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Monday Musings by WKB #emchat #admissions #highered #leadership #liberalarts

Dear colleagues and friends,

Once again I skipped a week.

Honestly, I was exhausted from a couple of weeks of late night basketball and couldn’t get myself motivated to write something last week.

But, I am back this week with some thoughts about change, a couple of really great articles, another crappy idea I had once upon a time, and, some more from “Grant,” which I finally finished.

I can sense that it’s “go time” on campus. There is no question that the rest of this academic year will be a hard sprint to the end. My lists of things to complete are growing—even as I cross things off! The numbers are beginning to shape a narrative and tell an interesting story about the work. Teammates are hitting their stride and I am witnessing great creativity and an unmatched work ethic.

At this time, especially, I am reminded that I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a group of people who hold themselves accountable and embraced shared-responsibility for success.

Best wishes to us all in the coming days, weeks and months.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

I have been using a Lenten Devotional entitled “In His steps: A Daily Lenten Devotional Journey through the Life of Christ” and have found a number of things to be of interest throughout. This particular devotional focuses on the story of Jesus from birth to crucifixion. It has certainly forced me to think differently about many stories I’ve heard countless times.

Last week the author, Ray Pritchard, recounted the story of the Pool of Bethesda, during which Jesus asks an ill man, “Do you want to get well?” The author cites the seeming absurdity of the question, given the illness of this man. However, the question was deadly serious and applies to all of us and to our organizations. Some people truly don’t want to change and in this instance it’s as if Jesus really wanted to make absolutely certain that the ill man understood what change would men.

The story and the devotional both focus on the difficulty people have with change. We often hear the refrain “change is hard.” And, it is. Or, as Pritchard offers, “Everyone wants progress. No one wants change.” How familiar is that sentiment?

The reason I’ve not been able to get this thought out of my head is because I see so clearly how expectant I am for others to change and how reluctant I am to change myself. I have a feeling that most people, if truly reflective, will see the same thing in themselves.

How do I/we get to the point where change is easier and/or welcome?

How do I/we embrace change before the point of “change or die?”

These are questions that will take me some time to sort through, I am afraid.

But, back to the devotional, Pritchard close each passage with a short prayer and this one included the following, “Thank you Lord, for being the Devine Disturber of the Peace.” I love the idea of a “Divine Disturber of the Peace!” Perhaps the idea of a Devine Disturber of the Peace can help me/us embrace change and take on the role of change agent when needed?

What do you think?

Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

5 Communication behaviors of great leaders—Patrick Leddin’s essay about communication behaviors of leaders is a great read. It’s something I am going to keep around because I know that I can improve upon some of the five behaviors he identifies. Leddin maintains that these five communication behaviors are essential for leaders who excel:

  1. Choose to address poor performance
  2. Choose to understand what motivates
  3. Choose to listen
  4. Choose to straight talk
  5. Choose to share perspectives

First, I love the fact that the author focuses on choice and choosing to do these things!

What do you make of these five behaviors? Is there one that you find to be particularly difficult? Is there one in which you think I am failing? Is there one that you observe others leaders overlooking?

The principle of commitment and behavior consistency—Kudos to Leslie DuPree, who forwarded this excellent article my way. This article is relevant to recruitment and fundraising and is well worth reading. After reading it, my head was spinning! I found myself thinking…

  • Are we asking prospective students/alumni to share too much information (for our purposes and not theirs)?
  • Do we expect too much of students when applying?
  • Is there an application for first-year students in the first-year experience to publicly state their goals, so they are held accountable by others?
  • Should we brainstorm ways to more effectively use peers in recruitment and fundraising to hold a peer group accountable for action?
  • Is there a way to rethink the application process to be incremental in developing a relationship?

While much of this is intuitive, there are some good thoughts that should focus and center our work. It seems to me that this excellent article reinforces that age-old concept that if you can’t get them to do the easy things (update a form, answer a call, visit campus, meet with you when you are in the area), it’s unlikely that you’ll get them to enroll or donate.

Another crappy idea I had: The liberal arts institute

Apparently in 2012 I was really into predicting the future. Here’s one prediction I made:

I predict that we will see some liberal arts colleges (most likely those that do not breath the rare air of the top  50)  do the following in the next few years:*

  1. Establish an Institute of the Liberal Arts within their campuses to create a meaningful symbol of the liberal arts and a college’s commitment. These “institutes” will focus attention on preserving the liberal arts and humanities and will create a centralized power structure to defend the liberal arts and humanities in an era of increasing professional orientation and STEM focus of liberal arts colleges nationwide.
  2. These “institutes” will “take over” the general education program and will redefine the core curriculum in remarkable ways.
  3. These “institutes” will redefine the outcomes of what the liberal arts accomplishes on a college campus. The refocusing of the liberal arts is likely to establish criteria each course in the general education program meets that directly relates to the outcomes of a liberal arts education (critical thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, communication, intercultural/generational communication, social and political engagement, etc). The general education program will become more “skills-based,” rather than content based, and will enable content from a wide range of subject areas to meet the skill standards necessary to fulfill what the liberal arts should teach, etc.
  4. These “institutes” will redefine the “currency” of completing the liberals arts and will offer “badges” for successfully fulfilling the designated skills in each area of the liberal arts that the “institute” on each campus believes represents its version of the liberal arts.

