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

Dear colleagues and friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A thought I can’t get out of my mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something for you (and me) to think about

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

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

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

What a great passage!

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

I believe this is what we are doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no more noble mission, in my view.

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

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

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



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

Colleagues and friends,

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

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


thought article I can’t get out of my mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will…


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


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


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


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


Something for you (and me) to think about

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

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


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


What do you keep around to keep you centered?

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

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

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

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

Colleagues and friends,

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

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

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

So, on to the meat of this…

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

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

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


thought article I can’t get out of my mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Great brands attract people and resources.

*Great brands lay the groundwork for effective messaging.

*Great brands engage and excite.

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

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

Do they have money or assets? Yes or no?

Do they care? Explain why: ___________

Do they have a personal connection? Yes or no?

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

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

Can they say, “Yes”? Yes or no?

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

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

Something for you (and me) to think about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have some work to do. 

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

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

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

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

Colleagues and friends,

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Anyway, the sticker included the following phrase:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

This may be a greater challenge than demographic shifts.

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

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

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

 Something for you (and me) to think about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.14.08 PM

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



Follow @bowtieadmission on WordPress.com

Blog Stats

  • 21,147 hits