Monday Musings and another crappy idea. #emchat #admissions #highered #leadership

Colleagues and friends,

I am sorry I missed last week’s edition of Monday Musings; I simply could not find a moment to sit down to compose my thoughts. I was fully engaged with the work at hand and the tyranny of the urgent that comes with this season. However, I am back this week.

This time of year brings so much activity. There are applications to review, decisions to process, award letters to create, phone calls to complete, programs to plan, year-end solicitations to prospects and so many other things.

There is no good way to prioritize these things since everything must get done and everything has a deadline.

But, I must admit that it is under these conditions that I thrive! Furthermore, I see so many of my colleagues thrive similarly at this important time of year. This is something for which I am incredibly grateful.

While it may seem like we are concluding things, as we cross things off our lists, it’s important to remember that none of the things we are doing now is really an end. In fact, this demanding time of year in higher education, especially in External Relations, is just like the Church’s Advent.

This is really a season of preparation and anticipation. While some of the work we will do, like getting a certain number of offers of admission out by Christmas Break or encouraging calendar year-end gifts, feels final, it’s not. The work we do right now sets the stage for everything we do following January 1. Our own little advent is what prepares us to meet and exceed our goals.

How do you view December? Does it represent and beginning or an end for you? How will you view the next two weeks as we move toward our break?


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

I am thoroughly enjoying George Anders’ “You can do anything: The surprising power of a ‘useless’ liberal arts education.” The book is uplifting and reminds me exactly why liberal arts colleges are so important within the higher education landscape. In fact, I am going to buy a copy of the book in hard cover so I can wave it around when speaking to prospective students and parents.

I will shout at the top of my lungs, “this book needs to be on your required reading list as you go through your college search!”

Throughout the book, Anders shares vignettes about students who attended liberal arts colleges or majored in a traditional liberal arts field. The stories he shares are terrific and the graduates he profiles are compelling, refreshing and reassuring about the value and power of liberal arts education. In my view, Anders provides a framework for us to think contemporarily about the skills developed through the liberal arts.

For me, these skills seems to be particularly well outlined in a chapter about the types of questions some of the highest profile companies in the world ask during the interview process.

Here are the questions that Anders shares:

Are you a problem solver? Can you act on opportunities? Can you find creative solutions? Can we trust you to make the go/no-go decisions?

Can you build a team? Can you balance different perspectives and agendas? Can you understand the big picture? Can you manage through influence?

Can you inspire confidence? Can you energize others to embrace change? Are you concise and organized? Can you convey information effectively?

Anders maintains that these questions can be answered affirmatively and enthusiastically by liberal arts graduates!!!

I agree. And, I hope you do, too.

This framework may help us challenge prospective students and parents in the college search and selection process. Perhaps we need to recollect the US Army’s call of “Be all that you can be.” Maybe we need to challenge prospective students to be: problem solvers, creative thinkers, team-builders big picture thinkers, inspirational leaders, trusted to make the call, and, the one who acts on opportunity.

I hope you will take time to read the book and be inspired in the same way I am.

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

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Gen X: A new parenting generation— While doing some research for a recent webcast, I ran across this article from 2010. The author is Neil Howe, who was a co-author of “Millennials Rising,” which served as a Bible for understanding millennial students.

This article is one of the very best I’ve read about the generation of parents with whom we are working today. As I read the article and thought about our work and communication with parents, I found myself thinking that we have opportunities for improvement. I also came to terms with the fact that I am a Gen X parent and much of what Howe describes resonates with me.

If you don’t have time to read this article, here are a couple of suggestions about communicating with Gen X parents that Howe provides:

Assume no trust. Market to them, spell out the rules and start relationships early

Stress personal accountability and personal contribution

Offer data, standards, transparency and return on investment

Offer real-time service (the “Fed-Ex” test)

Present your school as the best parent choice in a competitive market

Prepare for the modular “opt-out” consumer and the innovative high-tech competitor.

When I review this list, there are a couple of things that make me very nervous about what we do and how we serve Gen X parents.

What do you think? Are our messages and efforts aligned with the expectations of Gen X parents?

Motivation: Making things happenThe most recent CASE Newsletter has a nice summary of some of the things leaders can do to keep people motivated. I thought the advice was worth sharing and it is relevant to all of us, whether we working with students or professional employees.

Here’s what’s recommended:

Remain optimistic.

Foster strong office relationships

Celebrate your passion.

Encourage learning.

Which of these can you apply in your daily work?

 Another crappy idea I had

When I moved to Augustana College in 2005 I left behind a team I’d personally built. I’d hired almost everyone on staff and we worked very well together—we were a finely tuned machine and understood each other very well.

At Augustana I inherited a large, experienced team and they knew very little about me, my work ethic or my leadership style. I knew this from the very beginning. I also knew I needed to act.