(This first appeard on my blog @bowtieadmission 2012)

I am not aware of anyone who followed my crappy advice on this one. What do you think, a terrible idea or far ahead of its time?

Something for you (and me) to think about

I finally finished reading Ron Chernow’s “Grant.” It’s an excellent book and worth placing on you summer reading list. There are wonderful lessons about leadership, perseverance and tolerance. Grant was imperfect as a man and a leader, but his contributions on the whole were quite remarkable.

In the closing pages of the book, I highlighted the passage below:

“The trouble is now made by men who did not go to ware at all, or who did not get made till the ware was over.”

According to Chernow, Grant shared this sentiment with an old friend, Simon Buckner, who fought for the Confederacy. Buckner visited Grant, while Grant was dying, to pay his respects to an old friend and Grant seemed to be lamenting some back-tracking on progress for which he was responsible following the Civil War.

What I find interesting about Grant’s sentiment is how relevant it is today. It seems like we have an awfully high-degree of tolerance for dissent after the fact in many places and spaces!

I think Grant urges us to engage in the topics of the day fully at times that are ripe. I think this is especially important of leaders, but is probably good for all of us. It seems to me that many only pay attention when it impacts them directly; they’ve often missed the opportunity to shape the discussion and narrative and tend to take pot-shots or cry sour grapes well after the time is ripe to do so.

Perhaps we can commit to being engaged and informed when it matters most.

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about somethingn particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu


P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission



Monday Musings by WKB, March 5, 2018 #admissions #emchat #highered #liberalarts #leadership #advancement

Dear colleagues and friends,

I took last week off from writing to focus on a number of things that were time sensitive. My apologies.

This past weekend was full of basketball as the Augustana College men’s basketball team started play in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The mighty Vikings prevailed in both of their games and now advance to the Sweet 16 this coming weekend. We are fortunate to host the next round once again on campus in what Coach Grey Giovanine describes as “the best college basketball atmosphere in the country.”

Carver Center

Coach G. is right, Carver Center really rocks and the team has an enthusiastic following. Last week also included a video on the college’s beloved Carver Crazies. Greg Armstrong and Ashleigh Johnson of the C & M team did a great job planning and executing the clip. Enjoy.

Finally, as March Madness continues and we witness some great games, but also see the dirty underbelly of big-time college sports, I think it important to remember that Division III still believes in the student-athlete model. There’s no “one and done” here.

A few days ago I posted the following to my Facebook page:

“Amid all of the ridiculous news about Division I basketball, I am thrilled to have my newsfeed jam-packed with news about the achievements of Division III student-athletes: personal bests, school records, conference championships, upsets and triumphs. If you want your student to love the game they play, support their pursuit of Division III college sports.”

As a former Division III student-athlete, I believe in this and hope more and more people see the light and the benefits of Division III athletics.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

My current airplane book is Simon Sinek’s “Start with why.” This book was referenced quite a bit in the other Sinek book I read, so I’ve been curious about it for some time. The book is giving me a lot to think about and strikes a nerve as I think about recruitment and fundraising.

Sinek writes, “Given the relative parity of features and benefits, that little something extra is sometimes all is takes to tip the scales.” Of course, Sinek maintains that little something extra is why. He does and excellent job of contrasting what and how from why and makes a compelling case that companies, people and organization who start with why they do something (rather focus on what and how) ultimately distinguish themselves. He has a pretty clever review of Apple’s why that got me thinking a bit about my own why. He writes that, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do.”

I’ve been thinking about why a lot since starting this book and reflecting on why I do what I do.

For me, the why is because I want the following our college students:

  • I want them to learn how to deal with disappointment (mine what getting beat out of a challenge race the week before going to nationals on a 4 X 100 relay team on which I’d run to qualify for nationals)
  • I want them to question what they think they believe in (my Freshman Colloquy Class challenged my truth in ways I never imagined as a high school student)
  • I want them to gain the confidence to change their mind (my moment came when I de-pledged a fraternity when I came to realize it was not a good fit for me)
  • I want them to be challenged by uncomfortable surroundings (Spain and the East Coast did this for me)
  • I want them to be surrounded by people who care deeply about their success (I benefited from faculty, coaches, administrators, friends and music directors who cared about my goals and me. They went out of their way to make sure I was successful)

These are my whys. I believe that moments like what I describe above represent the why for students to choose Augustana and for donors to support the college.

