I have never liked business travel. Being away from home, family, and the normal routine has always been hard on me. However, I am unafraid to travel. In fact, when I started at WSU in 1994, I quickly concluded that to “be in the game,” travel out of Pullman would be required. I have kept to that thinking ever since.
As many of you know, late September and all of October has been intense travel time for me. I have been to Washington DC, Madrid, twice to Denver, as well as a handful of times to Seattle, all for work-related activities.
Given email access in hotels and in recent years, airplanes, coupled with cell phone communication, I remain well connected with the college, even while on the road. You wouldn’t know that I am writing this blog at 35,000 feet unless I told you.
My strong preference is to be at home, but I do look for positives while traveling. The flight early this morning provided a clear view of Mt. Rainier. In the light of dawn, it looked surreal. I felt I could reach out and touch it. Its beauty and majesty gives me pause. When I was in Madrid it was 82–85 degrees Fahrenheit the entire week. Shorts and-flip flops was the evening dress, and as you know, my favorite way to go. In addition, this trip I am traveling with Amy Cox, Brandon Chapman, and Cathy Claussen as we work to raise money for the Sport Management program’s new Title IX and gender equity professorship. Familiar faces help. And given that this trip is for development, I am guaranteed to meet some interesting people, a key reason why I have come to enjoy development work.
As a land-grant university, there are significant expectations for faculty, staff, and administrators to partner, collaborate, and be present to a significant number of stakeholders. Any faculty member with an active research program is traveling. Most academic directors, department chairs, and administrators on up the administrative chain, are traveling. Thus, travel is part of the WSU experience.
I will return late Sunday night. I have one more trip during early December and then I will be down for several weeks. During that time I promise to roam the halls a bit to say hi and see how you are doing. For, despite being well connected to the college while traveling, nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
The college’s legacy is education and training of school administrators.
While there are many top notch and influential programs in the College of Education, the K-12 Educational Leadership program stands out as the college’s legacy, particularly superintendent training. For decades, the program has reached every corner of the state, and most, if not all, school districts. It has done this as graduates of the Educational Leadership program take on administrative roles in these districts. In addition, many of our graduates have filled important administrative, policy, and political positions throughout the state.
The current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, is one of our graduates. In short, the Educational Leadership program has – and continues to be – a program that influences policy and practice. As a consequence, many know the College of Education through one of the Educational Leadership degrees or certification offerings.
Each year students graduate with school principal or superintendent certificates or fulfill requirements for the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, and eventually find their way into principal, superintendent or other educational leadership positions in Washington State. While competition for these students is fierce, the College of Education continues to train many of the principals and superintendents in the state. And the reason is clear: The practical and theoretical aspects of the program are second to none. Students make a conscious choice to enroll in the college’s programs even though competing programs in the state might have a shorter time requirement, work commitment, and/or cost less. Students see the college’s programs as gateways to a professional career as a K-12 administrator, particularly in Washington State, because of the high quality preparation provided.
In May, a total of 31 principal certificates and 19 superintendent certificates were earned across the WSU Spokane, Vancouver, and Tri-Cities campuses. I am pleased with these individuals for their commitment to K-12 education and their willingness to fulfill leadership roles. I am honored that they chose WSU for their education and training. Further, I am proud of the Educational Leadership faculty who work tirelessly to provide the best educational experience possible for students, as well as the students and faculty who produce scholarship that positively impacts our state’s K-12 students, schools, and school districts.
The Educational Leadership program plays a vital role in developing community relations and connections. Our program faculty engage in outreach, research, and teaching that link our college to communities throughout the state. For example, faculty in the program maintain connections with local schools through teacher professional development and leadership preparation. The college also has links through research. We have grants and programs related to fuller integration of STEM education in local school settings.
The statewide doctoral program (Ed.D.) generates practitioner-oriented research to meet the needs of school districts and college and universities. Links between theory and practice are central to the research of faculty and graduate students. Faculty work hard to generate research that is relevant, timely, and applicable to meet the needs of the most pressing problems facing educational leaders throughout the state, region, and country. These faculty have nationally recognized research in the areas of leadership for social justice, transformative leadership, STEM education, and building reflective practitioners.
A prominent feature of the program is faculty with unprecedented practical experience grounded in meeting the needs of schools in Washington. Gay Selby and Teena MacDonald for example, are veteran educators and administrators in Washington. Along with an experienced cadre of adjunct faculty, students receive tools tested in the real world of schools, making our graduates highly sought after by schools and districts.
