Friday, September 20

Introduction to The Center for Higher Education Leadership from our Founder, Terri E. Givens

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What’s next? As I contemplated moving on from academic administration over the past few years, I knew I had a strong desire to make the path easier for others who become academic leaders. The development of The Center for Higher Education Leadership is the culmination of my experiences in higher ed and my desire to provide support for those who choose to take on these challenging and important positions.

I’ll never forget the day that I was offered the position of Vice Provost at the University of Texas at Austin. It was September of 2006, my first year in rank as an associate professor. I had been running the Center for European Studies for two years, as one of the founding directors. The university was in a period of transition, with a new President being inaugurated and other administrators moving on to new positions.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I was just about to head to the airport to pick up my in-laws when I got a call from the Provost’s office. The admin said that the Provost needed to see me right away. I rushed over, worried that something must have happened to my funding for the Center. The interim provost, Steve Monti, got right to the point: would I be willing to become the new Vice Provost for Undergraduate Curriculum?

I have told the same story since that day – I still look for the dent in the floor of the Provost’s office where my jaw hit it. I had no idea that I would be offered the job and wasn’t even sure how I had been in the running for it. I knew this could be a life-changing situation, and I only had a few days to make a decision.

I took the job, and it was one of the most interesting, frustrating, and meaningful times of my life. I made changes to the campus that can still be seen today. However, the first few months were like drinking from a fire hose. I went from having one direct report to eventually 70 employees when I took on the International Office. I was in charge of updating curriculum, working with the Faculty Senate, and too many other areas of responsibility to list here. When I left the job to focus on getting promoted to full professor, they had to hire two people to take my place.

After getting promoted to full professor in 2014, I decided it was time to try my hand at administration again, but I also knew that my time in academe was likely drawing to a close. I was ready for new challenges, and I wanted to try working at a college that had a stronger focus on teaching and undergraduate education.

When I arrived at Menlo College in July of 2015, the timing was interesting. The college had just submitted its self-study for accreditation, our site visit was coming up in a few months, and I was jumping into the end of what is usually a multi-year process. Suffice to say, it was a challenging year. One of the reasons I decided to start off our series of CHEL Guides with a primer on assessment was that in my experience, faculty and much of the administration didn’t understand the need for a broad assessment process. I learned a great deal during my time at Menlo College, and have become a cheerleader for assessment and evidence-based learning outcomes.

When I left Menlo College in July of 2018, I wrote the following in my blog:

“I look forward to being able to use my broad range of experience to provide strategic advice and act as a bridge between the ed tech companies that are helping provide the tools, and the institutions that are working towards a future that will lead to greater access to education for all. I know that I have a great deal to offer with my expertise as a first generation college-goer, faculty member, administrator, entrepreneur, and researcher.”

I then launched into the world of consulting, which gave me a broad range of experiences that made it clear to me that there needed to be more communication between the ed tech world and higher ed leaders.

Over the last few months, many of the ed tech leaders I have met and worked with have encouraged me to pursue a newsletter that would help higher education administrators understand the burgeoning field of education technology. My friends in higher ed also encouraged me to take the newsletter a step further and focus on broader issues of management.

Given my own experiences as an administrator, I decided it was important to provide continuing education. Higher ed is facing a broad range of issues, with some colleges and universities closing, others facing major demographic changes, and the advent of rapidly developing technological opportunities that can provide support for student success initiatives.

We see ourselves as a complement to existing workshops for administrators, and the information we provide in our newsletters and guides will build upon those types of experiences. We will also offer webinars and materials for those who don’t have the time or resources for an on-site workshop.

Academe is undergoing many changes, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to play a role in providing resources for those who are taking leadership positions during these challenging times. Please provide us your feedback, let us know if you are interested in becoming a contributor, and spread the word – we are a community open to all.

This article is from our Introductory Newsletter of March 15, 2019. Read the full newsletter here!


About the author:

Terri Givens is the former Provost at Menlo College in the San Francisco Bay Area; Professor of Government and European studies at The University of Texas at Austin; Vice Provost overseeing undergraduate curriculum and spearheading global initiatives as its chief international officer.

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