What is the why behind what you choose to do?

How would you describe your why?

Have you thought about the what, how and why and why WHY makes the difference?

Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

8 Questions to ask someone other than what they do—OK, I love this article and am really trying to re-train myself to begin asking these questions. It’s not easy to do, but I think it will be worth it. If you don’t have time to read this full HBR article, I’ve listed the 8 Questions below:

What excites you right now?

What are you looking forward to?

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year?

Where did you grow up?

What do you do for fun?

Who is your favorite superhero? .

Is there a charitable cause you support?

How will you use these questions?

Chick-fil-A is beating every competitor by training workers to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’—This Business Insider article on Chick-fil-A is a great reminder of how important the basics are to providing great service. While this may seem so clear to everyone reading this, it is also critically important to make sure this sort of sentiment is represented throughout the entire organization. The Chick-fil-A example, with its emphasis on front-line workers, shows how important customer-facing efforts can be.

Something for you (and me) to think about

Chernow’s “Grant” is amazing! I have only 200 pages to go in this monster. The book is providing me with quite a history lesson about others whose names I’ve heard, but whose stories I don’t know.

One person who plays a prominent role is Hamilton Fish, who served as Grant’s Secretary of State. Fish had some remarkable achievements are Grant’s Secretary of State, but I was drawn to a passage about his service as a member of Grant’s Cabinet.

Chernow describes Fish as “…the ideal cabinet member because he never hesitated to disagree or warn of dangers inherent in a course of action. At the same time, once Grant made up his mind he was unshakeable, and Fish loyally carried our his directives whether he agreed or not.”

I highlight this passage in the book because it serves as a great reminder about being a trusted advisor. Fish clearly knew his role and executed it very well. Fish was a popular and successful Secretary of State and was central to Grant’s foreign policy successes because he knew his role as a leader, adviser and follower.

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu

P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission

Monday Musings by WKB, February 19, 2018 (President’s Day) #emchat #highered #liberalarts #leadership #admissions

Dear colleagues and friends,

Last week was a very busy week for me. Yes, it was mom’s birthday.

But, the week also involved a trip to Richmond, VA for a meeting, a campus lunch & learn dedicated to summer construction projects at Augustana, a soccer tournament in Cedar Rapids and then an Augie hoops game with Ben on Saturday night.

In addition, I collaborated with a few colleagues to refine some really important materials to guide our philanthropic efforts at Augustana.

And, finally, I put together a very exciting proposal for a donor that I think has a ton of possibilities.

Overall, it was a week during which I felt fully engaged and saw team members at their very best.

It was a full and fun week.

I hope you can find that great balance of fun and full in your weeks ahead, especially as the pressure mounts as May 1 nears for those involved in recruitment and fiscal year-end approaches for Advancement.

There is much to do, but it’s achievable if we are having fun while we are doing it. Are you having fun?


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

I continue to slog through Ron Chernow’s “Grant,” which I highly recommend. While reading this weekend, I ran across the following passage, which Chernow cites from Grant’s memoir, and it has me thinking:

“I thought I could run the government of the United States, as I did the staff of my army. It was my mistake, and it led me into other mistakes.”

While this passage may be another argument against candidates who run for elected without political experience, that’s not the reason it stood out to me. Instead, I think this passage stood out because I, myself, have been tempted to think that I can simply replicate a success I’ve had in one place somewhere else.

For me, it has been the tendency to refer to, or try to duplicate, something accomplished at a previous institution or in a previous position. Sometimes this has been successful, but there have been plenty of occasions where the proposed solution does not fit the system or environment.

It took me some time to understand this and fully appreciate that I am not always able to duplicate the circumstances within which an idea worked elsewhere.

I know I’m not alone in this, though. I often see leaders try to change an organization to adapt to their style and system. Sometimes it works, but most times it doesn’t.

I think many leaders have a tendency to think that the system will adjust to their style, approach and experience. I understand this and think most leaders do, too.

However, Grant’s deep reflection on his “mistake” is worth noting. It makes me wonder how can leaders see these mistakes happening in real time, rather than waiting until writing a memoir?

*How do the most successful leaders learn the systems within which they need to operate?

*How do the most successful leaders adapt their gifts to work within the system they enter?

*How do the most successful leaders build in the necessary feedback loops to make sure one mistake does not lead to more mistakes?

I pose these questions to all of you and welcome your thoughts and responses.

