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What do you think of when you hear the word “Change”

September 1, 2019 Nina Grant Vice President of Student Services

What do you think of when you hear the word “Change”

Does it bring about fear, trepidation, angst, uneasiness? 

Or does it bring forth excitement, anticipation, readiness, willingness?

Any Bowie fans out there? Does the song “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes…Ch-ch-Changes”…start to swirl in your mind? 

I know you have seen the articles and people’s comments regarding higher education and change. Everything from how higher education can keep up with change, to the accelerating pace of change, staying relevant, creative destruction, disruptive innovation, redefining, reimagining, radical transformation, adaptation, alterations, shifting landscapes, emerging issues/technologies/practices, external forces, internal pressures, changing landscapes, evolution, reconstruction, revolution, and the list goes on…

I don’t know about you, but I get tired and overwhelmed, just thinking about all of the change that my institution has been through recently, is in the midst of currently, or that is yet to come. I have heard from others that they are experiencing the same thing at their institutions. Probably because I need the reminder myself too, I would like to offer some suggestions perhaps in dealing with all this change. 

I read an article a few years ago about how to get better at dealing with change. My take-away from it was “Don’t expect stability”. The article discussed research done in the 70’s at the University of Chicago by Salvatore Maddi, who studied employees at Illinois Bell. This was during the time that the phone industry was deregulated, and there were huge changes. Some of the staff members had difficulty coping, while others flourished. The difference was that the those who were “adaptive” decided to view all changes, whether welcomed or unwelcomed, as an expected part of life, rather than a dire deviation thought to be cruel and unjust. “Instead of feeling personally attacked by ignorant leaders, evil lawmakers, or an unfair universe, they remained engaged in their work and spotted opportunities to fix long-standing problems…” Maddi discovered that those who struggled with the changes were “consumed by thoughts of ‘the good old days.’ They spent their energy trying to figure out why their luck had suddenly turned sour. They tried to bounce back to a time and a place that no longer existed.” 

So what does that mean? I believe it means that our mindset is how we can improve our chances to remain resilient and relevant in the face of major and constant change. We have the power to choose how we will to respond to situations when they arise, and whether we will see them as unfortunate occurrences, or opportunities for growth. I will choose to see opportunity for growth. I hope you are willing to do the same.

As you contemplate your approach to change, I would like to share the following quote, “We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.” By C. JoyBell C.

I invite you to have agency in how change affects you, because ready or not, it’s here and will continue to be. On behalf of our students, that’s how it needs to be! 

If you would like to dive deeper into this, here are the articles I reference and quoted, and that provided me with the substance of what I shared:

https://hbr.org/2016/09/how-to-get-better-at-dealing-with-change

https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/how-to-change-your-mindset-to-see-problems-as-opportunities.html

Nina Grant 

Vice President of Student Services 

Western Nebraska Community College 

NASPA IV-West Nebraska Membership Coordinator