Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Thoughts on Graduate Studies

This fall Barclay College enters a new hallway in the house of academia with the inaugural session of the Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership (MATL). With the MATL Barclay College will have the opportunity for greater impact in fulfilling her mission, while simultaneously assuming greater academic responsibility as defined by traditional graduate standards. How exciting!

For nearly 100 years Barclay College has sought to balance the Quaker “git’r dun” practical approach to ministry with the rigor of scholarship. Her success in balancing the two is demonstrated through the global contribution and influence of her alumni. It is undisputedly held in Quakerdom that Barclay College has contributed greatly to the evangelical missional agenda and doctrinal integrity of the Friends Church while resourcing her with quality leadership. Our plan is not to change!

My use of the nomenclature “git’r dun Quaker approach” at the undergraduate level is a reference to producing students who are practitioner-scholars in life and service. If students graduated from Barclay College are filled with the Holy Spirit, committed to emulating the life of Jesus Christ for the world to experience daily, have a conviction to practice a strong work ethic in ministry, and have learned to think critically in the application of the skill and knowledge they acquired at BC, then we have fulfilled our purpose.

However, the commencement of Barclay College School of Graduate Studies requires our focus to change ever so slightly. The rigor of graduate education demands the focus be more “scholar-practitioner” in nature rather than “practitioner-scholar.” The emphasis of undergraduate education is to understand the basics of the field, acquire the necessary tools needed to function within the field of study/vocation, and establish a passion and pattern needed for the discipline of lifelong learning. At the graduate level however, students not only continue acquiring more knowledge and skill within their area of study or vocation but are expected to critique the field using the scientific principles of inquiry and research.

The standard for a Master of Art’s degree is the production of a capstone thesis or research project that is legitimate within the tradition of academia. This means that as students continue their quest for knowledge they must also identify a problem or need for further contribution (based upon research) which can be addressed in their capstone project for the glory of God and the good of Christ’s mission on earth. How exciting! I look forward to how this new adventure unfolds in the days ahead. Someone needs to be the leader among contemporary Christian graduate schools … so why not Barclay College, Eh? Let’s “git’r dun” for the glory of God!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Am I in the wrong profession?

Am I in the wrong profession? That was my question for today as I read another chapter in The College Administrator’s Survival Guide. Gunsalus states, the most powerful way to increase your influence is to listen more effectively, intensely and genuinely to others. Then he describes how listening is a skill that most people are neither taught nor practice. Especially in the academic setting where there is often an atmosphere of arrogance, competition and insecurity among peers. Many will listen ahead (jumping to conclusions) while others are talking … leaping to conclusions and thinking they know more about what others are trying to say than they actually do. In the academic setting many demonstrate self-protective behaviors to keep from being exposed for who they really are before their students, peers and administrators.

Gunsalus concludes this section on active listening by encouraging administrators to talk less and ask more questions for two reasons. First, asking questions demonstrates your interest in the other person’s thoughts, feelings and opinions. Second, administrators should ask questions in order to uncover the underlying motivation of people. Gunsalus states that everyone has underlying motives because ultimately positions are what people want, and interests are why they want them.

Wow, if I had to deal with this behavior in my duties at Barclay College then I would quickly conclude that I am in the wrong line of work! Praise God the influence of Jesus Christ permeates the faculty and staff of this campus and is manifest in our constituents. I am convinced that Barclay is different from other institutions not just because she is a Christian College but because of the doctrine she holds dear to her mission. I have enough experience with other Christian institutions to know that motives and behaviors are frequently not in the best interest of the college. So what’s so different at Barclay College? Holiness … Our Board and administration is committed to the teaching and practice of Christ-centered holiness.

We believe the atonement of Jesus Christ makes provision for the complete transformation of the heart for those who will consecrate their life completely to the Savior and subject themselves to the infilling and control of the Holy Spirit. Full consecration to Christ purges the heart of selfishness and replaces it with the righteousness, peace and joy of Christ. It imparts to man a nature that desires full devotion to God and service and love for others.

The selfish, self-protective behavior described by Gunsalus is consequential based upon the sin nature in man… so is the purging of the heart through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Through heart purity motives become pure, people are free to look to the interests of others, have relationship without living in the fear of rejection, and they can live in a community of acceptance and peace. It seems to me that if one wants to be a positive influence for others (academic or not) they should begin with heart transformation. Only then can a person manifest the nature of Jesus Christ. This is the practice and testimony of Barclay College to which she must remain ever true.