Grant, as it turns out, was highly secretive and his command and control background from the military prevented him from building a consultative network of people who he could trust to advise him. I have to believe that had Grant had a network he could trust and had established meaningful feedback loops, perhaps these mistakes he describes would not have occurred.

Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

Lead with emotional intelligence: 6 ways of Doug Pederson, Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles—I am not an Eagles fan. But, I am impressed with Coach Pederson and his approach. He has an edge—a competitive edge—that I really like. He also has a bit of chip on his shoulder that he seems to use as motivation. I also really, really, really like his hair!!! Honestly, he seems to have a lot going for him and this article is an excellent read for anyone in leadership. The author, Kristen Anne Dudley cites the following as keys to leading with EI:


  1. Practice self-awareness in order to achieve emotional intelligence
  2. Exercise empathy – put yourself in your team member’s shoes, look through their lens.
  3. Create a culture of transparency – stay visible and grow trusted by your team.
  4. Invest time in the relationships you have with your team members and give freedom for relationships to grow between them.
  5. Never allow adversity to get you and your team down – change the narrative to see challenges as opportunities.
  6. Provide a purpose higher than self. Give your team the opportunity to align with something mission-driven, it will elevate them.

This is excellent advice and something we should all aspire to. What do you think? How do you incorporate these into you daily work?

Sold-out spring games and a ‘rock star’ coach: Frost Fever hits Phase 2 at Nebraska—OK, I am a Nebraska Cornhusker fan. But, I offer this as something to read not just because I am fan. This is a great description of what happens when there is alignment of purpose; in this case the fans, the team and even the administration! But, more importantly, it seems to show just how badly people want to believe and be associated with a winner. There are two quotes that stand out and reinforce that it’s not always necessary to be cutting edge or particularly flashy to get people excited. These are the two quotes:

“Our goal is going to be simple,” the 43-year-old coach said. “It’s going to be to get better, day by day to get better. And that means waking up and being better than you were the day before. Any challenge that comes in front of you, you’ve got to conquer it and overcome it, put your head on the pillow and get ready to do it again the next day.

“Nebraska football used to be built on being physical and tough and working harder than the other team. There’s some missing pieces here that we’re going to try to get back.”

“This is going to sound a little glib,” chancellor Ronnie Green said at the time, “and I don’t mean it that way, but I’d love to be back in mid-1990s. Right? I don’t need to say more.”

Hank Bounds, president of the University of Nebraska system, immediately added his two cents.

“The truth of the matter is,” Bounds said, “why not? Why shouldn’t we have those aspirations here?”

There is something to both of these quotes, in my view. I view both of these a recognition that in order to be the best we can be today, we need to honor the past and maybe even long for it a bit. It seems like a nice way to honor deep traditions, but within the context of a new day.

Finally, this particular article serves as an example of how important it is for all of us to create excitement about what is happening. Scott Frost and his coaching staff haven’t won a single game in Lincoln, but they are building a base of cheerleaders who they will leverage when they hit the field in the fall. It seems to me that Frost is leading in a way that doesn’t diminish or discount the past. I like what I see and read. #GBR

Something for you (and me) to think about

A colleague of mine tweeted a statement attributed to a school counselor this week that included something along the lines of “I’ve used the word genuine so many times in letters of recommendations this year that it feel disingenuous.” This captures something I find myself thinking about a lot. I often wonder if acknowledgments, thank yous and brief check-ins can come across the same way. Do they feel authentic or do they feel forced? I think this is something that deserves a little bit of thought.

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu


P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission

Monday Musings (on a Tuesday again) #highered #liberalarts #mentorher #emchat #GeorgeAnders

Dear colleagues and friends,

February seems to blow by faster than any other month. I can’t believe that we are nearly midway through.

Today, February 13, my mother turns 80. We treated her to cake and lunch on Sunday to celebrate. I am reminded how fortunate I am to have my mother nearby. It’s a joy to spend these special occasions with her and I hope we will have many more birthday celebrations.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about my mom in the lead up to this milestone birthday and feel like I need to acknowledge the great influence she’s had on my career path and commitment to working in higher education at liberal arts colleges.

My mother is a 1959 graduate of Augustana, where she majored in English. She speaks of “dear old Augie” more now than she did when I was growing up. It’s a nice way for the two of us to bond. However, her real influence came when she encouraged both my sister and me to consider and ultimately attend a liberal arts college.

I am sure my mother knew from her own experience that Glenda and I would benefit from a liberal arts education. And, we both did. My sister attended Midland Lutheran College (now Midland University) and I attended Gettysburg College.

