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

Dear colleagues and friends,

Today marks the first day of classes for the 2018-19 academic year and it was pouring rain this morning.

As I was rushing to an early-morning team meeting, I saw lots of students who were soaking wet trying to get to class. I’ll bet that the College Store had a very good day today for umbrella sales! It amuses me each year that this critically important item, the umbrella, is so often overlooked when packing for college. Do all of your friends a favor and remind them to buy their college student an umbrella. Or, better yet, make an umbrella your signature gift for high school graduates.

abstract bright colorful cover

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since rain was on my mind this morning, I found myself wondering if rain on the first day of class is anything like rain on a wedding day? I am told that if it rains on one’s wedding day, it is a harbinger of a happy marriage. Does the rain on the first day of class mean that the 2018-19 academic year is going to be awesome? I sure hope so!

This year is an important year at Augustana and in external relations.

  • There are new colleagues to onboard and integrate. I can’t wait to welcome their contributions to the team and learn from their experiences. I know they will inspire us to better than ever before.
  • We will launch a comprehensive fundraising campaign in October. This is a critically important moment for Augustana College, our alumni, and all those who believe so deeply in this place. I hope the advancement team, and this place, will inspire the sort of transformational giving we need in order to achieve the goals of this campaign.
  • The recruitment team made some important strategic decisions over the summer that will help us rebound after a somewhat disappointing recruitment year. I am really excited to see how well some of these efforts work and look forward to seeing our efforts pay off.

It is at these moments that I am reminded how important it is that every single member of the team is operating at their full capacity. The beginning of a school year is always a good time to reset, or take stock of, what makes it possible for you to operate at full capacity. Do you need to give something up? Do you need to tell someone that they are driving you crazy? Do you need to exercise more? Do you need more sleep? Do you need to eat right? What do you need to do right now in order to operate at your full capacity?


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

Last week there was an article in Inside Higher Ed about Goucher College and its decision to eliminate majors and restructure features of its academic program. It was an agonizing read. If you have not read it yet, please do so. The journalism was a bit of a disappointment, but was not much different from other articles about similar situations.

The comments were predictably angry and emotional and I get it.  We experienced similar passions throughout Augustana’s transition from trimesters to semesters. In fact, the passions ran hot enough that during the course of a meeting several years ago it was suggested that some financial projections I was asked to offer must be “in Confederate currency.” (Seriously, that was a funny comment).

While the negative reactions to Goucher’s announcement may have been predictable and devolved into  the standard narrative about “the bottom-line” and “abandonment of mission,” it shouldn’t be this way.

I don’t know anyone at Goucher College, but I am absolutely sure that the leaders there considered every possible scenario before making any decisions. And, I suspect that their decision-making revolved around many of the questions below:

  • How do we best serve students given our current realities?
  • How do we ensure that we can continue to pay our faculty and others who serve our students?
  • How can we align our offerings (academic and co-curricular) with student interests?
  • Are there practical and cost-effective alternatives to what is being discussed?
  • Does this do the least harm of all of the options considered?

I am sure they asked these questions and many, many others. Senior leaders on college and university campuses make difficult decisions to strengthen and sustain, not to harm. I wish others understood and appreciated this fact.

I wish some of those who are so critical of Goucher would be bold enough to offer their suggestions of pathways forward. Regrettably, rather than productive solutions, one is more likely to hear about votes of non-confidence and fiscal ineptitude on the part of those who are trying to do the right thing.

In this uncertain time within every sector of higher ed, it is even more likely that difficult decision will need to be considered in order to preserve the diversity of educational experience that has come to define higher education in the US.

Experts in demographics have been reminding us that we can’t create an eighteen-year-old in less time than it typically takes. The same is true when it comes to creating demand for academic and co-curricular programs. Higher education has tried the offer-it-and-they-will-find-us-somehow-when-they-are-ready-for-it strategy, but it’s no longer practical.

Goucher seems to be trying to take the right steps and deserves credit for making difficult decisions.

What are your thoughts about Goucher’s announcement? And, what do you think of the reactions?

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

Despite strong economy, worrying financial signs for higher education–Jeff Selingo’s piece in the Washington Post received a lot of attention and for good reason. Higher education faces significant challenges ahead. This is a pretty sobering read for anyone working in higher ed, although Selingo does focus on an outlier in featuring Earlham.  However, Selingo’s concluding paragraph is the $64,000 question:

“Indeed, one needs only to look through the Moody’s reports on public and private colleges and the research on what Generation Z wants out of college to know that major changes are on the horizon for higher education. The question is whether college leaders will be able to find the right solutions, and in enough time.”

