Friday, November 22, 2013

"You meet a university."

After the obligatory statements about the welcome received on our campus, a recent guest speaker expressed his belief that universities have a personality, that "you meet a university" in much the same way as you meet a person.  I very much liked his phrasing...and he's right.

I wonder how enjoyable we are here at my university...and if that varies by department or residence hall or support function.  

I'd like for people to meet a caring, supportive, curious university.  One where we remember the value of each individual.  A university where we are all on the same team and collaborate in the honorable pursuit of learning, whether we offer food for thought, spiritual food, or comfort food.

I'd like our faculty and staff to treat one another and our students with the utmost respect, even in the face of differences of opinion, poor performance, or philosophical breaches.

I'm certain that we treat our invited guests well.  But I wonder about the anonymous student, the less-visible support staff, the adjunct faculty, and the many who drive or walk our campus for the beauty of the trees and the architecture.

People meet a business or a university in many ways and over varying periods of time. When I teach about organizational structure and change, we explore the reasons why a CEO in a major corporation often has a very different perspective than the people in his or her organization.  We talk about the value of multiple perspectives on product or service quality, the working environment, and the customer experience; we also talk about the risks of overlooking the differences in those perspectives.

It's possible to meet a university and walk away charmed.  It's also possible for the outcome to be very different.  We shape the outcome every day, in ways large and small...and what we are teaching every time someone meets our university may have more impact than everything else we do.

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