Looking back, my mom (and my dad who doubled majored in English and Classics at the University of Nebraska before seminary) knew something about the value of the liberal arts and being engaged deeply in learning. They pushed my sister and me to take a much harder path, considering that most of our friends attended public universities.

Today, my mom’s 80th, seems like a good time to say thank you.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

On Sunday morning as I was pulling up to the front doors of the church to pick up my family, I noticed a guy walking out of the church with his family wearing a long, elegant dark overcoat. In addition, I noticed his knit stocking cap, which didn’t fit it at all. This gentleman is always dressed impeccably well. I took a little harder look at the stocking cap and noticed a very familiar color green and a very familiar logo—the John Deere logo.

At that moment I recollected seeing this same man at the grocery store a few weeks ago, with his two young daughters, and he had on a very rugged barn coat, again with the John Deere logo on it.

I am not sure why exactly, but I found myself asking, “why is it that John Deere employees take such great pride in their company?”

Now, I know that you might be thinking that I don’t know enough people who work at Deere or my case study—this one guy—is insufficient. But, as an outsider, there seems to be something special about Deere—perhaps even a bit cult-like. Those of us living in the QCA know the type and know what I am talking about—the work there, they wear the gear proudly and their garages have lots of green things. There seems to be a fidelity that is pretty special.

I think I found myself thinking about this because I don’t always see this in higher education, among employees.

My impression of Deere employees is that they love the place and what it does.

I do see a lot of that at Augustana and at many other places, but we can be our biggest critics, too. We spend a lot of time identifying and solving problems. We spend time thinking about what others are doing and how they do it better than we do. Personally, I do this a lot more than I should.

One wonders if we should be more intentional about taking stock of and celebrating what we do well, the lives we change and that most of what we do is better than damn good—it’s great? Shouldn’t we take more time to celebrate what we do well and the incredible impact we have on students? Shouldn’t we be able to muster up the same pride that the tractor makers do?

I am sure that not everything is perfect at Deere; I read some of the reviews on Glassdoor (had never heard of this before) and know that some employees believe Deere focuses too much on quarterly performance and intern have too much downtime. But, the guy in the big knit stocking cap has me convinced otherwise and left me with the impression that he loves the place and takes great pride in being a part of the organization.

One Thing Two things I think is are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

Men, Commit to mentor women—A new acquaintance of mine posted the something to Facebook last week with the simply comment “Yes!” It was a new project sponsored by Lean In, for which Sheryl Sandberg is responsible. This effort, #MentorHer, her is a reaction to recent data indicating that in the wake of the #MeToo movement that men have a growing reluctance to mentor women. I was inspired to visit it the site and learn more. While doing so it also dawned on me that all but two of my direct reports are women, which led me to wonder am I doing enough to mentor? I know I have room to grow in this area, but the advice is pretty straightforward and I think I can do a better job of what is required: commit to equal access, advocate for a woman, and give actionable advice. I think I can do better and hope people will hold me accountable. I commit to #mentorher

Something for you (and me) to think about

On a plane yesterday I finally finished George Anders’ “You can do anything: The surprising power of a ‘useless’ liberal arts education.” It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. Read it if you work on a liberal arts college campus and please recommend it to all of your friend who are in or approaching the college search process.

When describing a set of companies who believe that their success is dependent upon employees who understand and value the liberal arts, Anders offers that these companies are those who value employees “wanting to work on the frontier, being able to find insights, choosing the right approach, reading the room and inspiring others.”

This phrase stopped me in my tracks and I immediately made note of it.

What a great passage!

What an inspiring take on what a liberal arts college graduate is trained to do!

I believe this is what we are doing.

At our best, we are training our graduates to work on the frontier.

At our best, we are training our graduates to find insights.

At our best, we are training our graduates to choose the right approach.

At our best, we are training our graduates to read a room.

And, at our best, we are training our graduates to inspire others.

While these things all reinforce Andres’ premise that liberal arts college graduates can do anything, I think I will stick to telling them that they will be able to do all of those amazing things listed above. That’s an outcome!

I think of all of my friends and all of the Augustana grad who embody those qualities and know that what Anders writes is accurate.

There is no more noble mission, in my view.

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu

P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission


Monday Musings #emchat #highered #admissions #advancement #leadership

Colleagues and friends,

Running a bit late this week because I spent last night shoveling snow and honoring my commitment to Jennie to watch another episode of “Victoria.” I thought I might muse after the episode, but since it centered around the potato famine, which killed one million people in Ireland, I wasn’t quite in the mode afterward!

This edition is a bit shorter than usual because I am fully engaged in a number of tasks that have deadlines, but there are still some things to share.


thought article I can’t get out of my mind

Many of you saw the opinion editorial I had published last week in Inside Higher Ed. I offered some thoughts about what it takes to recruit a vice president of enrollment. If you want to take a look at it, you can read the full text here.