I think he may be implying that Moody’s and other rating agents–not to mention Boards, charged as fiduciaries–are going to be looking for vision, rather than stewardship of the status quo from college leaders.

Will leaders rise to the challenge? And, will they receive the support needed from others on campus.  

These 40 powerful life lessons can immediately change the rest of your life–A friend posted this several weeks ago and it was in my saved items on Facebook; I recently went back through it and remain impressed. There are some maxims worth pondering.

Here are five things that really resonated with me:

  • All things, including success and failure, ebb and flow.
  • Time is your most valuable asset. And you must use it wisely.
  • Most people don’t have the courage to live according to their values.
  • Falling short of your potential comes from doing what is comfortable.
  • Your perspective isn’t the only correct answer.

I am sure some of these resonated because of shortcomings I see in myself and others are aspirational. What are your top two or three?

Something for you (and me) to think about

This summer I attended a conference of college presidents and general counsels. Since I am neither, it was a fascinating experience and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this inaugural meeting, sponsored by Husch-Blackwell, a law firm specializing in higher education.

The topics ranged from Affirmative Action and Freedom of Expression to innovative programming and budgeting. It was really interesting to me to listen to these presidents as they sorted through this array of challenges facing higher education and higher ed leaders.

One session in particular stood out and it was not the one I predicted it might be . Anita Dunn, who ran communications for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, was interviewed about crisis communication by her sister, who is a partner at Husch-Blackwell. Ms. Dunn shared a few war stories and walked us through a handful of case studies, but her off-the-cuff advice about dealing with a crisis was the greatest take-away for me.

She outlined the following steps for dealing with a crisis:

  1. Acknowledgement
  2. Transparency of process
  3. Authenticity of voice
  4. Communicating actions as they happen

Dunn’s advice and perspective provides a helpful framework to avoid paralysis in the moment of managing a crisis. I found the call for authenticity of voice and communicating actions as they happen to be especially compelling. Too often organizations don’t think about these two elements and pay the price for choosing the wrong messenger or being tempted to wait until everything is wrapped up to communicate actions.

I now carry Dunn’s advice in my wallet so I don’t forget how wise it is.

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). 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, August 8, 2018 (It’s actually a Wednesday) #highered #liberalarts #emchat #admissions #leadership

Dear colleagues and friends,

Another academic year is upon us and I can sense the machinery gearing up for students to return to Augustana. In the past few weeks I’ve seen more employees on campus and there is an urgency abound as we scramble to get summer projects accomplished and finalize plans for 2018-19.

For me, it’s an inspiring time of year.

But, before getting too excited about the future, allow me to reflect on the summer of 2018.

My kids have a “summer bucket list” on the refrigerator at home and they have been faithfully crossing things of the list and incessantly reminding us about things on the list left undone. Those activities I’ve been able to participate in have been a joy. Jennie has been able to participate in a few more than I and I am grateful that she’s made the time.

And, while it wasn’t on a bucket list, one activity in which Martha (14) participated was a week-long art camp. Her instructor sent us a picture of her working and it made my head explode.



Not only was I able to spend some time with my family, I also saw some old friends at a high school class reunion in Gering, Nebraska and spent a weekend in Connecticut with college friends with whom I lived during my first-year at Gettysburg College (it was a gathering or Political Science majors, none of who work in politics or public policy). It was great to spend time with these old friends.

I also made time read during the summer months. I enjoyed the following books:

Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington, “George Washington: A life.”

Marshall Goldsmith’s, “What got you here won’t get you there”

Nathan Grawe’s, “Demographics and Demand for Higher Education”

Simon Sinek’s, “Start with why.”

Ian Flemming’s, “Thunderball”

As my father would say, I “read at” the following books:

Rogee Roger’s “The luxury buyer: Path the Purchase Psychographics”

Randall Storss’, “A Practical Education.”

And, I re-read one of my favorite books, Richard Hackman’s “Leading Teams.”

Finally, I worked with many different team members to reflect on the past year and make plans for the coming year. There was much to think about and I am excited about many of the things we will introduce in the coming year.

I hope you had a good summer. What did you do and what would you highlight about your summer? Drop me a line so I know what’s been up with you in the last few weeks.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

I am pretty sure that the most impressive people I know are graduates of liberal arts colleges.

My college friends are an impressive bunch doing really cool and challenging things. And, the many students I’ve worked with at Etown and Augie are an equally impressive group of people.

