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Weekly Wisdom Live Event Series

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom is an event series that streams live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn on Mondays. Each event also becomes a podcast episode. Every week, the UIA joins forces with Inside Higher Ed and talks with a sitting college president or chancellor about how they're specifically navigating the challenges of this moment. These conversations are filled with practicable things you can do right now by unpacking how and why college leaders are making decisions within higher education. These episodes will also leave you with a sense of optimism and inspiration.

You have to have a culture that embraces, supports, and is committed to these students and their success. The second key element is having the people who are committed to the culture. Once you have that platform, then you can start to think about programs. That’s the mindset we’ve brought to this.

Kim Wilcox

Chancellor, University of California, Riverside

We know now the world is much more complicated than we thought. Historic institutions that are non-adaptive are going to have difficulty adjusting to these kinds of high-speed changes. We need to instill the ability to adjust and keep performing our mission as a core part of what we do.

Michael Crow

President, Arizona State University

This is the time when American higher education understands that our strength as a country will be inextricably tied to our success in bringing people from all backgrounds into the problem solving as we face the future.

Freeman Hrabowski, III

President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

We’ve got a lot of important work to make sure that our institutions come through this pandemic and get stronger, at the same time that we address the issues that are right in front of us around systemic racism.

Mark Becker

President, Georgia State University

If you start to address what’s important to people, I think people are going to take you seriously, regardless of if you’re in a room with them, or if you’re doing it virtually.

Frank Dooley

Chancellor, Purdue University Global

You’ve got to be willing to have courage to have these open and frank discussions, you’ve got to put yourself in a position to foster these kinds of discussions, and sometimes, more often than not, you will listen to your constituency and they will have the better solutions.

Harold L. Martin, Sr.

Chancellor, North Carolina A&T University

Due to the current situation brought by COVID-19, chancellors, and university presidents are faced with unique challenges. Learn about how they navigate and lead through these difficulties. "Start the Week with Wisdom" is a short form live interview show that aims to be a source of wisdom and strength for many.

For the 15th installment of Weekly Wisdom, Bridget Burns, Executive Director of University Innovation Alliance and Paul Fain from Inside Higher Ed, had a short, inspiring conversation with the University of Houston President Renu Khator.

What Are The University’s Plans for This Fall?

For the past months, a lot has happened due to the pandemic. And everyone in Houston is all quite concerned. Ms. Khator says they are currently looking at all of the indicators for public health and are trying to see what the institution can do in three weeks.

She mentions the university's plan to open the campus but with as much flexibility and compassion as possible, which means that there will be classes in different modes. The students have the freedom to choose whether they want to come to the campus or not. If students prefer to go to the university, they'll be provided with all the necessary preventive measures, including masks and hygiene kits.

Faculties can also choose whether they want to teach in a highly flexible environment or conduct online classes, synchronous, or asynchronous. Ms. Kathor emphasizes that they are planning for every kind of scenario, but they hope for the best.

As a President Chancellor, How Is She Handling Decision Fatigue?

Ms. Kathor admits that it's overwhelming sometimes, especially during these past days. It's exhausting for her and her team members. Personally, Ms. Kathor does yoga meditation and gardening to relieve herself from fatigue and stress.

Ms. Kathor also adds that part of her job is to make sure that she can also relieve the stress from her team members. They do wine gatherings at times and even try to read books together. She makes sure to ask her teammates what they are doing for their mental health. She believes that communication and encouraging words are essential.

With Her Extensive Career in Leadership, Are There Lessons or Wisdom That She's Relying Upon Right Now?

Ms. Kathor says that she doesn't use any framework because, at the end of the day, we have to face things and make decisions based on your gut, intuition, experiences, and wisdom you've collected up to this time. She also shares that there are two principles that she follows until today: flexibility and compassion. In times of crisis, you have to feel it, not just from your students' point of view, but also from your faculty, staff, and community.

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.

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.

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