I tried something that, looking back, was a pretty crappy idea.

Having been an athlete in high school and college, I have used countless athletic metaphors about teams, teammates and team success over the years. However, I decided to take a different path and tried to use a musical metaphor. I’ve been kind of embarrassed about this incident since then.

I drew upon the seamlessness with which the team at Elizabethtown operated and decided to draw upon jazz as a metaphor for how I’d like the team at Augustana to operate..

I assembled the entire team in a conference room and then decided to trot out one of my favorite jazz tunes, “So what,” by Miles Davis. I explained the tune; tired to paint a picture in everyone’s mind and I explained what I heard in it, and how I thought it should relate to the team at Augustana. I described that this tune demonstrated some of the key elements of successful teamwork, which I highlighted as being self-awareness, self-discipline and selfishness, when needed.

And, then I made everybody listen to it. It was pretty dumb idea. I think everyone left the room thinking that I was a fool, which may have been a pretty fair assessment at the time.

However, since that time a video of a recording session of the tune has surfaced on YouTube that showcases the elements I was trying to illustrate (ineffectively) that day. I wonder now if it would have been anymore effective if people were able to see, rather than just hear.

 Something for you (and me) to think about

 While navigating a chapter entitled “The Problem Solvers” in “You can do any thing: The surprising power of a ‘useless’ liberal arts education,” I read this quote from, attributed to Tim O’Reilly, “…life improves when citizens are ‘willing to spend money to educate other people’s children.’” This is a very powerful statement and deserves some reflection at this time when we see state and federal governments cutting back on education spending and there is more resistance than ever before to the cost of higher education. While it would be easy to get very discouraged about the state of affairs in higher education and the perceived changes in support of higher education, I remain optimistic.

I look to programs like Augustana’s Close the Gap Scholarship program through which donors commit to a multi-year gift that enables high-achieving, high-need students to attend the college. I look to and celebrate those families who don’t haggle and negotiate their financial aid award, knowing that some of what they pay will help other students experience a high-quality, liberal arts college education. I also think of the many corporations and foundations that support higher education a part of their mission. There are many who are doing a great deal to support higher education.

However, I think our challenge, as leaders in higher education, is to begin thinking more strategically, gathering more data and committing to make a more compelling and convincing case for education in this country. We can’t sit back and wait for another administration or a change of leadership in the House or the Senate. We’re losing. And, too many people remain unconvinced that spending on education improves life, society and our country.

We must fight harder than ever before to convince the skeptics among us that life improves when others are will to spend money to educate other people’s children.

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


Monday Musings from WKB: Learning from a hospital, saying no, some essays. #emchat #highered #admissions #leadership #advancement

Colleagues and friends,

I am little off my game today, and running a bit behind, after spending most of the day in a hospital with my wife, Jennie.

She had a surgical procedure today to rebuild a couple of vertebrae that have been disintegrating. It was a pre-planned surgery, but it was taxing nonetheless. She is doing well and recuperating.

While she recovers, I am trying to make sure that I don’t set back the high-quality parenting she’s done while I am in charge of our three kiddos for a little more than 24-hours!

Today, I did take notice of the great patient care at the hospital where she was treated, though, and I was impressed. There is much we, in admissions, marketing and advancement, can learn.

Below are a couple of things that really impressed me:

They knew, and used, Jennie’s name—Every time Jennie used the patient call button it was answered by someone in a very friendly voice and they always used her name. It made a big difference to her and to me.

They demonstrated care for who was there with her—The hospital volunteers were courteous and communicative. They explained what was going to happen and when it was going to happen and told me exactly what to expect. It was natural and felt natural. There was nothing I didn’t know and it made me feel like they really cared.

They paid close attention to details—There were signs and table-tents around Jennie’s room that almost made it feel like we were in a four-star hotel. These signs solicited feedback and wished Jennie a pleasant stay. It felt warm, inviting and like they were wooing us.

They passed along information with great care and made it personal—Every nurse we saw knew some kind of personal detail about Jennie. These details had clearly been passed along to personalize the experience. The conversations were not just getting vital signs and checking pain levels. They asked about Jennie ordering a gift for Sophie while in pre-op to take advantage of a “Cyber-Monday” sale. They asked about the kids. They asked about Jennie’s work. And, they appropriately made fun of her hapless husband. They proved to us they were paying attention.

I did have some time on my hands to take note of these things while I was waiting! But, it was also very easy to take note, and, I’ve taken notes. I want to see how much of this is applicable in what we do at the college.

What do you think you can apply?


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

I ran across a post from Jim Langley of Langley Innovations and I’ve been sharing it everywhere because it says so much!

