As promised, reflection on the retreat, finally

Re: draft note to staff
I was thinking last night that the persistent concern expressed in our still recent retreat was less about job security and more about qualifications in our protean institution.  If I no longer should be doing what I’ve done in the past, what skills do I need to develop to do what I am expected to do?  And how long, one anonymous note asked, before we change yet again?

In my own thinking, I am coming to understand that it is more about the affect than the skill set, though they are not fully separable.  As the CTLT our work was like teaching an elective course in the major.  Most of interactions were with faculty who wanted to work with us.  And now we fear our new charge is not only requiring us to work with those who share fewer of our concerns and values, but we are drifting into work increasingly with those who clearly do not.  We are now like those who teach required courses.  And the required course we teach is not one that many find rewarding.

Our challenge as a CTLT was encouraging participation in our efforts commensurate with the institutions’ investment in us.  As the OAI, our challenge is, with some irony, helping the institution achieve measurable outcomes.  In CTLT we worked with colleagues who were mostly or who became friends.  As an OAI, we must strive to work collegially.

The challenge is ultimately less about our skills.  We are amply qualified.  It is a challenge to our dispositions.  To a person this is not the work we signed on for.  It has a “feel” about it like a garment not cut quite right.  It is frequently somehow oddly irritating.

“Do we still work with the individual faculty we have worked with?”   No, is the answer.  If the work cannot be parlayed to the program level, then the job requires us to extricate ourselves from that work …and, at least in the work context, away from that friendly working relationship.

“Will we change our organization again?” Probably.  The garment may not fit quite right, but the unit will grow into it.

As the CTLT, however, we were unique and recognized internationally for our transformative focus.  Some aspects of that focus were occasionally a source of some contention, but it was a shared understanding we had of our mission.  We were guided by the belief that not only can we but we must do a better job in our institutions of learning at improving the student learning experience and student learning…outcomes.

So here we are.  Be careful what you wish for, the saying goes. Our new vision, rubric, and the harvesting of community input are being followed nationally. We have a tremendous opportunity to promote real, deep, and meaningful change at WSU.

If we can change.

Dr. Gary R. Brown, Director
The Office of Assessment and Innovation
Washington State University
509 335-1352
509 335-1362 (fax)

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