Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Dec. 15, 1995

Faculty, staff react to discussion

by Anne Dolan and Linda Charles

About 67 percent of all university employees took part -- either as facilitator or participant - - in a Succeeding With Students session in November. Forty- three percent of the faculty and 78 percent of staff (P&S, supervisory and merit) participated.

Root Learning of Perrysburg, Ohio, created the map series used in the sessions and helped Iowa State develop the program, receiving $130,000 for its services. Iowa State is the first university in the country to use the process; all of the company's previous clients are from business and industry. However, other universities -- including Nebraska, Ohio State and Bowling Green -- are investigating using the process on their own campuses. Representatives from several schools were on campus in late November to watch a Succeeding session and talk with Iowa State organizers.

Jim Houdan, vice president of Root Learning, said the discussion process used in the small-group sessions eliminates the old leaders-vs.-doers model. It helps bring companies (or universities) from a point at which only a few people understand the organization, to a point at which all members learn from each other to understand how the organization works, what its competitive challenges are and what's important to the people it serves, he said.

"The future of an organization is determined by its learning speed, how quickly the entire organization recognizes and understands changes and the need to react to external changes," Houdan said.

To many who participated, the big question is "What's next?" Succeeding organizers said voluntary follow-up sessions scheduled this week and next for 213 facilitators will provide an opportunity for them to share innovative ideas or discussion from their groups as well as offer suggestions for improving the process.

In addition, all of the participants' ideas for improving the student experience at Iowa State are being compiled and will be shared with the appropriate administrators, faculty and staff.

Inside Iowa State received these reactions from people around campus who participated in Succeeding With Students:

Katie Baumgarn, classroom space coordinator (facilitator at four sessions) "As a facilitator, I got a ton of neat ideas from a lot of people, both in the discussion and on their action sheets. In the early sessions, the action sheet asked people to focus on things they could do personally to improve the experience of students. In later groups, we asked them to write down an idea for themselves, one for their departments and one for the university. That was a lot easier for most people. "For (Succeeding With Students) to really succeed, someone has to remind department chairs and unit leaders to call people together. This was supposed to be just the beginning. The discussion has dropped off since the training ended. There has to be follow-up."Donna Clink, custodial supervisor, Memorial Union "I tried to go in with an open mind as to what the questions might be and the outcome might be. We had a really, really, really good facilitator. He made it exciting for us and everyone participated. If they don't do something with the questionnaires [that were filled out at the end of the session], then it would be a waste of time. That was the consensus of all the people at the table I was at."Linda Collins, assistant professor of statistics"It was very much worth my time. I learned how I fit into the university picture, not just about how students fit in. I really enjoyed the diversity at my table. Never again, probably, will I get the chance to talk with a secretary about working with students.

Because my field is statistics, one of my reactions is that the graphs, particularly in the second part, were misleading. They were an attempt to simplify the material, but they (graphs) failed because each was made to look alike regardless of the scale."James Joyner, custodian"The title suggested to me there would be dialogue about retaining students, that it would be a sort of think tank. I was shocked. It wasn't about dealing with students. It was about the inner workings of the university. It should have been two-pronged -- one part dealing with money and one dealing with students -- because I know you can't separate one from the other."Steve McDonnell, manager, athletic academic services (participated in the initial pilot testing and facilitated two sessions)"It was a learning experience to hear people's different perspectives, based upon their affiliations with the university. I felt it helped in the group in which we had a student -- it helped to get the student experience. The people that I went through the program with in general felt it was worthwhile in terms of what they learned and had to offer others. The overwhelming question (now) is where do we go from here? The expectation was that there would be a definitive answer. The expectation was that in the very near future there would be a plan of action from that experience." James Murdock, professor of mathematics"I expected that it would be focused in some way on actual interaction with students and teaching. There was actually almost nothing about students except in the last third (of the session). I was glad I attended because I wanted to find out what it was intended to be, but not glad in terms of anything I gained from it."Susan Posch, secretary, Office of International Students and Scholars"My group was a fascinating mix of people and we had some great discussions, especially when we got off the topic. However, I didn't learn anything about succeeding with students; that was not addressed. The last hour had not to do with students succeeding, but with the pressures on them, and we all knew that."Dick Van Iten, professor of philosophy"I took the heading of the project quite literally, that it would focus on learning how to be more successful with students. I expected it to mean how to be a better teacher, more responsive to students' needs, to develop strategies to help students see their way through to graduation. Most of what we did in the sessions had very little relevance to those in the trenches who work with students.

"I have my doubts about the connection of what was learned to the relevance of understanding what 'succeeding with students' means. It needed more focus on what it means to succeed with students, to go beyond retention. It's one thing to get them graduated, it's another to give them a good education."

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