But, I must say, I can’t point to one particular major that stands out and has led to success for these people. And, while I get that major matters to many and sometimes it feels like a particularly important marker for those most committed to the liberal arts, I am convinced that these amazing people I know are so impressive because of how they’ve been taught to think and experience life, regardless of how liberal artsish their major was.

The common elements I see in all of these impressive people transcend “a liberal arts major,” but instead reflect the hallmarks of liberal education.

These people are creative and critical thinkers and they know how to identify and solve real problems. They have an appreciation for the world at large and they operate with a moral compass that I admire.

Sometimes we are confronted with new ideas about new programs and balk about the connection to our mission as a liberal arts college. I don’t know about you, but I would like front-line health care workers, elder care givers, law enforcement professionals and many others who I encounter in daily life to think, act and serve they way these liberal arts college graduates I know so well do.

Maybe liberal arts education is less about a specific list of majors offered or studied, but developing the skills and dispositions that I see in all of these amazing people I know from spending 30 years studying or working a liberal arts colleges.

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

Your strategic plans aren’t strategic, or even plans—This is a great article from HBR. The author, Graham Kenny, is biting in his criticism of most strategic plans. But, he offers some really interesting ideas that I think are worth considering. Among the most interesting take-aways he offers is the following:

“The key to strategy is that it’s the positioning of one business against others”

It’s that simple! Yet, most processes I’ve participated in tend to be more focused on becoming similar to others, rather than positioning against.

Strategic planning sessions in which I participate in the future are very likely to have Kenny’s quote on the wall for everyone, including me, to think about.

Five stages to becoming a leader—I was preparing for an upcoming workshop for new enrollment leaders during which I will be speaking about a couple of topics. While gathering resources for the sessions I ran across the chart to which I linked above. I thought it was a helpful reminder. The stages include: Connect; Relationship; Trust; Value; and, Influence.

These are helpful reminders no matter where you are in your leadership journey.

Something for you (and me) to think about

This past spring I asked direct reports and others with whom I interact frequently to complete a 360 evaluation. It was a tremendously humbling and helpful process for me. It reminded me how very important it is to ask the people who really matter, “what can I be doing better?”

After quite a bit of reflection, I shared the results of my 360 with all of the people who completed it. I still am not sure it was the right thing to do, but I believe it was important for everyone to know what happened to the information they shared.

One of the reasons I felt like I needed to share it is also because I want my colleague’s help as I work to address the handful of things that need attention. In short, I need those people who surround me to hold me accountable for the changes that I need to make to be the best leader I can be.

How are when are you asking for feedback from those who matter most? And, would you share the results of your 360 or am I a fool for doing so? Let me know your thoughts.

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). I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission


Monday Musings: Rivermont Collegiate Commencement Address #LyleLovett #GratefulDead #graduation

Rivermont Collegiate Commencement Address

June 3, 2018

First and foremost, I want to congratulate the class of 2018 on your graduation from Rivermont Collegiate. I know first-hand, through my service as member of the Board of Trustees, that you have worked very hard to get to this day. Rivermont graduates take a different, more challenging and more rigorous, path. You’ve been taught to work hard and challenge yourself—these skills which started at Rivermont will serve you well as you continue your education. Further, at Rivermont you’ve learned how to be curious. This might be the skill that will serve you best in the years to come.

So, while congratulations is in order today, I also want to remind you that today is not an end. You’ll need to continue to work hard, challenge yourself and be curious to thrive in the years to come.

Next, I want to recognize your parents and loved ones. In fact, I want to invite you to thank them right now for the support, guidance and love that they’ve given to you. Parents and loved ones of today’s graduates–please stand so your graduates can recognize you—you’ve been important partners in this journey at Rivermont Collegiate.

Finally, graduates, you would not be here without the challenge and support provided by the exceptional faculty and staff at Rivermont Collegiate. Their dedication to you, the personal attention they provided and the customized experience they’ve offered is second to none. Graduates and parents, please offer your thanks to the faculty and staff.

Again, congratulations!

So before I begin in earnest, let me admit–in a moment of full transparency—that I feel slightly inadequate to be your graduation speaker today. When Mr. Roach called, I found myself thinking to myself, “I wonder how many people he contacted before he called me?”

I thought to myself that there must be many people who are far more qualified, talented and certainly more interesting than I am. While that is surely true, you’ve got me. So, let’s make the most of this today.

This brief talk has two parts: I want to tell you what a graduation talk is supposed to be about because I think that’s important for you to know, so you gain something from this talk; and, second, I am going to bold enough to offer you a little advice that I’ve offered many people with whom I’ve worked over my 26 years in higher education.