Whether admissions or advancement we too frequently get caught up in “inside baseball” jargon and industry timetables. We think of “yield season” and “calendar year-end asks” or “fiscal year-end asks.” Langley’s advice that we need to remind people of our mission and what we do is something we all need to hear and remember. And, we need to remind people that they can make or be the difference here. It’s mission that matters and it’s the spark that leads to generosity and a desire to join this community.

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What do you think of Langley’s advice?

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

9 Strategies productive people use to do more with less—By now you’ve probably figured out that I am a fan of EAB’s Daily Briefing. You can subscribe to it, too. This time around EAB a has done an excellent job of summarizing a piece from Forbes written by Bernie Kilder. EAB highlights Kilder’s nice strategies, which include the following:

  1. Say “no”
  2. Delegate
  3. Plan wisely
  4. Use shorter calendar blocks
  5. Avoid downtime
  6. Know yourself
  7. Try new things
  8. Stack habits
  9. Plan ahead

I love this list.

I’ve not mastered all of these, but sure am trying. I am doing better in saying no, delegating, using shorter calendar blocks, trying new things and planning wisely. But, I have room for growth in the other areas, especially avoiding downtime and knowing myself.

What do you make of this list? How can you put these suggestions into play for yourself?

Step-By-Step Guide To Creating A Marketing Persona—One thing that connects all of the areas that I have the opportunity to lead is the intense desire to know, understand and move to action key audiences. While I am still new to the whole idea of persona marketing, I’ve been reading a lot about it and I think we need to get serious about it. I think we tried a lot of this informally, whether through our effort to “layer” messaging in recruitment, or our efforts to tailor language by generation for fundraising purposes.

These were good starts, but persona marketing, and its power, seems to be much more intentional and focused. This introductory article by Talia Wolf is a good overview. My question remains, can we get serious enough about this here?

The author’s why do this is compelling.

  • Determine where to focus your time
  • Guide product development
  • Clearly articulate your customer’s challenges and pain points
  • Target your marketing placement where your customer does his or her research
  • Tailor marketing messages that speak more directly to customer needs
  • Synchronize your team’s efforts and get everyone on the same page.

Something for you (and me) to think about

Because this is my musing and I get to choose the content, I am leaving you with two essays I wrote that appeared in Inside Higher Ed. The first essay compares US tax policy and financial aid. I am interested in what you think of the essay. Let me know your thoughts. You can read the essay here.

The second essay was one of my very first to appear in IHE and it’s a fun one. In this essay I compared crab fishing to admissions and recruitment. It appeared the week of Thanksgiving in 2008. You can read it here.

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


Monday musings: A thought about #Thanksgiving, two things to read and something to think about. #emchat #admissions #liberalarts #highered

Dear colleagues and friends,

This week I went back into my blog archives to resurrect a post I wrote two years ago at Thanksgiving. It is related to my time studying in Spain in the fall of 1990 and is relevant today. I always think of Spain and my time there around Thanksgiving and I think this capture what’s on my mind pretty well right now.

I wish you all Happy Thanksgiving.


A Thought I can’t get out of My Mind

(Originally posted on November 21, 2015)

One of the best things I’ve done in my life was spend a semester studying abroad twenty-five years ago.

I was not the typical student who studied abroad; I had no interest in leaving the safety of the United States and Gettysburg College. It would be inaccurate to say that I ended up studying abroad by accident, though. My study off campus was a necessity and the experience is something for which I am eternally grateful.

Spanish was hard

It would be an understatement to say that I struggled in Spanish while in college. I struggled mightily. My comprehension was poor and grades worse. In fact, a faculty member once told me that my placement exam was among the poorest he’d ever seen. Admittedly, my work to improve in Spanish was lacking and I earned the very poor grades I received. Spanish class (and my lack of effort) landed me on academic probation at the end of my first-year of college and I found myself repeating a course for my sophomore year.

My sophomore year was not much better and I continued to struggle in Spanish. But, there were faculty members at Gettysburg College who didn’t give up on me. Dr. Kerr Thompson and Dr. Miguel Vinuela took an interest in me and did their best to help, support and motivate me. They were patient with me and worked with me to help find a path forward. Simply put, they cared. They knew the same thing that I did; if I couldn’t get Spanish figured out and successfully pass four semesters of Spanish, I would never graduate from Gettysburg.

Have you ever thought about studying in Spain?

Sometime in my sophomore year, Dr. Vinuela took me aside and planted a seed.

He asked me if I’d “ever thought about studying abroad in Spain?” I thought this was pretty amusing, given my challenges in class. But, I had the smarts to ask him, “why.” His honest answer of, “if you don’t, you will never graduate from Gettysburg,” was enough to get my attention. I asked him what I “needed to do?”

While a part of me believes Miguel offered this suggestion because he was getting weary of having me in his classes (I was a repeat offender and had him for class three of four semesters in my first two years), I soon discovered he had my best interest in mind. Miguel worked with me to get everything in order for me to spend the fall of 1990 studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain.

