type. But for many of us, it is about coming to the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference, which is celebrating this year its 30th conference in Las Vegas on October 25-28, 2020. Topics typically include: SEM culture, leveraging technology and data, career development, student success, and reaching optimal enrollment.
An important way to contribute to your own personal mastery in SEM is to actively participate in the conference. Currently, conference planners are promoting a Call for Proposals, where you can submit proposals for a best practice session, a poster, round-table, or a stop and share discussion on SEM hot topics, SEM research, or innovative ways institutions are implementing SEM. Proposals from multiple institutions or types of institutions are encouraged, as are proposals from Canadian and international institutions.
If you are thinking of submitting a proposal and want to discuss some ideas, send me an email at Clayton.Smith@uwindsor.ca (I am the director of the AACRAO SEM Conference!).
Whether you submit a proposal or not, let me encourage you to join us in Las Vegas this fall to enhance your personal mastery with SEM.
Kerlin, C. (2008). Community college roadmap for the enrollment management journey. College and University, 83(4,), p. 11.
Seng. P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency, Doubleday.
While attending the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Conference recently, I attended a session in which Melanie Hamilton and Bonnie Farries, from Lethbridge College, spoke about the intersection of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM).
These are two areas that rarely find their way to the same platform, either at a professional or an academic gathering.
Hamilton and Farries introduced a model to show how each of these desparate activities support overall student and institutional success. The model they shared at the conference is below. Hamilton and Farries argued that SEM focuses on macro level decision-making without sufficient attention to the micro level and SoTL focuses on the micro level with little attention paid to macro level priorities. Through effective coordination, SEM and SoTL can enhance macro and micro activities to achieve greater levels of student success.
My take away is that both SoTL and SEM play an important and effective role in institutional effectiveness and student success.
The maxim of “playing your position” seems appropo to the intersection between SEM and SoTL. Many have written about the importance of playing your position within the context of team. Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Andrew Carnegie commented, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” And Helen Keller professed “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” All could be said to endorse the notion of each of us playing our position well; that by performing our role effectively, we can achieve great things.
If enrolment professionals and the instructors who teach our classes each perform their respective roles well, it is likely that we will achieve much institutional and student success.
At this week’s Canadian Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) Summit, we discussed SEM leadership in times of disruption. We focused on how changes in institutional leadership, governments, and technologies affect SEM performance. In particular, we discussed the impact of disruption on building community and international engagement.
Some of our discussion points included:
- Who should be around the table when a disruption occurs? Are groups already formed, or is there a need to develop new groups?
- How do we get the data needed for decision-making? Some may already exist, but new data may also be needed.
- While disruption can leave us perplexed, we need to find ways to keep our sense of purpose while managing SEM during challenging and distracting times.
- Disruption can be an opportunity to try something new or to focus the institution more clearly on its educational values and aspirations.
- The growing challenge of maintaining data privacy and security in turbulent times.
- The opportunity disruption provides to move from competition to collaboration across the higher education sector.
For many, we are already in disruptive times in the area of international student enrolment and engagement. Some talked about the near explosion of international student enrolment in recent years, especially for students from India. We heard about how this challenge might be a way of bringing together budget and SEM; that sometimes disruption can be internal; that budget drives culture; and opportunities flow from effective brainstorming across institutional silos. We were reminded of the importance of supporting international students, both personally and academically, as they enrich our institutions.
Jason Hunter, Vice President, Student and Community Engagement, at Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning put it well when he said the Summit helped us “to frame critical issues” and “to build capacity” by developing a strong SEM network of administrators and educators across Canada. We all experienced a little SEM therapy.
For me the key take away is the importance of encouraging collaborative dialogue and planning for disruption as we work to enhance institutional health and student success through our SEM work.