Before I get into the meat of my talk, I wanted to briefly address my gown, since some of you may have noticed that my gown is not as fancy as those worn by the Rivermont faculty and by you graduates. This gown is a cherished heirloom and is nearly one hundred years old. It’s a masters gown that my grandmother wore upon the conferring of her masters degree on June 8, 1927. In turn, my father wore it daily while attending seminary in the 1950s. The gown came my way when I completed my masters degree and I cherish it almost as much as I do the degree itself.

So, what is a commencement address supposed to be about? Any ideas? Honestly, I wasn’t sure either when I was asked to do this by Mr. Roach. So, I did what any liberal arts college graduate would do: I Googled it. Next, I asked trusted colleagues and got some great advice.

One of my colleagues offered the following:

“I’ve heard a graduation speech is supposed to talk about what happened in the world in the past 4 years, at the school in the most recent 4 years and then offer advice for the next 4 years.”

That’s seemed like good advice, but I thought that might be a bit depressing given the state of political and world affairs.

Another colleague recommended that I simply offer the following advice:

“Do good. Avoid evil. Pay cash.”

That’s good advice, too. But, does anyone actually use cash anymore?

Finally, a mentor offered the following advice:

Tell them to do the following:

Number 1: Work hard – there’s no substitute for hard work and it’s still respected. One can’t count on luck to achieve your goals.

Number 2: Have goals but don’t be obsessed with them. Maintain some flexibility and recognize things don’t always happen as planned. And that’s the fun in life.

Number 3: Don’t be a jerk. Treat everyone, regardless of their perceived station, exactly how you want to be treated. Self importance is not a handsome trait. Authenticity and genuineness are. To be authentic, one has to be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid of that.

Number 4: Be a lifelong learner. Once you stop learning – or think you’ve learned all there is to learn- that’s when you start getting old – regardless of your age.

Number 5: Money really doesn’t buy happiness. Do what makes you happy.

Number 6: Give back to those people or institutions that inspire you or have inspired you. You’ll feel good doing it.

Number 7: Stay connected to those you love – friends and family. Spread your own love among many.

I like and agree with these pieces of advice and I hope they will resonate with you.

Those are the things that others told me I should share with you.

After considering these words of wisdom, I felt better equipped to share my own recommendations, many of them based on my experiences mentoring new higher education professionals.

So, here are some thoughts from me to you as Rivermont graduates. I shared a number of these things in an article I wrote several years ago called “Take note and send notes.”

Ask questions—If you are seeking to do good and improve yourself, there is nothing more important than being curious. In an increasingly fast-paced world, it often seems easier to turn to search online for the answer to a question rather than to make time to ask someone in person. With email or texting taking the place of face-to-face communication in so many cases, asking a question has become a lost art. Learn to take time to formulate a good question and request the answer from someone you respect. It’s a great way to stand out. Moreover, asking questions can get you some valuable one-on-one time with the person who has the answers. If you really want to develop your skills as a professional, ask someone whose work you admire, “How did you earn the position you have today?” This single question will open a dialogue that will lead to more questions, and the answers will help you on your way.  When I began in my career in admissions, I had an uncle who at the time had been working in college admissions and financial aid for more than 25 years. I asked him countless questions about his work and how his institution did things, and I listened intently as he shared his wisdom and told stories. His answers to my questions helped shape my path toward increasing responsibility. Asking questions also teaches you to be an active listener and as a result, a better communicator.

Take an interest beyond what might seem natural—Life is full of defined roles, which makes it challenging to stand out among others. Sometimes it seems awkward to become involved beyond the known parameters of your role, and you may get strange looks when you try to take an interest in areas outside your box. But, looking beyond what is expected of you is critical. Go above and beyond. Exploring related passions or extending your interests within the organization is worth it, even if that work is not directly related to your position. I’ve witnessed great employees become even better when they began taking classes, coaching, advising students, attending campus forums, and even sharing meals in other locations on campus. Get out of your box and see others and be seen.

Choose your mentors wisely and thank them often—I’ve never had only one mentor at any point in my life, and for that I am grateful. In fact, my list of mentors has grown and shrunk through the years as people I admire have moved in and out of the profession. My list is a support system. My mentors have most frequently been people with a different world view than the one I have, and with strengths in areas where I could improve. I frequently call upon these mentors for advice and am deeply grateful for all they’ve offered me through the years. It’s important to let people know that their insight is valued and appreciated. Take a moment right now to think about your mentors. Do you have a list in mind? Do you thank your mentors and let them know why you value their advice and good example? For each of the countless mentors who have influenced my professional growth, I make a point to reach out with a note to thank them at least once a year. I would encourage you to do the same.