But, the reason I want mention it today is because of the Chernow quote that concludes the piece:

Ron Chernow describes a letter Sherman sent to Grant when he was appointed lieutenant general of the Army: “I cannot congratulate you on your promotion; the responsibility is too great.”

I want to make it clear that I think this quote applies to higher ed leadership in general. The demands are different today than ten years ago and the pressures are greater than ever before. I’ve heard that the average tenure for a provost is four years and for a president seven years. I’ve never seen a figure for vp’s of advancement or enrollment, but I can’t imagine either positions enjoy longer tenures.

The cost of turnover and transition is enormous to an institution, but there seems to be internal and external impatience with leadership that I not altogether healthy for higher education, in my view.

I really admire those professionals who are able to buck the trend and settle in to lead. Leadership, and building follow-ship, takes time and patience, especially in higher education.

Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

What really drives college costs? This post by EAB is worth reading as we seek to improve our own messaging about college costs and the hypothetical climbing wall or the LSU lazy river. While there is always more we can do to curb costs and eliminate inefficiency, the author concludes, “Instruction is the main expense for every institution type.” One would think that this is what the public would demand!!! The expense of instruction is certainly the driver at Augustana and we should celebrate our investment in students and their collective success.

Emotionally intelligent Teamwork I’ve found tremendous value in Korn Ferry’s weekly summaries. Last week’s include a piece on emotional intelligence that reinforces an approach that I really like. The article discusses the importance of creating cultural norms. It reminds me of what we have in the Office of Admissions at Augustana College. These norms are our emotional commitments we make to each other.

Our norms, which hang in almost every office, are:

We will…


  • Above all, serve students and their families by:
  • Being welcoming and inclusive
  • Offering every visiting student a memorable campus experience
  • Building real relationships with prospective students and families
  • Enrolling the best class possible by taking every aspect of recruitment personally


Foster an office culture of encouragement, support and success by:


  • Working collaborative with campus partners and across the higher ed landscape
  • Taking pride in what we do, who we are, and Augustana College
  • Continuing to seek knowledge and better ways to tell the Augustana story as we work toward meeting the strategic goals of the college.


Do you have something like this in your office? Have you thought about putting something like this together? How would you start?


Something for you (and me) to think about

There are two things that I keep around as reminders to keep me centered.

One is my screensaver, which is picture of Chimney Rock in Bayard, Nebraska. (see attachment). Because I look at my phone a lot (too much) this picture reminds me of my roots, growing up in western Nebraska, where I lived from 1970 until 1992. The panhandle of Nebraska will always by home for me. The community of Gering, Nebraska and the congregation at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church has had an enduring impact on who I am and who I’ve become. I find myself often thinking about the friends I know from Gering when I am trying to think carefully and critically about sensitive issues. I need this reminder on a daily basis and am very grateful for Nebraska.


The second thing that I have in my office is a framed copy of a letter from the Dean of Academic Advising at Gettysburg College (see attachment). The date on the letter is December 29, 1989 and it was sent to inform me that the Academic Standing Committee had removed me from academic probation. I am so very grateful that I ran across this letter a few years ago when I was cleaning out my parent’s home. The reminders of my own struggles in college and making a successful transition to college, have always informed and guided my work in college admissions and now in advancement. It’s always been my objective to see promise in prospective students and prospects.


What do you keep around to keep you centered?

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu

P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission

Monday Musings from WKB #emchat #admissions #advancement #highered #leadership

Colleagues and friends,

First and foremost, today is the amazing Jennie Barnds’ birthday! I want to wish her happy birthday. She keeps things sane at home so I can do the work that I love to do. And, yes, the modifier “amazing” always goes in front of her name. Happy birthday, Jennie!!!

A number of people have been added to the distribution list for this weekly email. If you are new (or old) to this and don’t want to receive these messages, just let me know and I’ll drop you from this list. I promise it won’t hurt my feelings.

If you are curious what this is all about…I try to offer one of these notes about once a week. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission

So, on to the meat of this…

Last night I returned from a very busy week of Augustana College related events, including the Winter in the Windy City, the inaugural meeting of the President’s Advisory Council and Board of Trustee’s Retreat. Lots of Augustana College in the past few days!

The past few days reminded me how fortunate the college is to have such engaged alumni and a committed Board of Trustees. In addition, I was personally reminded of the talents that surround me in the enrollment, communication and advancement. The advancement teams did an amazing job with Winter in the Windy City and the crowd was awesome (and we raised a little money, too). Keri Rursch did a fantastic job presenting research about the college’s brand to the Board and the PAC. Liz Nino was amazing describing the process of recruiting students internationally, too. And, Courtney Wallace and Karen Dahlstrom, did a terrific job facilitating the panel discussion with school counselors and the Board and members of the Augustana College community. Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of everyone on the team.

