This month I participated in the Aspen Institute’s Wye Dean’s Seminar in Queensland, Maryland. Thirty-two academic leaders from across the country met for a week of intense reading and reflection on great writings reaching back to the ancient Greeks. Our quest was to uncover the hidden truths about leadership as witnessed in the writings of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Dewey, and others. We studied the inaugural addresses of Abraham Lincoln, the writings of Martin Luther King, and the address of Aung San Suu Kyi to the World Commission on Culture and Development. We even staged a reading of Sophocles’ Antigone. We pondered the writings of Confucius, read The Five Pillars of Faith in the Qur’an, and John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity.” I found the experience to be exhilarating, not only in basking in the luxury of a week devoted entirely to the great writings I have been away from for too long, but also through witness of the interpretations of these writings by deans and provosts from all parts of the country. I realized that far too often I am lost in the pushing of papers and enforcement of policy. As a dean of the arts, humanities, and social sciences, I realized that I cannot lose myself in perfunctory repetition. At the core, the truths of leadership and indeed in living a more perfect life comes from that which we teach in our classrooms, studios, and on our stages. The great secrets for striving to be a good leader, and in decision-making at every turn is waiting for us in the writings of those who preceded us, the great works of the ages.
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Congratulations to University of Southern Mississippi students Michael Sims of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Hannah Roberts of Mount Olive, Miss., who have been awarded Goldwater Scholarships. The scholarships recognize the “nation’s next generation of top research scientists.”
Sims is a junior majoring in polymer science and chemistry, while Roberts is a sophomore chemistry major.
Congratulations to both Michael and Hannah. All of us in the College of Science and Technology are proud of you.
Read more about the scholarships at Southern Miss Now.
Almost from the moment we saw the devastating images of the Ogletree House, Jazz Station and even places that we could not recognize anymore, the Southern Miss family wasted no time in rolling up its sleeves and coordinating recovery efforts. While nearly fifty faculty and staff from the Department of Art & Design and the School of Music were displaced due to damage to their buildings and office spaces, the morale among them remains high.
Art and Design professor, John Mark Lawler, said that despite the circumstances, faculty and staff in his department were positive. “The staff I’ve spoken to are willing to make it work, whatever it takes. It’s bad, it’s a disaster, but that’s life. You take the punches and roll with it. Students are concerned about each other and us, but everyone seems to be doing ok. Everyone is constantly asking how they can help,” says Lawler.
Dr. Ed Hafer is a School of Music professor whose office took a direct hit. Though he lost some things, he says the greatest loss is that the music family has been displaced, though only temporarily. “Folks are shocked at the amount of damage, but remain hopeful. Students, in particular, are very resilient. Everyone is excited about building bigger and stronger than before. We are all just so glad that no one was hurt,” said Hafer.
As early as Sunday, efforts were made to make sure that faculty, staff and classes would have a home, at least until more permanent arrangements could be determined. Faculty and staff from Art and Design have moved into office space made available in George Hurst Building, while Music faculty and staff have found temporary office space in the Liberal Arts Building, Honors House and Cook Library.
As of Thusday, we have rescheduled 87 lecture classes displaced across Art & Design and Music, and more than 600 various types of ensemble classes/rehearsals, applied study (lessons), and chamber classes for 475 majors. For Art and Design, we currently have about 200 students who have been impacted by the storm. Fortunately, most students were not on campus because of the Mardi Gras holiday on Monday and Tuesday, so as bad as it may look to one walking through the hardest hit areas of campus, it could have been a lot worse. On Wednesday, with classes still cancelled and when many students could have slept in, nearly 1,000 student volunteers showed up wearing rubber boots, rain slickers and baseball caps ready to help remove storm debris from their home-away-from-home.
Sunday evening, sophomore Acting major Kerri Walker was glued to Facebook at her home in Brandon after learning that parts of campus had been in the direct path of the tornado. As a performing arts student herself, she was heartbroken for art and design and music students whose spaces had been badly damaged. “I got up at 6:00am on Wednesday morning and drove from my home to volunteer and help with the clean-up. I’d seen the social media alerts and I just had to be there,” Walker shared. Walker said that everyone really wanted to help do all they could to restore the campus. Volunteers included students, faculty and staff and individuals from the community. As so many have said in the past few days, it could have been a lot worse, Walker added.
But if there is a silver lining to this tragedy—and we have seen many silver linings so far, it has brought the Southern Miss family together. “To see the university and community come together, it made me love USM—MY university–even more.”
At the conclusion of the fall term, the first phase of strategic planning wrapped up for our departments and schools in the College of Arts & Letters. Next, we move to a meta-analysis of the unit strategic plans, specifically to uncover the emerging themes that will serve as the foundation for the college plan. By February, I will develop a response document, which will be returned to the faculty/staff for a comment period. The College Executive Committee will be tasked with amending the plan with the feedback from that comment period. The final plan will be presented to the faculty and staff at our spring convocation in April.
Despite a busy fall, most units in the college embraced this process. In these fiscally challenging times, it seems self-evident that planning, strategic or otherwise, can only facilitate the focus that we must acquire. Effective planning can address goals related to improving governance, program reach, accountability, and ultimately, the best use of public and development funding.
Nonetheless, there can be a danger of a disconnect between the plan and the organizational focus and daily activities in college. While the consensus is that these conversations have been worthwhile, there is a fear that the effort might result in a document that will find a special place on the shelves of chairs, directors, and upper-level administrators, to never be seen again. That will not happen under my watch.
A college’s organizational culture is strongly influenced by the dean as well as the leadership team surrounding the dean. The core values and behaviors demonstrated at the top of the organization will permeate throughout and can create a very strong culture for focus or change. However, it is not enough to simply build a strong culture, it must be a balanced one. I am committed to developing our potential, based on the plan that emerges from our faculty and staff conversations this fall. We will build a performance-centered culture that encourages a healthy level of risk taking (thinking in terms of what can be, not what has been) and an appreciation for learning, development and diversity of opinion. These factors fuel innovation and help propel stronger long-term growth and performance. To do this, we must have a plan… one that rises up from the faculty.
Fall semester ended this past week with finals and events associated with the pomp and circumstance of graduation. The College of Nursing (CON) had 125 graduates who were awarded the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Doctor of Philosophy. Faculty, family, and friends gathered in the Bennett Auditorium for the CON Recognition Ceremony to acknowledge the accomplishments of our graduates. It was a gratifying event for all.
The significance of the events this past week extends beyond the personal achievements of our graduates. The number of graduates and the diversity of the degrees emphasize The University of Southern Mississippi College of Nursing’s commitment to meet the health indicators of our population and nursing workforce projections. The Institute of Medicine Report Future of Nursing Leading Change, Advancing Health has issued the challenge to transform nursing and health care. Our faculty and our graduates accept that challenge to become leaders in this change. In the words of Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”