It was an experience that changed me and I am forever grateful.

Thanksgiving in Spain 1990

I find myself reflecting upon those special days, weeks and months in Spain around Thanksgiving each year.

I think about this experience around Thanksgiving, in part, because of how grateful I am for the experience, and for Miguel Vinuela, Kerr Thompson and Gettysburg College, but also because 1990 was my first Thanksgiving away from my home in Nebraska and family.

I will never forget the Thanksgiving of 1990 and the wonderful celebration of an American holiday at the Center for Cross Cultural Study in Sevilla. While the names have faded—even those for whom I have photos—the memories have not.

  • We had turkey and stuffing.
  • We smoked cigars.
  • We watched a videotaped American football game, thanks to a family member back home.
  • We laughed.
  • We spoke English, which was good for me.
  • We enjoyed each other.
  • And, we treated each other as family since many of us were away for this holiday for the first time ever.

I will be forever grateful for Thanksgiving 1990 in Sevilla, which was a central part of my college experience and opened my mind to new ideas, place and people; involved faculty who encouraged and motivated me; and, friends who treated me like family.

And, I am increasingly aware that the experience would have never been possible without family that supported me; for that I am forever grateful.

Giving thanks still

In many ways I have come to realize that the experience of studying away in 1990 shaped what I do professional today and what I wish for others.

The fall of 1990 was a defining experience, which has guided my work in higher education to this day. I hope every student I have the opportunity to work with will encounter faculty members who will take a chance on them and push them to take an uncomfortable risk to grow; they will be grateful.

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

Why it’s time to throw away your communication plan: I am obsessed with this report from Ruffalo Noel Levitz! Please read this. I suspect many of you are already thinking in these terms and I am the one who is late to the party. But, man, the following excerpt from this report, smacked me in the face and is making me think hard about what we’ve built and what we think works.

“What we’re taking about is much bigger: let go. Truly focus on the audience of one. Your job is not to push them along a path. It’s to intently listen to each individual student, and then react in an authentic, personal and engaging way. To provide a unique personal experience along their own self-directed journey.”


(Replace student with alum or donor and this smacks us all)

This report is as relevant to donors and alumni, as it is to prospective students.

I think this approach may even also help us think different about communicating with on-campus constituents and might even help us address the #1 undeniable truth of higher education that communication is always at an all-time low! It’s no longer about what and when we want to communicate and we need to change.

What do you think about this report? Where are you in the process of changing?

5 communication mistakes that keep you from sounding like a leader: Not too long ago I lost my cool in a meeting on campus and when I read this article I thought it might be hypocritical for me to send it out. But, I believe we all need reminders about how we fail as leaders and we all need reminders about what it takes to act and sound like a leader. This straightforward advice is great for all us regardless of our leadership position.

Something for you (and me) to think about

Something that I’ve tried to be more intentional about in the past several years is actively reaching out to people to thank them for the influence they’ve had on my life and career path.

There is one person to whom I write every year around Thanksgiving to thank them for what they did for me. This is not a person with whom I correspond at any other time of the year and we are not social media buddies. But, I feel compelled to think this person during the Thanksgiving season and I sent my annual note about ten days. I always receive a gracious response and we catch up on each other’s life. But, the nature of this relationship is one of thanks for something long ago.

I also try to regular reach out to others who deserve my thanks and have a list of four people to whom I will drop simple notes over the course of the next few days.

Who will you thank in the coming day? How will you thank them? And, how do you make a regular habit of say thanks to those who have been there for you?

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



Monday Musings (on Tuesday) from WKB #emchat #admissions #highered

Colleagues and friends,

I hope you find something useful in this addition of Monday Musings, which I am sending out on a Tuesday!

Last week kicked off application review for the class that will enroll in the fall of 2018 and the admission staff and I’ve been working diligently to ensure that all of our Early Decision applicants receive a timely decision. In addition, we are working to make sure we can begin to notify Early Action applicants very soon after we notify ED applicants.

For those of you who don’t know about my involvement in the application review process, I review every application to make a final admissions decision. My review follows preliminary review by an admissions counselor. Counselors recommend a decision that I am asked to affirm or not. Counselors make recommendations about admission status and propose a merit-based scholarship when relevant. Reviewing a student’s application is a responsibility I love and it keeps me in close touch with what’s happening in our pool, the feel of each developing class and it allows for some standardization and consistency of the final decisions we make. But, this year is a little different.

This year the Office of Admissions has switched to reviewing applications entirely online. I am slowly getting used to the absence of paper and my beloved “green sheet,” which provided a summary of information for each applicants. The green sheet has been replaced with an online form that I complete. The online form still allows me leave “love notes” and instructions for follow up on applicants, but man, it’s different. No more red pen! No more sticky notesI No more hand-written illegible directions!

