17 October 2010 Ideas Gleaned from Presidential Interviews

  1. [Don’t be the Wellesley of the West,] be the Mills of the World
  2. A cabinet that meets without the president in off weeks.
  3. Add intellectual content to alum contacts. On regular basis engage regional alum groups with faculty presentations/discussions/salons.
  4. Advisors, askers, ambassadors.
  5. Always ask “does it fit the mission?” but be sure that the mission is articulated in a way that that’s a good question. Avoid mission statements designed to placate all.
  6. Always distinguish between what is imposed and what is embraced
  7. Always: objectives, timelines, milestones.
  8. Are there “opportunity funds”? Resources available at various locations in institution that allow smart, entrepreneurial opportunities to be capitalized on even if not foreseen in budget process. But be sure that this is NOT about slush funds for the usual suspects.
  9. Are there faculty champions? Very little can be done via imposition.
  10. Are you really committed to excellence? How do you know?
  11. Ask faculty, regularly, "where is your field going?"
  12. Avoid having president pretend to be something she is not.
  13. Be good at something and make sure it is something for which there is a demand.
  14. Be sure you have faculty on board committees so that the BOT members have multi-dimensional view of what’s going on.
  15. Being best in STEM will justify and distinguish you going forward.
  16. Broader involvement in articulation agreements – link with junior colleges that looks to be big part of higher education in CA going forward.
  17. Complete lack of promotion of faculty excellence on Website
  18. Consider the brand “Mills is IN Oakland.”
  19. Create a body of presidential advisors – board, faculty, students, young alums, what have you – folks whose ideas and input might not come through other channels.
  20. Current website makes almost no effort to say “come here and study with these people” — faculty is almost absent from what is promoted or visualized on website. Artists may be exception to this, but even so, theme of website seems to be students and values not institution and people prospective student can work with. Does that represent how folks think about Mills or is it missed opportunity?
  21. Decide to stop being an institution that hobbles along.
  22. Distinguish management from governance when it comes to the role of the board.
  23. Diversity based on talent.
  24. Diversity demands pragmatism.
  25. Diversity is not a strategy.
  26. Diversity not an end in itself.
  27. Don’t just have a center for responsible business, also have a center for sustainable activism or something like that (I think this was djr note rather than something someone said). Also should have a Center for Sound Business Approaches to Social Change.
  28. Don't "search for enrollment"
  29. Edginess with purpose. Edginess can be what you get from younger folks if you are open – be ready to embrace experimentation, make yourself productively uneasy.
  30. Engaged diversity vs. compositional diversity.
  31. Eventually, put a teaching resource center into the operating budget. Think of it as ongoing enhancement of your core competencies.
  32. Excellence is not a choice.
  33. Form presidential advisory councils/committees around the country.
  34. Generate engagement FOR the institution not engagement that lives OFF the institution. How to move from using Mills to further YOUR agenda to using you to further Mills’ agenda.
  35. Have a “resource allocation committee”
  36. Have a junior faculty council.
  37. Have board level retreat FOLLOWING faculty retreat and involve faculty in the board retreat.
  38. Have retreats involving both faculty and board. Don’t shy away because expensive – they have real lasting value – institutional infrastructure that other stuff rides on for long time after.
  39. Have the cabinet meet WITHOUT the president in off-weeks. President should have confidence in team and not need to be there and to realize that they can share expertise and ideas and solve problems without her and sometimes need to do that. College officers need to be free to converse and explore and disagree.
  40. Hire an assistant for Bay Area relations. Silicon Valley relations?
  41. How to diffuse political polarization WITH real conversation? Need to diversity points of view on campus. Too much orthodoxy. Students aren’t learning how to live in a pluralistic world.
  42. If money were not an issue, what would we do?
  43. Important for raison d’etre of liberal arts college to have leaders who themselves are recognizable as scholarly intellectuals. If you cannot model the life of the mind by your being, you undercut some of the justification for this type of school.
  44. Important to recognize ways that criticism can be disguised loyalty. Do not treat it as mere squeaky wheels.
  45. It’s not thick skin that a leader needs, it’s perspective.
  46. Keep educating the board that this is an educational enterprise and educate about what it means to “not impose a corporate model.”
  47. Lack of up-front-ness about the substance of admissions selectivity criteria.
  48. Let's get articulation agreements in front of us.
  49. Look at the balance sheet and really try to identify where the losses actually come from – don’t just give the bottom line.
