The Innovating Together Podcast

Welcome to innovating together, a podcast produced by the University Innovation Alliance. This is a podcast for busy people in higher education who are looking for the “aha moments” that can propel their work forward. Innovating Together curates the best insights, research, and experts.

Weekly Wisdom 014 - Daria J. Willis

Bridget Burns and Paul Fain invite the president of Everett Community College, Daria J. Willis. President Willis has been leading Everett since last year, but also served as the provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Onondaga Community College.

A Sense of What Daria is Going Through Currently

Daria first noted that most of her students go through a pandemic of their own, even before the onset of COVID-19 due to coming from underserved communities. Although school gets increasingly challenging daily, she finds it to be a labor of love and an honor to uplift her community.

What are the Unique Struggles of Her Students?

The pandemic exacerbated the issues that students and even faculty staff already faced like

  • Food insecurity
  • Lack of internet connectivity.

In response to these issues, they set up a large computer lab, but the onset of the pandemic made them open up to new partnerships to help their students. Some of those partnerships brought about Chromebooks for students, WiFi’s, food from the Volunteers of America, and more.

How Does She Set Herself and Her Team Up For the Future Forecast?

While she hopes for a way to tell the future, since it is impossible, she encourages her staff to stay updated on the current events. They also have staff meetings and ask for student’s feedback.

What Lessons Did they Learn in the Spring that Will Change in the Fall?

In the beginning, most of the faculty weren’t ready to move into online learning, but now they are trying to help faculty adapt to online learning. They are also trying to open up to hybrid learning in line with CDC protocols. In the spirit of never wasting a crisis, they plan to start their strategic planning for now, the next year, and the farther future.

What is Her Advice for People Dealing with Uncertainty?

Daria simply states that anything worth having is worth fighting for. Everyone has to fight for what they want. Find whatever makes you feel better, do it, and work hard.

Although listening to Michelle Obama’s Book On Becoming helps, Daria enjoys her peloton sessions to sweat out her frustrations. Her faith also helps her while keeping up with her bible plan and having family time.

Weekly Wisdom 012 - Ana Mari Cauce

In today’s episode of weekly wisdom, Bridget Burns and Rick Seltzer, the project editor at Inside Higher Ed, invite another university leader. The President of the University of Washington Ana Mari Cauce, who has been at the institution since 1986 and president since 2015, is the guest in today’s conversation.

How is She Feeling Now?

Ana described the feeling as a rollercoaster where you feel on top of the pandemic situation one day and then feel different the next.

What Strategy Works For Communicating Her Stand?

They use emails, town halls, and every means available because there is no overcommunication during the pandemic. Ana also stated that a problem they face is the need to have multiple contingencies for every plan they make since many variables are inconsistent. However, people do not appreciate the asterisks.

Does Ana Have a Framework that Helps Her Focus Despite the Constant Changes?

Ana Describes her framework using “ The Crisis Theory,” where there is no need for change when things are smooth until they become turbulent. While some people are adamant against evolution, it is helpful and opens up a new world of possibilities. She also talked about their approach to systemic racism and talks about moving beyond the symbolic statues they have.

Her Advice to the Interim Presidents

Ana’s advice is that interims should approach their jobs like they own it already and not as applicants. Playing it safe is not the best idea.

How Does She Prevent Bias?

After staying in the school for so long, Ana takes time to look outside (accreditation committees and visiting other schools), and she also takes advice from faculty. She also states that all things being equal, she prefers to hire from within, but all things aren’t always.

What Does She Hope Stay?

Ana hopes that the interdisciplinary light that shines currently remains, and people understand the unity in their differences.

What Keeps Her Going?

She finds the vibrancy and resilience of youths refreshing.

Scholarship to Practice 10/2/20 - Constance Iloh

Scholarship to Practice 10/2/20

Bridget Burns, Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance, and Derrick Tillman-Kelly, Director of UIA's Fellows Program and Network Engagement, speak with Dr. Constance Iloh, Educational Anthropologist. As a researcher who explores educational inequities, institutional culture, and college access, she shares with us the Iloh Model of College-Going Decisions and Trajectories, an innovative lens for looking at how minority, disadvantaged, and nontraditional students find (or lose) their way in higher ed. Topics include:

  • How the culture and business of higher ed routinely deflect attention from inequitable conditions
  • The deep flaws of elitism and racism that are never addressed
  • How to reframe the college-going narrative
  • Information, time, and opportunity as factors of student decision-making
  • The importance of understanding each student as an individual

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