John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Conferences are Fabulous Contexts for Extroverts Like Me

December 21, 2015adminInsights0

John Gardner copyIt is natural as the calendar year draws to a close that we make an effort to look ahead to the new year and focus on some things we are looking forward to. As a conference junkie—after all, I am the founder of the First-Year Experience conferences about 35 years ago—I still enjoy meeting planning and especially interacting with folks who actually come to the meeting. Conferences are fabulous contexts for extroverts like me. And I am looking forward to two small meetings which I have helped design for early in 2016.

I refer to: 1. JNGI Higher Education Partnership Forum, and 2: JNGI Student Success Seminar: Finding the Best Recipe for Student Success

Both will be offered concurrently in beautiful south Florida, late this January (25-26) near West Palm Beach in Jupiter.

The first is our fourth offering of a process we have been told has been very, very helpful to several hundred campuses that have sent teams to the three previous offerings of this meeting. The big idea here is really simple: you pull together a team of academic and student affairs leaders, definitely including faculty, and come spend a day and a half together to come to terms with each other and hammer out a plan for an initiative you are going to undertake when you get back home. With the ideas we generated in our first convening of this process we created a tool which we will use again this time, our Seven Principles for Good Practice for Student Success Partnerships. Here’s a link for you to use this now: http://www.jngi.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/7-Principles.pdf

We offer this meeting out of our conviction that one of the most important things you have to do to increase student success is to create and sustain more partnerships across your campus. This means asking us Americans to do something very difficult for us, namely, collaborate, when in reality far more of us would rather compete. The need for this is more timely than ever given the organizational shifts underway on many campuses resulting in the creation of new units that are being constituted as “Student Success” and which are neither fish nor fowl—academic and/or student affairs.

Our thinking in designing these two meetings was that an institution could identify a small cohort of key change agents and leaders, actual and potential, and divide them into two groups. One group would come and work as a team at the first meeting. The other cohort would attend the second meeting, a comprehensive primer, overview of the most important things to know and understand about this new field of student success. This will be delivered in a highly efficient and productive manner, over a day and a half, but still with plenty of interaction with other folks trying to figure out student success and with the three leaders and facilitators. The latter are my wife, Dr. Betsy Barefoot, our organization’s senior officer for innovation, Dr. Drew Koch, and myself. Surely two out of the three of us could keep you engaged and make you even better informed about student success essential –what we are calling “ingredients”—ingredients for a “secret sauce.” We will also integrate several of the activities so that they will be shared by both cohorts. I think these two parallel and integrated events are going to generate some powerful synergies, ideas, and collegial relationships.

I will look forward to seeing some of my readers there and to learning from them I am sure. Have a good holiday and I wish you a good new year ahead.

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