Archive for March, 2013

simple giftsSimple Gifts, a Shaker tune from the 19th century, is a reminder to me about several things.   First, amazing things can happen when we keep things simple.  At the university there is a tendency to create complexity when simplicity is the order of the day.  Second, in academia there is freedom to explore – to explore new teaching methods, new scholarly pursuits, and new ways to engage students and our communities.  Be sure to take advantage of these freedoms.   Finally, it is a wonderful feeling to know “when we find ourselves in the place just right”.  As I’ve said before, academia is my anchor.   Enjoy!

Simple Gifts

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Please take the time to enjoy the simple things in life.  

A special ‘thank you’ goes to my daughter for sharing this tune and for sharing her love of music.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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Takin it to the StreetsAccenture, the multinational management consulting and technology services company, is one of the world’s largest consulting firms.  It’s executive leadership team has pledged to build the company on a solid ethical foundation. In 2010, Accenture was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” for third consecutive year.   Accenture’s Code of Business Ethics is, in my opinion, one of the most carefully crafted and action-oriented ethical codes that I have seen.  Let’s take a look at its six pillars:

  1. Client Value Creation in Action – enabling clients to become high-performance businesses and creating long-term relationships by being responsible and relevant and by consistently delivering value.  
  2. One Global Network in Action – leveraging the power of global insight, relationships, collaboration and learning to deliver exceptional service to clients wherever they do business.
  3. Respect for the Individual in Action – valuing diversity and unique contributions, fostering a trusting, open and inclusive environment and treating each person in a manner that reflect’s Accenture’s values.
  4. Best People in Action – attracting, developing and retaining the best talent for our business, challenging our people, demonstrating a “can-do” attitude, and fostering a collaborative and mutually supportive environment.
  5. Integrity in Action – being ethically unyielding and honest and inspiring trust by saying what we mean, matching our behaviors to our words and taking responsibility for our actions.
  6. Stewardship in Action – fulfilling our obligation of building a better, stronger, more durable company for future generations, protecting the Accenture brand, meeting our commitment to stakeholders, acting with an owner mentality, developing our people, and helping improve communities and the global environment.

I like how each “virtue” is linked to action – enabling employees to “Take It To The Streets”.   I have seen many value statements in the university community.   Are our academic value statements linked to action?    What would Accenture’s six pillars look like if applied to a university?  Maybe next time.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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meet the candidatesBased on another visit, here are more faculty questions for the dean candidate:

  1. How can faculty get engaged in development efforts?
  2. How would you reward faculty research?
  3. How would you prioritize faculty scholarship?
  4. What is your management style?
  5. Would you be in favor of large class sizes?
  6. We face three issues related to accreditation: core learning objectives, our capstone learning experience and faculty qualifications.  How would you handle each of these issues?
  7. How would you deal with the ‘good old boy’ network on our campus?
  8. How would our centers and institutes enter into your strategic planning?

I particularly enjoyed the way in which our candidate reflected on these questions before answering and how our candidate typically told a story when answering.  Good job.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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triple bottom line BM-thumb-380x271-thumb-380x271Our most recent Dean candidate offered some interesting insights.  I thought that I would share a few.

  1. What do we mean by ‘engaged learning’  and ‘student focused learning’?   At Cornell University this means to advance academic service-learning, community-based research, and public scholarship across a wide spectrum of academic disciplines and programs.  At Lawrence University it means to create and sustain connections between the academic curriculum and community service.  At SMU is means a capstone-level, student driven research, civic engagement, professional internship or creative work that has clear project and clear personal learning goals.
  2. How would our decisions be different if we considered student success as our top priority?
  3. Do we agree on our ‘tagline’?  We must be on the same page as we move forward.
  4. Fundraising and stewardship of existing gifts.    Stewardship of existing gifts is extremely important.
  5. Must be an advocate for the college.  Internally within the university.  Externally with alumni and friends.   Don’t forget the students!
  6. Globalization.   Who will be your partners?
  7. Triple bottom line ( people, planet, profit) – the new buzz words related to sustainability and the environment.
  8. Thought leadership – how do we leverage this?
  9. Finale – How Do We Create the Future?  Put a proposal together and match it with the right donor.   Build relationships.