I do want to note that the portion of the Board retreat that featured four college counselors was simply outstanding, in my view. We hosted four very experienced (and thoughtful) college counselors to help the Board of Trustees understand the complexities of the college search and selection process. In addition to helping seven archetypical students develop a college search list (many that did not include Augustana), these experts provided insights about what is and is not working in student recruitment. The counselors/colleagues are critically important partners, but I was also reminded that their real client is the student and family, not a particular college. I am personally indebted to my colleagues, who graciously joined the Augustana family for a day.


thought article I can’t get out of my mind

Many of us were perplexed by a finding from the recent brand research completed at Augustana; first-year students in the course of a number of focus groups used the word FUN as a primary descriptor of their experience so far. Yes, fun! When we saw a bunch of word-clouds that had a fun in ginormous font, we didn’t know what to do with it.

Honestly, we thought first about our internal audiences and believed there would be concern about college being fun, rather than rigorous or something like that. Our concern was probably overblown, but it has promoted us to think about why the word fun would be used so frequently. We have a lot of theories and I think we will probably try to explore the idea of fun a little more to try to learn exactly what it means.

In the meantime, I stumbled across this really interesting blogpost about “deep fun.” The author of the blog points to an excellent article from HBR that goes more in-depth about fun as it relates to employee engagement.

My take-away, though, is this, quoted from the blogpost: “…there are two types of engagement. The first type is shallow fun: when employees play games. The second type is deep fun — when employees take ownership of their experience inside the group.”

This insight has me wondering if the fun that our students are describing is the deep fun of ownership? Are they feeling independence and ownership over their choices inside and outside the classroom? Do they sense the emerging ownership over their experiences?

I’d really like to think that the use of fun is really the deep fun we should want to all of our students (and employees).

Three things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

Why brands matter now more than ever—After a weekend full of brand research discussions, I found this brief article from Stamats to be timely reading. The three main points are right on:

*Great brands attract people and resources.

*Great brands lay the groundwork for effective messaging.

*Great brands engage and excite.

There is no better time for Augustana to be doing the meaningful and deep brand work that it’s doing. I hope we can deepen our brand engagement and ensure it’s understood and operationalized throughout all that we do.

7 Key Questions for Qualifying you Major Gift and Planned Gift Prospects—I love this short blogpost. How intentional are we about doing this following:

Do they have money or assets? Yes or no?

Do they care? Explain why: ___________

Do they have a personal connection? Yes or no?

What is that connection and/or story? Describe it: _____________

Might that connection result in a gift in honor or in memoriam of someone? Yes or no?

Can they say, “Yes”? Yes or no?

If not, what’s preventing them from saying, “Yes”? Specify:

This advice has a lot of merit for recruitment, too! I need to make sure that I am asking these questions of everyone with whom I interact.

Something for you (and me) to think about

My little guy Ben (8) loves basketball and loves Steph Curry.

Who wouldn’t given his extraordinary talent and career so far?

While we all know that while Curry is a natural talent, he also has a terrific coach in Steve Kerr.

I admire Kerr for a host of reasons. He’s an excellent coach. He’s articulate. He defends his players. He’s passionate enough to get tossed from a game. He’s strategic. He checks his ego and puts his players and the team first. Man, Kerr is the total package and I respect his work.

Over the weekend I ran across an amazing video on LinkedIn of coaching conversations between Kerr and Curry. After seeing the video clip, I chased it down to learn that it was embedded in an article from Forbes called “Steve Kerr And Steph Curry Have What Everybody Else Wants.”

I hope you will read the article and watch and listen to the exchanges (you have to read go to the article to see the embedded video. It is worth it).

As I watched and listened to these conversations, between player and coach, I couldn’t help but think about the importance of these interactions in any circumstance—mother to daughter, father to son, and, importantly, colleague to colleague. I am now asking myself if I am doing enough of this? Do I know everyone on my team well enough to connect in this way? Do I know what everyone is doing to be able to help them through a rut? Am I encouraging everyone in the way Coach Kerr does?

I have some work to do. 

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu

P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission

Monday Musings on #admissions #financialaid #advancement and #highered #emchat #leadership

Colleagues and friends,

Happy New Year!

Today we welcomed our students back from winter break. And, now, all of a sudden it all feels real again.

The new year is an interesting milestone in higher education. While it marks newness in so many ways, it’s only the mid-way point for admissions and development professionals and there is much to do.

My work in advancement offers a new perspective on the new year and something I really like.