  50. Management vs. governance. Know the difference.
  51. Marketing the school and experience. Take it seriously. Target. Cross train folks across institution.
  52. More alum engagement on campus.
  53. Most important – be good at SOMETHING and have it be an area that’s in demand – and this means you have to pay attention both to quality and to the “market” (and the latter on both counts – it’s where you can measure your quality).
  54. Move toward multi-year budgeting. Don’t rely on top-down budgeting.
  55. Never “search for enrollment”
  56. One advisor mentioned a method for encouraging college officers to think beyond their bailiwick and take responsibility for institutional level thinking by doing what? Taking turns chairing council? Presenting one another’s reports?
  57. Orientation – not just first year. Also have second year orientation. Think about what the second year at Mills is and what sorts of transitions you expect in students. And then tell them. But be sure to involve faculty in all this – orientation not just a student life issue. Intellectual and academic orientation by those who know that realm.
  58. Our low enrollment yield is a serious problem that should be addressed forthwith. Stop being taken in by artificially inflated selectivity numbers.
  59. Pay attention to the message your are broadcasting. Your message does not say "Mills is challenging" to the best students.
  60. Placement is key for education future. Move resources toward placement and use placement as source of feedback. If you aren't getting graduates jobs when they leave you are doing something wrong. One visitor asked for numbers around placement from recent graduating class and no one had any. She was dismayed that we didn’t seem to care or be focused on this single most important “proof of concept” that our education is worth it.
  61. Provide people with multiple chances to disagree.
  62. Recognize what makes faculty job challenging and provide relief to both junior and senior faculty. Do things that make it easier, less overwhelming, less frustrating, more rewarding for faculty members to do more of what the institution benefits from them doing.
  63. Recruitment: need a serious viewbook that’s specifically good for minority recruits.
  64. Remember that diversity is not an end in itself. Suggests interesting point: is it an institutional goal/responsibility to "look like California" in the sense of demographics or any other statistical view? Or does this put far too much responsibilty on the institution for things that are not in its control. That point is based on the assumption that preparation/readiness for that which this institution is good at is distributed homogeneously in the population. Could be, but no reason to blankly assume this. Then asks should we be designed for something different? Should we redesign ourselves so that our expectations on the input side are, in fact, uniformly distributed. Note that this means we adapt to what the public schools and the culture produce. If we can guarantee that what we have done is change the internal structure so that what we output is the same, that's fine. But that's a tall order.
  65. Resiliency as a mission goal.
  66. Resource Allocation Committee
  67. Shift programing from special populations to all students.
  68. Strive for “engaged diversity” – not just compositional diversity. It’s a philosophical shift – from individuals and their traits to the larger community. It’s not diversity if you have a variety of types and they are all in their own camps.
  69. Strive to be institutionally nimble and use it.
  70. Systematically recognize criticism as loyalty. Not just squeaky wheels getting grease.
  71. Take transparency seriously.
  72. Target mid-range donors. Make it matter.
  73. The president worries, the provost works.
  74. Think “heterogeneity” rather than “diversity” – latter has become heard as individual trait when in fact it is a system descriptive. Switching to H might restore that sense.
  75. Too many of our official reports contain unsound numbers – lack of response raters in surveys, no discussion of likely effects of sample bias, lack of clarity about denominators.
  76. Transition idea: ask various entities (departments, divisions, offices, constituencies, etc.) to write white papers laying out ideas and issues. Then appoint small group of folks one might want to use as cabinet or advisors or other sort of inner circle and charge each with presenting one of the white papers. Encourages folks to take the position of other entities and allows new president to see who has clarity and coherence and institutional perspective.
  77. Use flexibility to be interdisciplinary in a manner that matches the world
  78. Very little in our public messaging says “rigor,” “challenging,” “top students.” An outsider looking at the website sees disconnect between claims that we aspire to academic excellence and what we say on the website.
  79. When making decisions, be sure to give people multiple chances to disagree.
  80. Where ARE the liberal arts going? Regular (every few years) retreat on this question. Sabbaticals for folks to think about and report back? Or do a team taught course every few years.
  81. Why are there no "opportunity funds"? Reward your best people with resources they can use when they see opportunities. Have this be the criterion: is this a person I want to set free to do more of what she does?
  82. Why is Mills not better known? We need to realize that we are “under known.”
  83. Why not have a junior faculty council?
  84. You earn trust by keeping your word.
  85. Your ambitions matter and should be explicit.