The Suburban Prof and I with a couple of others are heading over to San Antonio next week to present, attend, and lurk at the American Association of Community Colleges.
This is an interesting conference for a faculty member to attend. It is focused on community college presidents and chancellors; supposedly, the association has only invited faculty to present in recent years. Our Twitter and Instagram accounts will mark noteworthy presentations and cool eateries.
Last year in DC, we had an enthusiastic response. In some ways, presidents and vpis and vpsses and vpads and whatever other vice presidents are out there are more open to strange new ideas than our peers. (Of course, that fascination can and often does shift when purse strings are involved.) For the most part, though, even our strangest ideas have been embraced–almost with a naive optimism.
Some part of that support has been in response to Suburban’s tireless pursuit of, documentation of, data. He carefully tracks the impact of our programs on student success, completion, retention, and engagement. In doing so, he has earned the respect of admin. They are willing to attend–even if they are not always willing to support. The Suburban Prof gently and patiently guides them around the hurdles, obstacles, and distractions, carefully guiding them.
And that is the crux for me. The Hill Country German in me chaffs at the times we are not supported (the mulish determination that drove Grandpa’s parents to farm limestone fields). I have yet to find a way diplomatically to point out to an admin that the idea with which they are enamored is not as innovative as they have been told. New paths are difficult to cut; it is much easier to dress up old ideas with bells, whistles, and Facebook.
We all are bound by the past. Faulkner’s “An Odor of Verbena” should be assigned reading. (Sparknotes–literature’s only hope.)
Data is available in new and interesting places. We have pools of untapped data sitting around in our system waiting to be reviewed; it is just not where everyone has traditionally looked, invisible. Marketing can tell us as much about upcoming enrollments as departments focused on institutional research. The tools are available to break that data down beyond the group. Why predict the future when you can manage the present?
I will only be at the conference for a few days this time around. But I am looking forward to eavesdropping in the hallways and catching a glimpse of the newest fads–all of which I am sure wear data for this year.
If nothing else, I will be able to score a Bean Burger at Cheesy Jane’s, lust over the gravel bikes at Bike World, wander the aisles at Cheever Books. And before I leave, I will stop to light a candle at St. Joske’s.