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Business Officer Magazine

Bonus Coverage of Annual Meeting Concurrent Sessions

Bonus coverage of the NACUBO 2014 Annual Meeting in Seattle, July 19‒22

By Karla Hignite, Preeti Vasishtha, and Carole Schweitzer

This bonus coverage of the NACUBO 2014 Annual Meeting in Seattle, July 19‒22, continues the overview found in the October 2014 issue of Business Officer. Here you'll find "A Workforce Plan in Progress" from the Planning and Budgeting track, "MOOCs Are Here to Stay" from the Running the Campus track, and "Self-Made Leadership Style" from the Cultivating Leadership track.

A Workforce Plan in Progress

In the session "Workforce Planning to Ensure Financial Viability," Clarion University Provost Ronald Nowaczyk and Timothy Fogarty, associate vice president for human resources, detailed how their institution rolled out a comprehensive workforce plan with the dual purpose of reducing positions while realigning institution resources with academic priorities.

The public institution of approximately 6,000 students is part of the state system in Pennsylvania and is heavily unionized. Decreasing enrollments in recent years is largely the result of a decrease in high school graduates, though this has been offset somewhat with the addition of professional and masters programs.

Faced with the potential need to eliminate 51 FTEs resulting from a $12 million deficit, university leaders decided to get in front of the situation, to ensure that any necessary streamlining would be done in conjunction with academic mission priorities. A three-year outlook has allowed time to assess the sustainability of academic departments and programs by employing consistent metrics across the board to evaluate program performance. These metrics have included total revenue in tuition and appropriations, credit hours, number of graduates by major, and course load by faculty member. (In some cases the university found that classes were too large and proposed increasing the number of sections.)

In addition to establishing metrics to build the case for reductions and realignment, key to the success and acceptance of Clarion's workforce plan has been allowing time for consulting individually with unions and departments to get their input for tweaking the plan. When the draft plan was released, meetings and open forums were immediately scheduled with bargaining units and other key groups such as the faculty senate. Engaging faculty and staff to get their suggestions for reducing expenses and increasing enrollments not only helped with getting buy-in, but also uncovered ideas for combining or realigning departments, and developing new concentrations and opportunities for interdisciplinary studies.

Somewhat lost in the discussions about streamlining was the decision to hire seven new tenure-track faculty positions and to hire a small student workforce contingent. The longer timeline has also allowed for natural attrition through planned retirements, as well as opportunities for moving individuals from lower-need areas to growth areas, thus reducing the number of force reductions.

Through this process the university has identified about $9 million in savings. While the university still has a way to go, it is now a much less daunting goal and leaders have been afforded opportunities to think strategically about academic priorities going forward that may increase enrollments. In fact, Clarion is now positioned to focus on growth in the coming years, not only through increased enrollments in new and restructured programs, but also through retention. Since the process began, Clarion's student retention rate has increased from 72 percent to 76 percent.

Among the lessons learned:

  • Time is a friend in the process. It's important to show each step you are taking. Build in more time than you anticipate you will need while still being mindful of important deadlines such as faculty notices.
  • Keep an open line of communication with everyone, including bargaining units and students, who will naturally be concerned about impacts to them and their programs of study.
  • Where making programmatic changes, be sure to coordinate with academic officers to understand their teach-out plans and requirements for eliminating a program. In some instances, you may be able to accommodate students taking courses online or at another institution.
  • Don't be married to your original plan. Remain open to changes, especially when working with bargaining units. 
  • Determine up front the particular data you will need to make the right decisions. Soliciting consistent data across the board will help others see the approach as fair and unbiased. Plan to go through the data individually with each department or unit so others have the opportunity to defend their programs and feel comfortable that their positions are understood.
  • Don't release your plan piecemeal. With something as potentially contentious as academic restructuring, you have to be in a position of explaining and defending the plan. At the same time, don't hold on to the plan longer than needed, as this will only increase the anxiety level for everyone.

KARLA HIGNITE is a contributing editor for Business Officer.

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MOOCs Are Here to Stay

Although some institutions have indicated that they will not offer massive open online courses—and some are even pulling out—MOOCs are growing. "They have become a symbol of being in the game," said Gary Matkin, dean of continuing education, University of California, Irvine, at a session titled "Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) 2.0: A Market in the Making." "MOOCs are a way of showing that our university is there."

The MOOC business models are changing rapidly for both the providers and universities. All major universities will have to become creators and suppliers of open education. The industry can expect to see expanded revenue through added certification levels and a move from institutions offering individual courses to course sequences and corporate services, he said.

One such institution is Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology, which has 30 years' experience in distance learning education. Earlier this year, it launched online a master's program in computer science with Udacity, said Mark E. Weston, associate dean, learning systems, professional education. The university has dedicated five classrooms to its newest MOOCs venture. Since 2012, it has offered 15 MOOC courses and uses two production studios and two digitally enabled classrooms.

PREETI VASISHTHA is managing editor of Business Officer.

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Self-Made Leadership Style

Leadership perspectives and philosophies emerge from experience, agreed the presenters of the session, "Leadership Matters." To demonstrate the point, facilitator Craig Woody, vice chancellor for business and financial affairs, University of Denver, led the panel of seasoned higher education administrators in a discussion that covered their diverse professional paths. Following are some highlights of the session.

 "I'm a doer." Her various roles, said Meghan Hughes, executive director of Providence, R.I.'s Year Up, constituted a process by which she has learned to know herself. "I know what I'm good at; I know what I do best. And, I recognize that I don't want to be someone else's kind of leader."

Hughes, who spent much of her career in higher education administration, said her values and advice take the form of five principles: Keep it simple; be a role model; teach and learn; listen; and encourage. She notes that, particularly when times are tough, you need to support and reinforce the team. And don't forget to say, "thank you." Acknowledge hard work and sacrifice. "I try to do this all the time—and really mean it."

Create a vision. "I was a harried dean in my early years," said James Jiambalvo, dean, Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Seattle, "As an academic, I felt the need to read all kinds of leadership and management books." Jack Welch's strategies made an impression on Jiambalvo, particularly the idea that good business leaders create a vision and focus all resources on achieving it.

            With that in mind, Jiambalvo and his senior team articulated the vision that "we would be the best public business school in America. This added tremendous clarity around what we did." It also led to some important decisions and principles.

  • Hire the best. In hiring faculty, don't make an offer unless the candidate is better than half of your existing faculty.
  • Recruit top students. Business school leadership began to interview every MBA student in person—even the many students from overseas.
  • Support a spirit of optimism. Use team meetings and other interactions as opportunities to reinforce the fact that agreed-upon goals are possible.

Make a personal commitment. "I view leadership as a commitment to principled character and functional competencies," explained Bob Shea, NACUBO's senior fellow, finance and campus management, and former community college CBO. "You can't be an expert in all areas, but you need to have competency in all and expertise in several."

For Shea, courage is also a component. "The difference between a leader and a manager," he noted, "is the ability to make the tough decisions that may affect the organization and your colleagues for many years to come." Clear communication and sincere compassion are other characteristics Shea values in a leader.

In conclusion, presenters noted that relationship building in higher education is a lengthy, but critical, element in effective leadership. Jiambalvo said it's been useful to schedule box lunches with all schools and all levels of staff at Foster School of Business. "We've tried to create an atmosphere in which people will come to us with ideas, rather than the other way around."

CAROLE SCHWEITZER is senior editor for Business Officer.


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