Interview Answers – Part 2

Laramie County Community College digital signThe previous post contained my answers to the first five questions from my interview for the interim presidency at Laramie County Community College. This post contains the rest of the answers.

I’m expecting to hear something one way or the other within the next day or two – so soon you won’t have to hear about this stuff any more.

Q6. Describe a time when you took personal accountability for a conflict, failure or problem and initiated a solution with an individual(s).

A6. Unfortunately, we had a serious melt down of the technology used by instructors in the classrooms at the beginning of the most recent fall semester. We had a scenario where for the first time in memory the classrooms were not ready for the first day of class.Classes were scheduled to start on a Monday morning at 8:00. The previous Friday was a faculty development day with workshops and other learning events going on in the afternoon. Saturday was Parent Day at the college where many of the classrooms would be used for presentations by faculty and staff to the parents and families of new students at the college. For many, this would be their first impressions of the college.

I was one of the presenters for a couple of the faculty workshops on Friday. I was surprised that I couldn’t get several things to work properly while standing in front of a room full of faculty and other staff. The same thing happened in the second room where I was scheduled to facilitate another workshop. I started dropping into other classrooms and found that many of them had similar problems, such as outdated browsers on the computer, Windows updates that hadn’t been applied, missing plug-ins for playing videos, out-of-date anti-virus software, and the list goes on.

Finding this situation completely unacceptable, and knowing that the next people to walk into those classrooms were either the Saturday presenters for Parent Day, or the faculty members teaching their first classes on Monday morning, I set about to fix the problems. Along with one other employee, we worked Friday afternoon and evening, and most of the day Saturday to apply all these updates needed and to ensure that the classroom technology was ready to go.

I took responsibility for the poor state of technology in the classrooms in an all-employee email as well as in meetings of the Executive Council of the college. It was a personal embarrassment to me. Other employees in the Technology Division were also held accountable for the problems that we encountered.

Under the circumstances, I believe that I would do the same thing if I was a college president. It’s nice to have others available to take care of problems in the normal course of business, but when that’s not possible, you need to take care of things yourself.

Q7. Tell us how you have successfully lead subordinates through change in the past and the steps you took to ensure a successful outcome.

A7. This is another example that I’ll take from the world of online learning. I’m not sure if it happened here, but in most colleges there was a fair amount of resistance from some faculty, staff, and administrators against the whole build out of online learning opportunities for students. It wasn’t always easy to get buy-in for the concept. However, the college president had decided that this was a road that we were going to pursue and she provided the support for getting it done.

One of our early goals was to create the courses and services that would allow students to complete an entire AA degree at a distance. That meant that we needed to have liberal arts and sciences courses delivered online in a multitude of disciplines. However, there weren’t willing faculty members in all of these disciplines. So, I started searching for new faculty members who were willing, able, and eager to teach online.
Many of these new faculty members were not readily accepted by other faculty on campus. They weren’t considered by all to even be a part of the faculty. For a few of them, it had to feel almost as if they were scabs crossing a picket line.

We needed to do several things to start to gain acceptance. First of all, we received blanket accreditation from the HLC for any or all programs to be delivered online back in 2004. This was a process that involved lots of people and provided a good amount of data about what we were doing and how well the students were doing in online learning.

One of the concerns of the on-ground-only faculty members was that online was going to take away enrollments from on-campus courses, thereby threatening their ability to make a living. With regard to the liberal arts and sciences, that proved (over time) to be a falsehood. In fact, at LSC, the amount of on-campus instruction was the same in 2010 as it was in 2002. Flat enrollment on the physical campus over an eight year period, but the college grew a total of 26% during that time, all of the growth came from online.

The other thing that we started in 2004 was a quality of course design project that I hope to talk about later. These and various other things (including positive student feedback) helped to eventually wear down the naysayers to the point now where I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone on campus who would tell you that online learning has been a bad thing for the college as a whole or for the students.

Just a side note, back in the middle of the decade I made several presentations at conferences detailing all of the things we did to help make this change happen. The title of the presentation was “How to start a civil war on campus, and how to end it.”

Q8. Describe one of the most difficult decisions that you have made in your role as a leader. What would you do differently next time and what did you learn?

A8. I’ll go a bit off the beaten path on this one. One of my most difficult decisions related to leadership was when I decided to quit a doctoral program in Educational Leadership several years ago. I think it’s relevant since I sit before you today as a candidate without a doctorate in my pocket.
I have three kids. And yes, I started that project a bit later in life than most people do. I had just turned 40 when my first child was born. My third child was born in 2001 and it was shortly after that time that I started in the doctoral program. As I saw what a toll it was having on my family to have a husband and father who worked 50-60 hours a week at the college in addition to hiding away for hours at a time to do some school work, it became clear to me that I was going to miss a great deal of their formative years. It also became clear that if I was able to turn that doctorate into a college presidency, then I would also miss a great deal of the last half of their time growing up in the household.

I was $10,000 of the way down a $50,000 path, and right there I decided that my family was more important. I also decided that if I worked hard and developed a good record as a campus administrator that I would still have a shot at being a college president even without the doctorate. Not as good a shot, but still a shot. And if it doesn’t come to pass, then I’m okay with that and I still have never regretted walking away from the program when I did.

Q9. Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of personally and professionally. What made it so successful?

A9. I’m going to have to go with two accomplishments here. I don’t think there is one that I’m most proud of both personally and professionally.
Personally, I’m most proud of being a dad to three beautiful children. Blah, blah, blah. (I’m reminded of an old George Carlin bit “You’re supposed to love your kids, it doesn’t make you special.”)

Professionally, I’m most proud of providing high quality professional development opportunities to educators throughout the country, and a bit internationally as well. That includes many of the speaking engagements that I’ve been hired to provide, plus the last three years that I’ve spent as a board member for the Instructional Technology Council (ITC), one of the affiliated councils of the AACC. The network of engaged and engaging educators that I’ve been able to develop over the past several years has truly proved to be invaluable. I’ve received a great deal of positive feedback from attendees at workshops and conferences and it makes me proud to think that I’ve added real value to these events.

Q10. If an employee came to you with a problem relating to another employee and nothing had been taken care of previously, how would you handle the situation?

A10. There are several important pieces here, and my answer would probably benefit from many more details about the situation.

It could be that the college needs to undertake a process review with regard to the complaint processes that are in place and find out where they aren’t effective. If the processes are reasonable, then the breakdown must have come from some people in authority not doing their jobs.

If policy has been followed, and if someone has let these complaints fall through the cracks, then we need to look very carefully at the performance of the employee who didn’t act on this information. It’s inexcusable for someone to not act on complaints that are forwarded to their attention – that’s how a college gets sued.

However, the president should not be dealing with employee complaints early in the process. The process should have them go through the proper channels and the responsible people within those channels need to be doing their jobs. The president should not be involved early in the process because the president needs to be the appeal agent later in the process, typically the last possible appeal.

End of part two. So there you have it, warts and all. This is not intended to be a word-for-word transcript from what I said (you can see that on the video archive), but it is intended to give the gist of what I had to say for each question.

I might post my answers to the questions asked during the open forum, although I think the hiring decision by the college will happen before I get around to that. Probably a moot point by then.

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One Response

  1. (I’m reminded of an old George Carlin bit “You’re supposed to love your kids, it doesn’t make you special.”)

    This one?

    Chris Rock also did something similar:

    I feel like someone else did too. I remember a particularly different feeling one than these two. There is a third man out there also doing this meme.

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