To use an old reference, someone definitely “moved my cheese.”

But, I want to assure everyone that I am a convert! I love online review and can steal away a moment almost anytime and anywhere to review applications. I don’t miss lugging applications to and from the office and setting up on the dining room table at home.

For those of you who are gearing up to review or already in the think of it, best of luck.


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

 Last week in Politico there was an excellent article about higher education. The article, “In Trump country a university confronts its detractors” is about the University of Michigan, but it’s really an article about all institutions of higher education. If you’ve not taken the time to read this article yet, you must make time do so. This is an article that illustrates the trade-offs facing colleges and universities—public and private-across this country.

I posted the article to my Facebook page with the following set up: “A very tangled tale that touches on politics, higher education, class, socioeconomics, good intentions, necessity and perceptions.”


While reading the article was reminded of a take on Bob Zemsky’s advice to colleges. Once upon a time Zemsky purportedly said that colleges must be “mission-driven and market-smart.” It’s also said that he’s evolved his thinking to say that college’s need to be “market-smart and mission-driven.” But, now, he’s says, “no market, no mission.”


As you think about the trade-offs that the University Michigan faced and faces, it’s worth thinking about those comments attributed to Zemsky.

How does a college pursue excellence in an environment where resources are shrinking?

If state appropriations are declining, where does a college look for revenue to fulfill its mission?

What are the markers of excellence to be perceived as the state’s “flagship” university?

It seems to me that too many want higher education to do far more than it reasonable can, given the resources available.

I could not help but think of my father, who often discussed conversations he witnessed as congregations developed job profiles for clergy. It seemed as though every church wanted the same thing—someone who is good with the youth of the church and the elderly; someone who is always available in the church office and is always visiting parishioners at home and in the hospital; someone who is an excellent administrator and a thoughtful scholar; someone who can fundraise and someone who won’t talk about money all of the time; someone who is an excellent preacher and someone who will offer brief sermons.

Sounds a bit like what we expect from higher ed today. We want to be accessible and affordably and we want more full paying students; we want to attract the highest achieving students and want to provide first-gen students with a chance to improve themselves.

What do you think of this article? What do you think the University of Michigan should do to reassure those who now believe its inaccessible and too elite?

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

What shoppers really want from personalized marketing—McKinsey & Company’s recent newsletter included this amazing article about what customers want from personalized marketing. This article is relevant to those of us in admissions and advancement (and we could replace the word shoppers with donors and prospective students) and we all need to take some time to soak this in. The recommendations are as follow:

  1. Give me relevant recommendation and I wouldn’t have thought of myself.
  2. Talk to me when I’ve in shopping mode.
  3. Remind me of things I want to know by might not be keeping track of.
  4. Know me no matter where I interact with you.
  5. Share the value in a way that’s meaningful to me.

Think about the work you do and think about your prospective students and donors.

How can you apply this? How can you use this to framework to more effectively connect? How can you apply these principles to achieve better results? Where do we need to improve technology or practices to more effectively personalize our outreach to prospective students, alumni, donors and prospective donors? What data do we need? Where should we store it? And, how do we break out of the one-size-fits-all model for communication we typically use when we are on send?

Seven ways to make student mentoring more valuable—EAB does a nice job of summarizing suggestions about making mentoring meaningful. While this piece is focused on students, the advice seems relevant to all. Here’s what they say:

  1. Define Mentorship
  2. Train Mentors
  3. Support Mentors
  4. Show the Value of Mentorships
  5. Require Excellence
  6. Reward Excellence
  7. Provide Feedback

I really like this and its formality. Sadly, I think mentoring is too frequently left to chance for the mentor and those to be mentored, which results in a poor experience for both. This framework and advice seems to me to add significant value.

Something for you (and me) to think about

Recently, I ran across a notebook that I used when I attended Harvard’s Institute for Education Management in the summer of 2003. It was very interesting to look through my notes on various case studies and sessions. I was particularly struck by some notes I jotted down during a guest lecture by Lawrence Backow, who was president of Tufts at the time.

Dr. Backow discussed the theme of “going from a title to leadership” and he offered the following advice as a formula for leaders to follow: 1. Have an agenda; 2. Communicate your agenda; and, 3. Be serious about your agenda.

Pretty simple advice, but very compelling.

What do you think about Dr. Backow’s advice?

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


Monday Musings and another crappy idea #admissions #emchat #highered

Colleagues and friends,

A week ago tonight I returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy with my family. The kids were on fall break, so they didn’t miss any school and we got really cheap flights. We had a great time exploring Rome, Pompeii and Florence and the kids were great sports throughout the trip.

