Message from the Dean - August 2011

"Be Bold, Nimble, and Resolute"

Be bold, nimble, and resolute. 

Colleagues, as we begin our next year, the second year of my deanship, I want to welcome you back to what I know will be an exceptional year.  Recently I saw a production of Hamlet and one of the compelling statements was, "We must be bold, bloody, and resolute."  Being bloody is not the work of the College of Education, but to coin a phrase Be Bold, Nimble, and Resolute captures well what our intent should be for the 2011-12 academic year.

Be Bold!  We must asset our strategic intent by implementing our Strategic Plan.  Our plan calls for us to focus on our core values of diversity, engagement, leadership, service, and transformation as we prepare our students to educate, serve, and lead.  I envision that we will focus on each of our goals, craft action steps, and follow through to the intended outcomes.  To be bold, we will incubate ideas, implement actions, and measure the impact of those ideas.

Be Nimble!  In order for us to do the rich work that we do in these tight economic times, we must be nimble.  We can't afford to be fixated on historical stances or ways of being if those postures no longer align with our contemporary issues.  We may need to code switch and adapt.  Recently, the heads read a book entitled Peak Performance for Deans and Chairs:  Reframing Higher Education's Middle.  In this book, the authors discuss four frames of leadership:  The human resource frame, the structural frame, the political perspective, and the symbolic frame.  Listed here are the definitions:

  • The human resource frame emphasizes individuals and their needs.  An effective organization creates a caring, trusting environment where people can learn and grow.  Without such personal support, people rebel, withdraw, or get even.
  • The structural frame stresses clarity and results.  In organizations, people are assigned to roles and held accountable for getting the job done efficiently.  Plans, policies, rules, and formal meetings coordinate efforts.  A chain of command gives some individuals authority over others.  Top performance is the result of a rationally designed structure equal to everyday challenges.
  • The political perspective sees authority as only one form of power.  Authority is assigned; power is up for grabs.  Individuals and groups use power to advance special interests rather than to attain formal goals.  The result is conflict, which the political lens accepts as a normal by-product of collective best resolved through compromise and bargaining.
  • The symbolic frame accentuates the central role symbols play in life.  Work needs meaning and purpose as much as its practice outcome of providing a paycheck.  Organizations are tribal creations where a shared culture is expressed through history, values, rituals, ceremonies, sagas, and stories.  An informal network of heroes and heroines, priests, storytellers, gossips, and spies determine how people behave and how well the enterprise performs.  An effective organization relies heavily on hope, faith, and shared purpose.

As you may easily note, I operate most readily from the symbolic frame, but the current needs of the COE are more political and structural.  To rise to the challenge of budget cuts, outcome-based measures, and political scrutiny, I must be nimble and adapt to modes that are timely and for me less comfortable. 

Be Resolute!  As we are nimble, we must continue to be true to our values and convictions.  I strongly believe that we can become premier and that our legacy is a reputational resolve.  People believe we are exceptional at what we do.  Let's maintain that trust by continuing to prepare our students for the realities of their professional arenas.  Let's be resolute that quality matters and that we will prepare professionals who are linguistically, developmentally, technologically, and culturally competent and confident.

As we embark on the year, let's listen, learn, and lead.  Again, I am ecstatic about being your dean and excited about the new year.


Dr. Dwight C. Watson

Dean, College of Education