Stretch beyond your comfort zone and say “yes” a lot—While doing something really well is laudable and true expertise is something to celebrate, those seeking to grow need to stretch. Many people are afraid of accepting new challenges because of the fear of failure or worrying about appearing to be inadequate to others. Consider taking a course or joining a club outside of your comfort zone. Befriend someone who is different than you. Doing things outside your comfort zone is proxy for confidence; and confidence is what sets the stars apart from the rest. For me, stretching beyond my comfort zone has varied over the years. In my first professional job as a college graduate, it started with volunteering to supervise a telecounseling program. I recall thinking, “I don’t know anything about this.” But I also knew someone had to do it, and even though it was uncomfortable, I knew I could learn something in the end. Even failing at the task would teach me what NOT to do the next time. I also knew accepting the challenge would impress my boss. Through the years I’ve said “yes” a lot and I have been willing to try something new, even if I wasn’t fully confident about my knowledge or experience. If you want to grow, learn more and develop more fully, be willing to say yes even when you’re thinking yikes.

Don’t forget about the basics—For me, the basics revolve around garbage. A great friend and mentor once told me that if you ever think you are too important to pick up the garbage on campus, then you are no longer qualified for admissions work. I am proud to walk the campus before admissions events, on the lookout for cans, McDonald’s wrappers, Starbucks’ cups and cigarette butts. This activity never gets old for me, and makes me remember it’s my job to make sure families see our campus at its best. I am quite sure the basics will mean something else to you, but as you think about advancing in your profession, do not forget that what keeps you grounded may quite literally be underfoot.

Finally, you might recall from the very gracious introduction that preceded my talk that I am a big fan of Lyle Lovett and the Grateful Dead (I see some of your parents nodding even if you graduates are unfamiliar with these groups). But, I want to leave your with two final pieces of advice that I think will take you far as you leave Rivermont for the world that awaits you.

Last summer I watched a Netflix documentary, “Long Strange Trip” about the Grateful Dead that was excellent. I learned a lot about a group that I’d seen live and listened to for nearly 30 years. But, something that stuck was a comment about listening. When interviewed about the band’s success and continued evolution—after all, the Dead toured for more than 30 years–The bass player, Phil Lesh, once said that the reason that the band was so successful, “was because we listened very hard to each other.”

To be the very best version of yourself, listen hard, to everyone and everything around you.

Another one of my favorite singer-songwriters and musicians is Lyle Lovett. His lyrics are clever, often very sharp and almost always illustrative. His song “Natural Forces” has left an impression on me since the very first time I heard it. But, one stanza in particular carries special meaning and, I think, gives you something, as graduates, to guide you forward.

LL, as I call him, sings this:

“Now as I sit here safe at home

With a cold Coors Lite and the TV one

All the sacrifice and the death and woe

Lord, I pray that I am worth fighting for”

Just as you need to listen hard to be the very best version of you that you can be, behave and aspire to be someone worth fighting for. This idea of “Lord, I pray that I’m worth fighting for” is the ultimate ambition for a life well-lived.

So, there it is, listen hard and life a live that will ensure that you are worth fighting for.

Congratulations Rivermont Class of 2018 and thank you for this opportunity.







Monday Musings by WKB, May 7, 2018 #emchat #admissions #leadership #highered

Dear colleagues and friends,

This time of year is jammed packed with so many year-end activities that I find it hard to keep track of them all.

Out of all of the activities, though, I think I enjoy commencement most of all. I can think of no more important marker of the importance of our work than watching graduates walk across the stage at the end of their college experience. I love the pomp and ceremony of it all—singing the national anthem, the alma mater and watching the procession!

When I worked at Elizabethtown College, EVERYONE—faculty and administrators alike—was expected to attend commencement and march in regalia and that’s where I think I caught the graduation bug. While administrators, regardless of role marched in the back, we were there. A tradition I really enjoyed at Etown was having the graduating class pass between two lines of faculty and administrators before the ceremony began. It was uplifting and rewarding. And I’ll admit it—it could be tearful. Augustana has a similar tradition following the ceremony and it’s equally enjoyable.  I also enjoyed the pre-commencement brunch and the soccer coach passing out Twizzlers before the ceremony began. It was joyful.

I must admit, though; I can’t say that I’ve always enjoyed commencement speakers. The commencement speaker for my own graduation was the acclaimed sociologist Noam Chomsky and his speech was downright miserable and never ending. On the other hand, television’s Judge Judy gave a commencement address at Etown and it was brief, entertaining, and provided great life advice to graduates..