Calendar year-end giving, and the push that comes with it, provides a sense of closure, if only temporary. Assessing calendar year-end gifts allows a moment of clarity about what lies ahead in order to be successful. This midway point allows advancement professionals to reset and refocus, if needed, in a way that is impossible in admissions, given the emphasis on one day, May 1.

I wish there was a similar regroup, reset, refocus opportunity in admissions. But, as so many of us know, that moment usually comes too late.

It is one major difference, between admissions and advancement, in two worlds that are otherwise a whole lot more alike than different.

Finally, as I am thinking about a new year, here are my resolutions:

  • Read more
  • Exercise more
  • Eat better
  • Run another half-marathon
  • Join something meaningful
  • Unplug more often

I don’t know how I’ll do, but those are the resolutions. How about you? You will willing to share yours?


A thought article I can’t get out of my mind

Over the holiday break, I was scrolling through photos on my phone and I ran across a photo of sticker on the outside of an envelope that enclosed some papers my father gave to me at some point. (My dad would often “decorate” the outside of envelopes).

Anyway, the sticker included the following phrase:

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”

I probably didn’t give it much thought at the time, but seeing this now, I was really struck by the phrase.

I guess there is always more good to do. Perhaps we can all commit to doing more good in 2018?



Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

University Presidents: We’ve been blindsided—Again, Politico offers excellent insight into what is happening in higher education. While some of this article is a bit like that scene from the movie Casablanca during which Captain Renault expresses “shock” that there is gambling at Rick’s (as he collects his winnings) it also captures an important change in the broader public that can no longer be overlooked or underestimated.

In the article from Politico, author, Benjamin Wermund includes the following passage, which seems to capture what’s going on very well:

“Rice University president David Leebron put it this way: “If you go back 15 years, I think universities were held — not where the military is, but pretty much just below that. Now, we’ve fallen a lot. I think it’s a very challenging time where we can’t just go out in the world and say, ‘We’re an esteemed institution’ and people will credit what we’re saying.”

This change in public perception about the value of and role of colleges and universities is not something that can be turned around overnight. What will we do to address this? How will we respond? How will we respond to internal audience or external forces? How will we reconcile our own feelings?

This may be a greater challenge than demographic shifts.

How we can keep more graduates—I recently ran across an opinion-editorial by the director of career services at the Business School at Virginia Tech and thought it was very good. In particular, I appreciated the author’s emphasis on local companies “competing” for talent.

Within our own community there is a desire to have more Augustana graduates stay in the Quad Cities. I think it’s a noble goal, but we may need to do a better job of illustrating why local companies need to compete for our graduates.

We graduate very talented students, who can go anywhere, and local companies need to understand and appreciate that. What is our role, in external relations, for making the case to local companies that they need to compete for our talented graduates?

 Something for you (and me) to think about

When my father died in October of 2015, it was my task to clean out his desk and office. I found his files to be fascinating and illuminating. My dad spent a good part of every day in his office. He’d read or bang on his manual typewriter keys corresponding with friends or composing a sermon.

Among the many sermons and notes for Bible study and the occasional hand-written reminder, I found a carbon paper copy of something titled “The language of meetings” by William Joseph Barnds. Below are sixteen observations my father included:

  1. “Existential situation”: The mess we have got ourselves into.
  2. “He elaborated his point”: He kept talking.
  3. “We will incorporate the ideas”: We will try to make everyone happy.
  4. “This is fundamental”: This is my pet and I love to talk about it.
  5. “It was an act of God”: I don’t want to talk the blame for my own procrastination or failure.
  6. “Pinpoint the problem”: Try to keep the bores quiet while I speak my piece.
  7. “He has made a very astute observation”: He has backed me up and expressed my point of view almost as well as I did.
  8. “We must stress the importance of our work”: We must try to kid others as successfully as we’ve kidded ourselves.
  9. “Get a cross-section of needs”: Find out what they’re hollering about the loudest.
  10. “Strategize”: Decide how to get someone else to do my job.
  11. “Expertly expressive”: Contains the most nebulous jargon.
  12. “Isolated situation”: The mess that everyone knows I am responsible for.
  13. “There has been a breakdown in communication”: Some people have been lucky enough to avoid learning our vocabulary and there for have been unable to understand our pronouncements.
  14. “Buttress the argument”: Holler louder.
  15. “Transfer the detail”: Find a sucker.
  16. “Develop a strategy to overcome the problem”: Adjourn the meeting!

Isn’t this awesome? This preceded any sort of college fair bingo.

A copy hangs in my office at work as a reminder of my dad’s wisdom and the phrases I need to avoid!

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu


P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add them to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. And, you can read past issues of my musings at my blog @bowtieadmission