This academic year starts with a new administration on the instructional side: a new Instructional Dean and a new Chief Academic Officer.
While the new dean is known to us all as a former fellow faculty member who has moved up, we are still not sure what sort of administrator s/he will be: unlike the other deans, this one is very familiar not just with our students and our daily lives as faculty members, but with the specific challenges of developmental education and general education transfer (The College, as our small town calls our institution, had been focusing on hiring deans more familiar with professional or career education, since our previous Chief Academic Office was from the transfer side, but things have changed).
I’m excited by the possibilities this dean offers, including a reconsideration of how we do developmental education (math, reading, writing, computer skills) at The College is long overdue. More than 50% of our students need these course, courses taught primarily by part time instructors, most with minimal teaching experience (but a LOT of heart and motivation). Obviously, not everyone is excited. There are fears that the new dean is pushing for a new department of Developmental Studies, so that the developmental courses would leave their respective silos (Math, English, etc) and join forces. While I have questions about such a structure, I certainly don’t fear it.
And our new Chief Academic Officer, who, at exactly my age is a good 20 years younger than any previous CAO The College has hired, also brings the possibility of new ideas that The College has flirted with, but never committed to, for the 15+ years I’ve worked here. For example, s/he is asking the faculty to reconsider the Dean-Chair middle management structure we have now, since we now have to either beg faculty to assume the role of Chair (a 4-year position) or pull someone from another department to take the helm. The position of Chair at The College is currently untenable, with not enough release time, no increase in pay, and very little power. But folks fear a structure where Divisional Deans do the work of Chair–a structure I’m not at all familiar with. But there must be other structures out there, and I’m excited about those unknown possibilities that may prove to be much more effective than what we have in place now (and I speak as a former Chair who gained 20 pounds, lost months of sleep, and tested a variety of otc sleep aids to aid in said loss of sleep during those lost years).
The new CAO is also asking the faculty to consider Learning Communities and it is this change that excites me the most. Year ago, as an adjunct, I participated in paired classes, a structure that worked well one time, and terribly the next. But there are other models out there (a themed, first year experience sort of curriculum or team teaching) that are worlds I can’t wait to explore.
But that’s a lot of potential change for one year.
Change, possibility, courage: These were words we heard during Convocation speeches last week. Some faculty winced at the “folksy” tone of the administrators’ speeches, others grabbed on to these gold rings of positivity, and others did a little of both.
Although I hope the Wizard isn’t a fraud, and that the flying monkeys do minimal damage, I am excited about the possibilities of the future.
What’s wrong with not being in Kansas anymore anyway?