This Sunday Augustana College will graduate another amazing class of students and I’ll be there enjoying every moment as a reminder of the impact of our work.

I hope all of you will enjoy a graduation or two this year.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

Ever since March Madness I’ve had a single image in my head about teamwork and I can’t let it go. These were a few seconds in the Kansas vs. Villanova game that stood out for me as someone who tries to pay a lot of attention to teamwork and team dynamics. Those of you who watched the game might remember it, too.

I remember being impressed when I saw it while watching the game that night and was once again reminded when the parent of an Augustana player re-tweeted Mike Russell’s video of the play, which you can see here.

Russell’s caption/tweet says it all, “(below) is what a TEAM looks like. One man goes down, four sprint to his aid. You can’t fake this stuff. Beautiful!”

It was really neat to see that night and I have the tweet bookmarked to go back and watch it periodically to remind me of how beautiful great teamwork can be.

Do you have examples of this kind of teamwork within your organization? I can think of a few, but also think there is room for improvement.

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

“5 Options to Improvise Strategic Thinking Questions”—Over the past several years I’ve really enjoyed getting a morning think-piece from Mike Brown of Brainzooming. A few weeks ago a piece about being stuck in strategic thinking stood out to me. Brown offers the following suggestions that I found useful:

*The first question is: What has worked in this situation or with this client before? Return to that technique, framework, or outcome. This creates continuity.

*The second option: Look for what has worked elsewhere in comparable situations. This takes advantage of lessons learned.

*Option three: Look for different, but similar, situations that could apply and frame discussion or decision in light of those. Here, it’s all about the power of analogies.

*The fourth option: Ask, “What can I pull out of my rear to experiment with and see if it will work?” This is total improv.

*If all else fails: Call a break in the activities to clear your mind, think and pray for more strategic thinking questions to imagine and try.

This is an excellent framework and is something that a person can apply in countless situations, especially when “doing the same but better” won’t work. If you don’t subscribe to Brainzooming, you might want to consider it.

Shifting From a Scarcity Mindset to an Opportunity Mindset”—This piece by Amit Mrig from Academic Impressions is worth reading and considering. What I like about it is that it is measured in its approach. It doesn’t argue that institutions need to “go big or go home.” Instead, it suggests “frugal innovation.” That’s an idea that most people can get behind. I think the best takeaways are the three questions Amit suggests we ask of ourselves:

  • How can we achieve higher levels of quality and services through our own efforts?
  • What investments can we make to create sustainable long-term returns for the institution?
  • How can we use our current constrained environment to re-energize and re-focus the institution?

Man, I like these questions!

Are you asking these questions consistently on your campus or in your operation?

Something for you (and me) to think about

As mentioned last week, I just completed a 360 review, which has given me some insight about some areas to work on and work through. It was a very useful process and I am grateful to all who participated. As part of my own effort to reflect on my leadership, I’ve been doing a bit of reading about Gen-X leaders.

A great article, “Why You Need to Pay Attention to Gen-X Leaders,” from Fast Company was helpful and was almost like holding up a mirror. I might have even uttered a couple “Amens” while reading it. Maybe I should have read this prior to the 360!

I share it with this group because the article cites one expert who says that 51% of leadership positions are held by Gen-Xers and we all probably need to become more familiar with their characteristics and qualities.

Let me know what you think about this article.

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). 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 #emchat #leadership #admissions #highered

Monday Musings by WKB, April 2, 2018

Dear colleagues and friends,

Happy day after Easter!

Last week was a short week that absolutely flew by.

I had a list a mile long of things to do on Friday, since it was a day away from the office. Instead of doing work, I dug a bunch of tall fescue out of my lawn. It may have been the very best therapy available for this very busy time of year. Now, let’s hope I got rid of most of that nasty stuff that has been driving me nuts each summer since we moved in to the house we live in now.

Yesterday, following a joyous celebration of Easter at St. Paul Lutheran Church, we made a quick trip with my mother in tow to Dunlap to spend the Easter meal with my sister and her family. It was a nice trip, although we drove in flurries for part of the dive. It was nice to be together as a family and we had a lovely meal. I hope everyone had a chance to relax a bit over the weekend.

At work this week there is much to do, including follow up from an important donor evaluation meeting last week, final preparation for two school counselor fly-ins scheduled later this month, financial aid and scholarship committee appeals, and preliminary preparation for the May Board of Trustees meeting.

At home things get even crazier with the start of spring soccer for Martha (13) and Ben (8). Soccer practices on Monday and Wednesday for one and Tuesday and Thursday for the other will add complications to the already full schedule that includes art classes and choir. Sophie (11) has taken a bit of time off from tennis, but I expect her to return soon to make it even more fun!

