With the new academic year underway, Fall Convocation presented a chance for the Webster University community to mark progress and plan the work needed to reach 2015 stretch goals as the University heads toward its centennial.
Much of that planning will be initiated by six new leadership working groups, announced yesterday to solicit the participation of the entire University community in tackling Webster’s toughest challenges.
In inviting faculty and staff to join the groups, President Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble and Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Z. Schuster said these groups will examine best practices and implement long-term strategic improvements and rapid-response techniques to address the changes needed to move the University toward its stretch goals.
“The more faculty and staff members who sign up, the better,” Schuster said, noting it will engage participation from those most interested in tacking these issues, as well as gauge faculty and staff enthusiasm for the different group topics presented at Convocation.
“It’s also a way to make sure that your voice is heard — to truly lead from where you are,” Schuster said, “as well as a way to make sure that we are using your talent and identifying those emerging leaders from around the Webster worldwide network.”
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[Watch a replay of Convocation here.]
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Six Working Groups
Chairs will be selected soon, and interest will be solicited in Webster Today next week for new working groups addressing:
- Recruitment, Enrollment and Retention
- Organizational Realignment
- STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine)
- Diversity of New Hires
- External Outreach and Engagement
- Policies and Procedures/Shared Governance
After the groups are formed with faculty and staff, they will also be instructed to solicit student input. As a major new initiative, look for more updates and information on how to sign up next week.
Earlier during Fall Convocation 2012 — which combined previous years’ morning and afternoon sessions — Stroble and Schuster discussed recent University accomplishments and areas requiring attention in the context of the stretch goals and the Strategic Prism.
While previous convocations tended to touch highlights from each area of the University — a broad task that grows each year as Webster grows — this year’s highlight section focused on select examples of where different academic and operational areas of the University have worked across borders to help achieve a Webster goal.
Similarly, a few examples of why everyone at Webster is here — for students — were called out: References to Webster’s NCAA regional champion baseball team, the U.S. Open-sweeping chess team members, and the award-winning forensics team drew applause from assembled faculty and staff.
Updates were also announced regarding the new location of the Vienna campus and progress in establishing a new campus in Ghana, which would bring Webster to its fourth continent.
Teamwork and Change, Looking Outside-In
But the guiding theme of the day followed the relay race metaphor, and the coordinated teamwork that requires.
“I ask you to think of the teamwork required from all of us, every day, to meet those stretch goals,” Stroble said. “From recruiting students, to admitting and enrolling them, to retaining them to degree completion, and then handing off the baton to them in the form of a diploma so they join us in the race to recruit and enroll another generation of increasingly strong and diverse students.”
Calling the present a tipping point in the University’s growth, Stroble said: “We can hand off the baton successfully … or we can drop it.”
And the result of handing off batons smoothly throughout the institution? Success. Stretch goals achieved.
In discussing how to get there, Schuster observed the “disruptive change swirling around higher education,”and cited the late Peter Drucker to underline the guiding principle of how an institution like Webster must handle change:
“Nonprofit institutions are prone to become inward-looking. People are so convinced that they are doing the right thing, and are so committed to their cause, that they see the institution as an end in itself. Soon people in the organization no longer ask: ‘Does it service our mission?’ They ask: ‘Does it fit our rules?’ And that not only inhibits performance, it destroys vision and dedication.
“In every move, in every decision, in every policy, the nonprofit institution needs to start out by asking, ‘Will this advance our capacity to carry out our mission?’ It should start with the end result, and should focus outside-in rather than inside-out.”
Schuster encouraged all of Webster to think outside-in. At Webster, “Dissent is accepted – and welcomed. But turf wars and feuding are not. Such actions destroy the spirit of the organization.”
Citing Drucker again, Schuster said Webster structures “should be built around communication rather than around hierarchy. Everyone in the organization should ask two questions: ‘What information do I need to do my job – from whom, when, how?’ And: ‘What information do I owe others so that they can do their job, in what form, and when?’”
“We know what Webster stands for,” Schuster said. “But to achieve results, we need to understand that there are not results inside an institution – inside, there are only costs.
“To make a difference, we cannot insulate ourselves from reality. We need to look outside, to see what is happening in the world, to discuss with each other ways that we can deal the changes, and to come to agreement – through honest debate and discourse – on our next steps.”
Look for news on those next steps, including the opportunity to make a difference through the new working groups, next week.
Note: A replay of the webcast of Convocation can be viewed here.