I did my very best to take a bit of break from work and left my laptop in my backpack the entire time I was gone. I tried to be as present as possible for my family and even did a little bit of leisure reading (finally read “The Martian”—and then watched the movie the plane; and, I started “Murder on the Orient Express,” so I can watch the movie when it comes out). It was nice to be able to disconnect for a few days.

The great privilege of disconnecting results from having outstanding team members, who have great instincts and “get it.” This brief break reminded me how fortunate I am to be surrounded by wonderfully committed professionals in enrollment, communication & marketing and advancement.

Augustana College is equally fortunate to have such a great group of folks who are goal-driven and focused on the work at hand.

I should note, though, that my return did correspond with our application deadline for Early Decision and Early Action, which means I did return to a wee bit of work to do (Thank God)!


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

 On the recommendation of a former Augustana trustee, I picked up “You can do anything: The surprising power of a “useless” liberal arts education” by George Anders. Admittedly, I am at the very beginning of the book and just starting to dig in, but there’s an early passage, which I think we should plaster on every wall on campus to make sure our students see it, read it and understand it!

Anders writes, “You don’t need to apologize for the supposedly impractical classes you took in college of the so-called soft skills you acquired. The job market is quietly creating thousands of openings a week for people who can bring a humanist’s grace to our rapidly evolving high-tech future.”

Can I get an Amen?

I can already tell that there is a lot to this book and I can’t wait to read (and share) more.

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

Seven overused leadership strengths—I saw a review of this blogpost on the CASE summary earlier today and it caught my attention, since the Augustana Cabinet recently completed a Strengths Finder exercise and is working diligently toward focusing on leadership strengths. This blogpost urges some caution about strengths and argues that there are some strengths that can be overplayed. The author identifies the following as strengths that require some management: intellect, trust, creativity, drive confidence, humility and interpersonal skills. This is worth reading, friends.

Fail fast, learn faster—Recently, I’ve found great value in the weekly summary from Korn-Ferry International. A post from last week really resonated with me. This particular post about failing fast and learning from it is excellent. I wish more comfort with failure in the workplace and in higher ed in general. Failing too frequently is associated with incompetence or carelessness, rather than creativity and learning. And, sadly, it’s leads us all to seek perfection before trying anything. I think the concluding phrase is excellent: “Fail fast and learn faster, all the while striving toward a purpose-driven goal.”

I’ve had some crappy ideas; here’s another one

Augustana College ranks #7 in the entire nation in producing Academic All-Americans. It’s an amazing distinction and is something that the college takes great pride in, justifiably so.

For a long time I’ve been thinking about ways to successfully leverage this distinction in student recruitment to try to get the college in front of new audiences. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the current “audiences,” but it’s important to expand geographically and it would be nice to begin to stretch willingness to pay and maybe reach and even higher caliber student to ensure Augustana continues to be a part of the top 10.

Well, here’s where my crappy idea comes in.

Given Augustana distinction and position in the top 10, I thought that I might be able to convince some other top 10 Division III institutions to consider some joint travel with Augustana. I thought that a couple of us might be able to sponsor some joint programming to discuss athletic recruitment at the Division III level and highlight the benefits of Division III athletic participation.

So, I made a couple of inquiries with my counterparts at other Division III colleges that enjoy a similarly high ranking.

I didn’t receive a single nibble of interest from my counterparts at other colleges with high national rankings. No one bite on the idea!

Now, maybe the idea wasn’t (isn’t) so crappy, but I suspect the approach was too transparent.

What do I mean?

Well, I expect my overtures to institutions that are considerably more selective and higher profile than Augustana came across like the scrawny kid on the playground wanting to pick the teams for kickball.

Yes, I intentionally looked to places that could help successfully get Augustana in front of new audiences. They must have figured that out pretty quickly.

I wonder what would happen if Augustana tried to organize a group of schools among which Augustana might feel like the leader, though.

Something for you (and me) to think about

I am more convinced than ever before that the case for the value of higher education is slowly eroding.

It would seem that the latest tax plan has some elements that illustrate that, too, like taxing large endowments and increasing the cost of borrowing for colleges doing construction. While some might say that this is a partisan issue, I think it’s larger. And, I am not sure what higher education can do to regain the public’s trust. And, I do think it’s the public, not just public policy makers. I fear some days that we’ve become a caricature of all that is viewed as unfavorable within higher education. Sadly, I don’t have an answer on this one, but I can tell you that I spend more time thinking about this today than ever before.

What can we do to regain the public trust? Furthermore, what can we do to earn respect? I am a believer in higher education. I believe we transfer lives. I believe we open minds. I believe we challenge people to think differently. I believe we engage in touch conversations in an effort to explore truth. I am a believer in research and scholarship that advances who we are and what we do. I believe, but I think we are, generally, not making a convincing argument to the right audience.

I need to do better. We need to do better. And, we all need to take this more seriously than ever before.