In short, this is a time of year that takes some pretty careful scheduling!

I hope you have a productive week.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

In the last few weeks we’ve been doing some heavy duty planning related to bringing a fundraising campaign public in the fall of 2018. During these conversations we’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about what it means to be donor-centered throughout our campaign.

This implies that rather than focus on “the needs” of the college, we’d like to hear more about the dreams and ambitions of our donors and focus on how they’d like to make a difference in the future of the college.

I am really excited about being donor-centered and fundraising from a position of strength, rather than scarcity.

I am hopeful that being donor-centered will enable us to invite donors to help guide what the college does because of their generosity.

Being donor-centered will likely involve us asking donors very directly, why do you give to Augustana College? In fact, we may build some of our events and engagements around a signature way of asking this question and memorializing the answers.

All of this discussion, though, has made me think about how I would answer this question. I’ve started jotting an answer for each of the non-profits to which we give (Augustana College, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Gettysburg College and Elizabethtown College). I am not sure I have good answers yet, but I think I have a better sense than before.

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

How would you answer the question, why do you support XXXXXX?

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

6 ways to ‘win” at corporate culture, from the top ranked organizations—Another really good summary from EAB. I like this list of essential ingredients for a great culture (organizational or office). As leaders, we should use this a measuring stick for the type of culture we create and nurture. Here are the six things identified:

  1. Spell out your mission
  2. Hire with culture in mind
  3. Set a stellar example
  4. Empower, empower, empower
  5. Acknowledge your vulnerabilities
  6. Respect

After you read the article, how would you grade yourself? Are there areas where you excel or could stand to improve? How about your office or division culture? How about your organization? How do you and your organization measure up?

While I think I do pretty well in most of these areas, I know there are a couple of areas in which I need to improve.

Financial aid appeals: Tools for admissions, financial aid and enrollment people to cope—This is a classic blogpost from my blog @bowtieadmission. I clearly wrote this when I was in the throws of endless financial aid and scholarship appeals (April 16, 2013)! This one is worth reading! This post includes a couple of visuals and props that I still have in my office. Enjoy.

Oh, also, there is some excellent advice within, in addition to the humor.

A question for you

 I’ve been invited by Rivermont Collegiate to serve as their commencement speaker later this spring. I served on the Board of Trustees for the school for nine years and stepped off the Board last spring. I am flattered by the invitation, but I have no idea what to advise Rivermont’s graduate!

Jennie has offered quite a bit of advice already. Most of her recommendations begin with something along the lines of, “look what a modest high school student can achieve through some lucky breaks.”

If you were me, what would you tell the Class of 2018 from Rivermont Collegiate? Please email me your advice.

Something for you (and me) to think about

Last week I posted to Facebook a letter that I’d written to my parents while I was in college. It was short, but conveyed pertinent information. I also offered what I thought were a couple of clever observations about the letter. I took notice, though, when a FB friend amplified my observations to include something along the lines of “and, people still wrote letters.”

It was a great observation!

And, while I do try to write handwritten cards every now and then, I can’t tell you the last time I wrote and sent a letter to a friend. For that matter, I think the last letter, which was actually an email, I wrote was to one of my aunts several years ago.

In my father’s family, he and his two siblings were expected to write a letter home every week—there was also a letter from home to them. My dad used the worst carbon paper in the world—absolutely unreadable—to make duplicate of his letters. I suspect the weekly letter home was engrained in me—although I did not write weekly.

Just out of curiosity, are there people with whom you communicate via letter? Or, is your primary communication vehicle with friends and family Facebook and email?

Do you remember what it felt like to get a letter? Wasn’t it awesome!

It felt completely different from an email and far different from a FB post.

Is there anyone out there that you can make a deal with to try to correspond via letter? Are there people to whom you like to send a letter? Anyone interested in committing to sending someone a real letter once a month? I am thinking about it.

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 #emchat #admissions #highered #leadership

Dear colleagues and friends,

There is so much going on at Augustana that I hardly know where to begin!

Last week we hosted a fundraising consultant on campus to do an assessment of how effectively we are positioned to launch a public phase of a forthcoming campaign. It’s exhausting to schedule these visits and prepare to answer all the questions that go along with such a visit. But, I think the visit was great. In particular, a training session we did over dinner last Thursday night was excellent and served as a reminder to me about what a great advancement team we have at Augustana College.