Overall I was impressed with this candidate’s ability to articulate their thoughts around academic leadership.   I am always pleased when I can learn a few things.  This candidate was able to ‘bundle’ their accomplishments into four categories: (1) strategic planning, (2) reputation building, (3) development, and (4) accreditation.  Good thinking!

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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NCCPEIn the United Kingdom there is a movement for research universities to better engage the public. The “Manifesto for Public Engagement”, as defined by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement [NCCPE], is listed below:

We believe that universities and research institutes have a major responsibility to contribute to society through their public engagement, and that they have much to gain in return.

We are committed to sharing our knowledge, resources and skills with the public, and to listening to and learning from the expertise and insight of the different communities with which we engage.

We are committed to developing our approach to managing, supporting and delivering public engagement for the benefit of staff, students and the public, and to sharing what we learn about effective practice.

A study by the UK Innovation Research Centre defines Four Modes of Interactions between Academics and External Organizations. (See: ‘Knowledge Exchange between Academics and Business, Public and Third Sectors,’Maria Abreu, Vadim Grinevich, Alan Hughes and Michael Kitson, uk-irc, (PDF))

People Based Activities

  1. attend conference
  2. participate in networks
  3. give invited lecture
  4. sit on advisory board
  5. assist with student placements
  6. employee training
  7. standard setting forums
  8. curriculum development

Community Based Activities

  1. give lecture for community
  2. school projects
  3. community exhibitions
  4. community-based supports

Problem Solving Activities

  1. informal advice
  2. joint research
  3. joint publication
  4. consultancy
  5. contract research
  6. research consortia
  7. hosting of personnel
  8. protyping and testing

Commercialization Activities

  1. formed consultancy
  2. patent
  3. licensed research
  4. company startup

Public engagement describes the myriad of ways in which the activity and benefits of higher education and research can be shared with the public. Engagement is by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.  (See: http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/what)

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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dean_cain_2b (1)What questions may a dean candidate be asked on a site visit?

  1. Why are you interested in the Dean’s position at our university?
  2. In 3-5 years if you are the Dean, what will our college be known for?
  3. What things can be done to revive the scholarship of the senior faculty?
  4. What is your day-to-day management style?
  5. How would you address the communication challenges that we face?  Internal?  External?
  6. What role would the development officer play in your deanship?
  7. How would you make the transition from your current school to our school?
  8. What are your thoughts about international education?  Students?  Faculty?
  9. What are your thoughts about class size?
  10. We are resource poor – what would you do about this?
  11. How would you manage our relationship with the rest of the university?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Pier Pressure-LHow can university professors be motivated? Faculty are typically driven by promotion and tenure guidelines which largely emphasize research and scholarship. Yet, each department, college and university has a diverse set of goals that are not encompassed by promotion and tenure.

I am reminded of a story from my first years of teaching. Our department head, a wise academic veteran, was frustrated at the course grade distributions that were inching higher each year. He solved the problem quickly and effectively with little fan-fair. He simply printed a copy of the grade distributions for each faculty member, course by course, and placed the print-out in the faculty mail room. Of course, no one wanted to be known as the “easy teacher” and faculty adjusted their grades down accordingly. Brilliant!

What is at work here? Recently, a colleague of mine said that the only real motivator in higher education is peer pressure.  There is some truth in this.   Faculty care very much about what their peers think. Don’t get me wrong, this certainly doesn’t mean that faculty won’t disagree and won’t protect ‘their turf’.  I am suggesting that cultural norms within an academic department play an extremely important role in the life of a faculty member.  In an era with few pay raises, academic leaders should first work to discover the values/norms within their department, college and university before considering change.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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