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

Monday Musings from WKB, October 23 #emchat #highered #admissions #liberalarts #curseofknowledge

Colleagues and friends,

Today the President’s Cabinet at Augustana College met in retreat. It was different from most of our leadership team meetings, which ordinarily are consumed with the business of the day and “parking lot issues.” The meeting today was facilitated by a third-party and revolved around Strengths Finder, which all members of the Cabinet took in advance.

The discussion today was focused on how we work together as a leadership team and what strengths we have (and don’t have) as a team. I must admit that I work with a very talented and balanced (from a strengths perspective) group of people.

The exercise also served as a chance for each of us to reflect on our own strengths and to contemplate how and when those strengths are needed.

Over the weekend I shared with a colleague in admissions that we were planning to discuss strengths finder and she immediately asked about my top ten.

So, since I shared them with her, I will share them with you, warts and all! I know that each of these qualities is supposed to be a strength, but there are a couple that make me (and maybe you) a tad uncomfortable.

Here they are in order: Command, Competition, Ideation, Communication, Significance, Deliberative, Adaptability, Maximizer, Strategic and Belief.

If you don’t know that basic description in each of these areas, you can view them here.

Today was one of the best leadership team meetings I have ever participated in and I think it was because we focused on each other’s strengths, opposed to our shortcomings.

Have you done CliftonStrengths? Are you willing to share your top ten with me?


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

 A few weeks ago I went on a quest to read more about Generation Z and in doing so, purchased a bunch of books for my Kindle through Amazon. In my zeal, I picked a book that’s title started with “Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching…”

But, it wasn’t until I started reading the book on the place last week that I discovered that the rest of the title is “…in the New Post-Christian World.”

This book is by James Emery White and I’ve found it to be fascinating. It’s a book about reaching the so-called un-churched and the “nones” and it is a compelling read.

While there is some really good stuff in the book about Generation Z, what I’ve found so interesting, thus far, and what I think has implications for higher ed, has more to do with reaching an audience that doesn’t know anything about you.

The author of the book recounts an email he received about an upcoming celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Here’s the email:

“Thanks for the informative email. I have been going to Meck for about a month now and I love it! I have even talked my two friends into joining. We are all thankful to be a part of an awesome church with great values. I do have one question. I remember hearing about…[and upcoming] celebration of the Lord’s Supper. What does that mean?…What is a celebration of the Lord’s Supper? Does that mean we all bring some kind of food to share? I am planning on going…but I wanted to make sure I bring something if need be. Any information you can provide…would be greatly appreciated.”

For some us this little tale is amazing.

But, wow, what a smack in the face! And, what an interesting circumstance for us to contemplate in higher education, especially at an undergraduate, residential, liberal arts college.

Think about it; we use inside baseball language all the time and expect that others will know what we are talking about. Make a list sometime of the language in which we dwell. Here are a couple of examples: core curriculum, the bursar, general education, distribution requirements, outcomes, seminars, the liberal arts, the registrar, Convocation, culture, Commencement, orientation, registration, welcome week, competencies, etc.

The author writes the following, which I think might be a bit of an indictment against us in higher ed, too:

“We are so used to talking to the already convinced that we have lost our intuitive sense of what it means to talk to someone who is not a Christ follower. I assume no knowledge whatsoever. I never use terms such as Trinity, revelation, sin or grace without explaining what they mean.”

The author describes all of this as “the curse of knowledge.” I think many of us in higher education have been cursed!

How do we break this curse? How do we become more effective at speaking with those unfamiliar with higher ed? The liberal arts? A residential environment? Do we need to take a step back, break ourselves of the “curse of knowledge, ” for the sake of those who are exploring or don’t know anything about us, and explain more clearly, without any nonsensical jargon, what it is we believe in and do?

 Something for you (and me) to think about

I am leaving on Wednesday for a brief family vacation (and will be taking next Monday off from my musings). The past weeks have been busy for me and for many of you and I feel like I need this step away for a few days to be with my family and focused on them and I am looking forward to it. I’ve been thinking about the “busyness” of the last few weeks and me constantly thinking of myself as busy, but our retreat facilitator has me thinking differently about these matters.

First, this trip is not really a vacation. It’s a renewal of spirit and mindfulness. I need it and many of you do, too.

Next, I need to think a lot less about being busy and more about being deeply engaged. Deep engagement is much different than being busy and I’d like to think that’s how I’ve spent the last few weeks.

What are you doing to renew your spirit? And, are you busy or are you deeply engaged?

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

Monday Musings from WKB and a confession about a crappy idea, October 16, 2017 #emchat #admissions #highered #leadership #crappyideas

Colleagues and friends,

What a weekend!

I cannot begin to express my admiration for the Advancement, facilities and dining services teams at Augustana College. There is no doubt in my mind that these professionals are among the finest in the country and their commitment to serving others in unmatched.