Also last week, I was reminded first-hand of the amazing creativity of the C & M and recruitment communication team. Mid-week the virtual reality (VR) goggles finally arrived, which means we were able to send our VR goggles and VR video to our admitted students. Special thanks to Keri Rursch, Beth Robert and Quan Vi who worked really hard on this project. I am so excited to get feedback from our admitted students as they get a full view of what it’s like to be a student at Augustana College.

I took a day off on Friday to spend time with the Barnds family and my in-laws, who are visiting from Pennsylvania. We made a quick trip to Chicago to visit the Shedd Aquarium. We also visited President Grant’s home in Galena, Illinois yesterday. It was mighty cool after reading readings his biography.

This is a busy week, especially in the Office of Admissions. Lots of visitors—deciding seniors; as well as junior and sophomores, getting a first look at Augustana.

It’s “go time” in Rock Island.


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

For some reason reading “Grant” brought up a lot of memories of my uncle Delwin Gustafson. I believe Grant’s beard, his rugged look, his inscrutable demeanor and the signature cigar were all reminders of my uncle Delwin, who shared all of these traits.

Del was a giant in admissions and financial aid until his death.

Del spent 32 years at Gettysburg College, where he served as Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid. In fact, Del’s only job in lifetime was in the Office of Admission at Gettysburg.

Like Grant, Del seemed to be reluctant to lead at times, but found himself in high-profile positions. He served as NACAC president and, as a trained lawyer, he wrote our profession’s response to the Bakke decision in the mid-1970’s. He also served as president of PACAC.

For me, and many others, Del was a mentor. He was an accessible leader who always took time to help others grow in their work. Early in my career, Del provided wise counselor and always listened, even as he was struggling with his own very serious health issues.

When I would call to speak with Del at the office, the receptionist often would tell me that “he is out with Ike,” which was code for Del’s smoking a cigar outside by the stature of Eisenhower. Del’s cigar, like Grant’s, was ubiquitous. The habit turned out to be unfortunate for both.

I do wonder how Del would react to the world of recruitment today? The technology? The pressure? The craziness? The prevalence of social media and its impact on our work? The third-party “experts?”

I like to think that Del would simply listen, with the same inscrutable look on his face, and reserve his comments until everyone else had spoken.  After that, most likely over a beer, he’d dazzle us all with something profound and wise about the work we do and how to do it more thoughtfully and effectively.

Del graduated from Luther Junior College in Wahoo, Nebraska before completing his bachelors degree at Augustana. From Augie he attended the University of Nebraska Law School.

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

5 exercises for being productive—and innovative—at the same time—This summary, by EAB, of a Fast Company article is worth scanning if you find yourself in a productivity rut. Here is their advice:

  1. Establish some distance
  2. Adjust your workflow
  3. Set constraints
  4. Limit your stress
  5. Visualize your though process

I am not sure I am very good at any of these things, but I am going to try to take this to heart.

3 meeting scheduling mistakes that waste your and your colleague’s time—I really needed this article. This EAB summary, of a longer article, provides some good guidance for all of us. Here are the three mistakes:

  1. Meeting for no real reason.
  2. Getting the timing wrong.
  3. Inviting people so they feel “included.”

I am guilty of these mistakes and need to use some discipline when scheduling meetings. The author suggests that one is better off canceling such meeting, rather than making these mistakes. I bet we all can do better.

Google spent years studying effective teams. This single quality contributed most to their success—This article has been circulating for some time and I had it flagged to read on Google Keep, but didn’t get to it until this weekend. What a terrific read! Google identified “psychological trust” as the key ingredient for teams excelling.

Another word for this is trust. Google’s work suggests that trust is critical for teams and teammates, as well as for leaders. The actions that Google identifies for developing trust include:

  1. Listen first
  2. Show empathy
  3. Be authentic
  4. Set the example

I am about to go through a 360-degree evaluation and hope that it might provide some insight into whether or not my teams feel like I trust them. How do you do of developing trust among colleagues and team members?

Something for you (and me) to think about

So, now that I’ve finished Chernow’s “Grant,” I am tackling his “George Washington: A Life.” I started it over the weekend and am already engrossed. Although, I’ve read quite a bit about George Washington, I am already learning some new things about him and his leadership.

Below is a passage that stood out to me. It is said to be something that Washington said with some frequency:

“Errors once discovered are half amended.”

This is good food for thought.  For me, I found myself thinking about work and parenting and reflecting on how I approach errors. Do I approach discovered of errors on the same way? I suppose it probably depends upon the timing of the discovery and/or impact? Upon reflection, I also think I have some room to grow in this area.

Washington’s wisdom here is something we should all embrace.

 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 #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


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