The college is vested in maintaining a premier Educational Leadership program. The aforementioned faculty are tangible evidence of this. In addition, the college will continue to look for strategic partnerships; obtain local, state, and national roles that will allow influence; garner resources to properly support the Educational Leadership program; and work to maintain visibility and prominence in Washington State as the college continues its legacy of producing educational leaders.
As many of you know, I slipped on the ice and suffered a knee injury in early January. By the latter part of February I was on crutches and I remain dependent on them for the next few weeks.
The good news is that I am clearly on the mend, making improvements each day. As of yesterday I have started a process of weaning myself from the crutches. I have another 12 weeks of rehab but could be walking unaided in 3-4 weeks. I am ecstatic about this positive turn of events.
I want to thank many in the college who have asked about my status from time to time and have genuinely rooted for me. Know that the positive energy has clearly helped me stay focused and positive and is helping me to heal.
It has been interesting to observe the reactions of people seeing a middle-aged person on crutches. Some don’t seem to know how best to react in seeing me. I particularly get interesting looks from people when Alaska Airlines carts me through the terminal in a wheelchair. And yes, while not always easy, traveling for business can be done. I have been on several trips now with crutches on airplanes, in taxis, and staying in hotels.
I think what has struck me the most is how a set of crutches connects me with other people, particularly those that have had injuries that required long rehabilitation and recovery. I have heard many personal stories about multiple surgeries that required months, and sometimes years, to fully resolve. And if it was a leg injury, how long the individual was on crutches (sometimes for months!).
Being dependent on other people has been probably the most difficult thing for me. It is humbling to be carted through the airport in a wheelchair. My wife Fran, has waited on me without complaint, to do things like iron clothes, move a glass of water from the sink to the table, or go to the store for me, all things I normally do myself. And in the office, my assistant Stacy Mohondro, has done much the same for me, including scheduling many doctor and physical therapy appointments around a packed schedule and somehow, making it all work.
I anticipate 100 percent recovery within the next 3-4 months. Paradoxically, I feel very lucky. I will treat winter here on the Palouse quite differently. My faith in others has been re-affirmed. Most have rooted for me and I am grateful for this support.
As the year comes to a close and I look to the next, a number of thoughts come to mind. I think it is a fair to say that this year was one of “pointing the ship in the right direction.” To this end, the college worked to successfully close a budget gap, make a number of staff changes, and re-organize various units. An energetic and productive new cohort of faculty members were hired, and those hired in Pullman have quickly changed the tenor in Cleveland Hall. In addition, a variety of small, but important, revisions to various protocols have been put into place so that we remain one college across four campuses and honor each campus’s need for flexibility.
One of the things that struck me most during this last year is how people pulled together to move the college forward. Staff, faculty, administrators, and even graduate students, worked to make this a better place. Good will and a can-do spirit is evident. The college is thinking less about constraints and more about possibilities. This is a fun place to be a dean!
Another key factor in the college’s success this last year is the leadership team. This is a group of bright people, thoughtful and strong in their thinking. I depend on their feedback and wise counsel for all key decisions. Ultimately, there are some decisions which are mine, and mine alone. I make better decisions when I have the solid counsel of the leadership team.
Communication and marketing the college, its accomplishments, and its initiatives, has been a strong priority this year. In August we hired Brandon Chapman, who in a very short period of time has changed how communication is done on behalf of the college and in many ways, has begun to re-brand the College of Education on the WSU campus. Brandon is highly skilled with social media, web delivery, and a strong writer. He is savvy about communication and marketing and the college is fortunate to have him on staff.
I mentioned in a previous column about the importance and strength of our new development team. So I won’t go repeat detail, but think it worth noting that under the leadership of Andrea Farmer, the development director, development has a new face and energy that is poised to break development records. I couldn’t be more pleased with their near-term success.
Next year will bring a number of challenges and opportunities. I think we can expect this mix from here on out. To be sure, a key challenge will be how best to deploy limited resources effectively. The college will see the beginning of a host of new initiatives that are being driven by faculty and staff willing to take risks, invest time and energy, and step up to meet new expectations. Discussion of these however, can wait until next year!
It is time now to enjoy the holiday.
Happy Holidays to everyone and here’s to a great 2014.