Neither a broken elevator in a key building, minor flooding, lightening strikes or even buckets of rain stood in the way of this crew as they worked tirelessly to make sure that alumni returning to campus for Homecoming had a great time.

I witnessed countless displays of cooperation, teamwork and a “we can get this done” spirit. Everyone, especially students working in food services, pitched in, kept an open mind and focused on serving our guests. It was amazing to be a part of it.

While I have no doubt that some of our guests will have some complaints about the weekend, I believe the people of Augustana College did everything possible, under less than ideal conditions, to offer the warmest welcome home possible.


A thought/sight I can’t get out of my mind

 This morning I boarded a plane in Chicago. I flew an economy airline, Spirit Airlines, for the trip and noticed right away that the gates are off the beaten path in O’Hare (Terminal 3, L Gates). This was my first experience with Spirit and I sense that they must fly some of the earlier flights out of the airport. The three flights departing from three different gates were crammed together gates at the end of the L Gates and were headed to New York City, Fort Lauderdale, FL and Las Angeles. These three gates attracted an amazing collection of humans!

In a Facebook post that I wrote while standing there, I highlighted that the scene was the United States. While the scene was representative of the this country, because of the diversity—language, ethnic and religious—that was audible and visible, I expect it was really more representative of our world. It was a collection of people going about everyday things with their families, spouses, partners, colleagues or alone.

It was magnificent to see and hear, and to soak in the rich diversity of the airport on this particular morning.

As I stood there and thought about the challenges we face, I was reminded of the 1980’s Depeche Mode song, “People are people” which includes the following lyric:

“People are people so why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully”

 Maybe it’s time for a remake of this song? Maybe it deserves another listen with today’s ears and in today’s context?

I like early mornings in the airport.

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

Major influence: Where students get valued advice on what to study in college—I have provided a link to the overview of a large report, which you can link to, about the influences on a student when it comes to choosing a major and making other education-related decisions. This is worth reading. Perhaps the following line sums it all up, “Put simply, the most valued sources of advice are the least used.” For those of us who have been around for a long time, we already know this. There is no better advocate and advertisement for our colleges than a satisfied student and their parents. But, how do we best influence social networks to make sure messages are clear and accurate.

What do you think? Anything surprise you?

Appealing but ineffective: Why tuition resets aren’t consistently successful—This EAB article by Alex Bloom is one of the best piece I’ve read about tuition resets. The article does not dismiss the value of a reset, but reinforces that it won’t work for everyone, every time. I like the cautions offered because they offer something to the conversation that is often overlooked, specificity. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about tuition resets. I know they work for some. I know the appeal. I don’t have the data to say it won’t work here. But, I think this article helps advance the conversation about the value of tuition resets.

I’ve had some crappy ideas over the year; here’s one.

Several years ago, at Augustana College, I had been doing a lot of reading about generations and leading a team that spanned three generations of (Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials). I’d recognized that each generation responded a little differently to certain suggestion I would make.

For example, when I would suggest that every single student in a particular group needed to be contacted as soon as possible, I witnessed very different actions according to generation.

Boomers would drop everything and take the time needed to individually reach every student. Gen-Xers would work with their team of students to make sure every student was contacted. Millennials sort of looked at me, without a lot of urgency (but politely), and went about business as usual. I was perplexed by it all.

So, I proposed intergenerational, interdepartmental teams of admissions and financial aid staff that I called “micro-teams.” I carefully selected membership to make sure there was representation of each generation and each area. I designed the micro teams to try to create a little competition and to make sure a more nuanced interpretation of suggestions and strategies that I made that I thought might advance the team.

The members of micro-teams humored me for a while and met with some regularity. Some were even pretty creative. However, in the end, micro-teams were a crappy idea.

I think micro-teams were a shortcut to being understood and articulating a clear vision for everyone. Upon reflection, I was outsourcing leadership (not delegating) because I had not figured out how to connect in the right way with each audience. Furthermore, I think I was probably still in a mode of thinking that there is only one correct way to do something and I thought the micro-teams were going to ensure that my view of how to get thing done would get done; I thought my Boomers and Gen-Xers would whip the Millennials into shape. I was stupid and micro-teams were a stupid idea.

I am pretty sure that those folks who are still around Augustana, who were subjected to micro-teams, would agree that they were a crappy idea.

 Something for you (and me) to think about

I finally finished Simon Sinek’s “Leaders eat last.” It is an excellent and inspiring book about leadership, leading teams and finding ways to lead. Sinek discusses a number of really important leadership concepts, but his concluding line nails the essence of what it means to lead. He writes, “We must all start today to do little things for the good of others…one day at a time.” Sinek reinforces that leadership is not about position at all. Leadership is about serving others.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of this book yet, please let me know; I am happy to share my copy with you.

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


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