Based upon my studies I see that I may not have much of a future in academia outside of my employment at Barclay College. I realize I would be a round peg in a square hole (so to speak), at most institutions today. So for now, I had better have Lisa help me improve my listening skills and pray to God that I can keep this job for awhile!

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Am I Reading the Wrong Books?

Today's reading in The College Administrator's Survival Guide caused me to giggle and ask "am I reading the right material for my professional development?" Gunsalus writes,

Your role as a academic head requires that you set the tone, including establishing consistent expectations for successful and appropriate professional conduct, and that you provide sincere compliments for conducts that meets those expectations. The catch is that you must be comfortable being the authority figure in an anti-authoritarian environment. This will take a special touch. The key is to examine your own behavior ahead of time and consider the persona you'll need for your professional role. Generally the only way you can influence others is to change your own behavior.

Now for a recommendation that may surprise you. You can learn a great deal about how to be an effective leader in academia by reading books on parenting and dog training. They teach you simply ways to modify your behavior, build effective communication skills, improve listening, and suggest practical ways to ensure that your words and actions send a consistent - rather than mixed - message.

How funny. Who would have thunk it ... to be effective in college administration one should read dog training books? Hm ... I wonder if our two accreditation commissions would be impressed with my professional library the next time they visit if I line a shelf or two with volumes of pet training and parenting books?

At this point I am not ready to invest the money or time required to read "pet training" books to improve my service to Barclay College and School of Graduate Studies but I do get the point. The only person I can change is self ... and by assessing and improving the impact I have on my colleagues will ultimately benefit the Institution.

Heavenly Father, my desire is to glorify You through my life,be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ and to participate with the work You are doing in the world today. I give You full access to my life ... change me according to Your will and purpose. Help me to be a blessing to those whom I have the privilege to administrate and serve at Barclay College. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Professional Development

I am reading three books this summer for my professional development. They are:
The Academic Deanship by Bright & Richards, Jossey-Bass. 2001;
The College Administrator’s Survival Guide by Gunsalus, Harvard Press, 2006;
American Association of University Professors: Policy Documents and Reports, Ninth Edition (Redbook).

I have discovered a great deal about college administration from all three books. Deanship has introduced me to the general duties and obligations of decanal administration across a wide spectrum of institutions. Survival Guide helped me put on my radar screen some of the typical landmines found in academia and offered some practical tips on navigating around them. Reading the AAUP Redbook has presented quite a challenge in comparison to the other two texts. Typically while reading Redbook, the text is central on my desk and I have a thesaurus in one hand and a cup of Joe in the other. However, no matter how daunting the task may seem at times I do feel obligated to finish the work before mid-August (it did cost $3 to ship the $.05 used book from Amazon to Haviland) plus I do occasionally stumble upon a gem.

Today’s treasure for me was the foundation documents defining academic freedom (pages 35-36). The basis of the documents is the concept that both privileges and responsibilities are conferred upon professors by their membership in the community of scholars. The critical freedom to pursue scholarship is accompanied by certain responsibilities to (1) be accurate, (2) exercise appropriate restraint, and (3) show respect for the opinion of others.

I suppose there are some in academia who choose to not to honor this critical freedom and the responsibilities attached to it, but I am pleased to say that the faculty at Barclay College and its School of Graduate Studies does. As Christ followers and scholars, our faculty members are committed to good practice. Over this past year I have witnessed each one maintain a consistent level of excellence for the glory of God, both on and off campus. They sacrifice for the mission of the institution, work to improve their department, and seek ways to contribute to the community of Haviland as a whole.

Our BC faculty continuously supports one another by maintaining good practices, like creating and maintaining sound professional boundaries and collegiality through affirming and participating in positive group qualities and activities. None of them seek special privileges or status … only the opportunity to emulate the life of Jesus Christ before others. They humbly consecrate their strengths for the proliferation of Christ’s kingdom and pursue His grace in their areas of weakness. I assume the faculty of BC act the way they do not because they have read the Redbook, but because they have committed their lives to the Good Book and the One of whom it was written.

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