Friday Letter 10-2-15

It’s been a week. Classes are full as is the parking lot. There were no major campus issues that made their way to my office, so that’s a good sign. And as I distributed over 120 pieces of Playdoh (or Pez) this week, everyone seemed to be smiles. If you didn’t get a visit from the green bucket, it’s probably because I missed seeing you in your office this last Tuesday and Wednesday when I did my walk-arounds. I try to stay out of everyone’s way this first week, so my visits were quick.

As I wrote in the Thursday Special Letter earlier this evening, the events of the last few days have weighed on me But I also want tackle another issues and I may get a little philosophical for the remainder of the letter. Please bear with me.

One of our on-going challenges at Cascadia is to figure out how to increase capacity in what already seems like a full facility. Everyone seems to want to be in a class from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Both Terence and Rosemary are leading groups to figure out schedule-shifting opportunities and space demands It’s a tricky equation and it would be nice if some of our students were night owls. But, they aren’t, so we’re working on ideas.

As we move into fall there is always a large list of “things to do”. It seems like we push and push to do more and more. It is not generally the intent to “do more”, but to “do better”. I’ve always been an advocate for balance and I want to remind everyone of that. However, when we see programmatic holes, under-served students, or data that indicate we could do something better, it does inspire me to think about our Strategic Plan and how to resolve those issues. It’s a never-ending process, so we have to pace ourselves and try to tackle a few issues every year. This also means that some issues may go unresolved for years. While not ideal, it’s dictated by our resources, both human and financial.

As we try to schedule-shift, it opens a whole new box of concerns. For example, the enrollment timelines for Running Start students, International students, and Domestic High School graduates all differ. Keeping classroom rosters balanced and maintaining ideal schedules for all students becomes an advising nightmare, especially as we get closer to the first week. Our advising staff and our class schedulers think about this all the time, but solutions are complicated and difficult to implement given the different regulations for each of the above groups.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) we live in a world where ‘outcomes’ now drive process. It used to be that we could teach for the sake of learning. Now we teach for the sake of meeting certain expectations, outcomes, career paths, goals, assessment, directives…you name it, we teach for it. As well, we have to have sufficient support mechanisms to do it better than our competitors, because competitive market places are another driver.

I would be interested to understand more about how our reasons for teaching have evolved since the time of Socrates and Plato. I don’t think we sit back and enjoy the process as much as we used to. I know that the expectations of the community college system are immense and we may put more pressure on ourselves because of our size and relationship with UW. Whatever the reasons, let’s try to remember the true reason we’re here, our students’ success. And, as we get mired down in Process, Committees, Strategic Planning, Assessment, and all of the other things that cause us stress (including campus tragedies), let’s remember that we’re here to work together to make the environment the best we can. We all want the same thing…so let’s focus on that as we reflect on this first week, on North Seattle and Umpqua, and on the year to come.

Thanks for the thoughtfulness and I wish for you a restful weekend.

One thought on “Friday Letter 10-2-15

  1. Thank you Eric, I always appreciate being reminded that we are all in it together and aiming for a rich, healthy, just and meaningful learning environment for all. The recent tragedies are also weighing on me and have even deeper meaning now that I am here at Cascadia – its good to feel the connections in the midst of so much loss.

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