July 12, 2017
I have been an Interim Vice President for Student Affairs for 7 days. The first week entailed moving into a new office, planning a retreat, coordinating division wide meetings, and prepping for my first Board of Trustees meeting. These task were coupled with hundreds of emails, a calendar of meetings, and multiple budget decisions. After a week in the job I’m already asking myself - how can I be more strategic?
As an AVP, I took to heart the advice in the chapter on succeeding in your first year as an AVP included in the NASPA publication - AVP: Leading from the Unique Role of Associate/Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. So, after dusting off my copy, I confirmed that much of the information is transferable. After re-reading the chapter, I have decided to develop the following plan to be more strategic in my first 90 days of this very different role. My goals are as follows:
1. Understand the needs and vision of your supervisor.
I have weekly meetings with my President. So, I spent the first one just asking her questions. What opportunities and challenges did she see in the division? What good work from my predecessor was a priority to keep moving forward? How did she see student affairs being a thought partner with academic affairs?
2. Learn the short- and long- term priorities that define my role.
I looked at the issues arising from student affairs both positively and negatively and I am prioritizing those areas as my short-term goals. I am thinking through how student affairs can play critical roles in institutional incidents and be relied upon to be the content-experts. Also, it turns out there are a number of program reviews, audits, and data analysis reports for my areas that have been conducted recently. These data points will serve to further define my priorities as the interim in the longer term.
3. Discover political and structural realities of the institution.
As an administrator who has been at my institution for some time, some of the structural realities of the place are not a surprise to me. However, working with a new set of colleagues on the President’s Cabinet will certainly be a new experience with a bit of a learning curve. Therefore, my first 90 days will include meeting with my new colleagues and gathering copious amounts of information. My predecessor always told me one of the most important things you can do early on is discover and understand where all the different opportunities for resources lie. Each VPSA has a number of political “chips” and determining how and when to cash mine in for progressing toward our goals is something I will need to navigate in these first few months.
It goes without saying that much of my time will be visiting and revisiting both the institutional and division strategic plans. I am fortunate to have been a part of the development of these plans so I understand the context and vision thoroughly. However, understanding that any movement or resources will only be possible if it directly furthers the goals of these plans is a reality that I need to have on my mind every day when I wake up, and in every decision I make.
As for the next 90 days… I will tackle other advice in the chapter such as how to manage up and down, my own professional development, etc. But I will also look to build that mosaic of my professional and personal life that I know is possible. Come to think of it, there is a chapter on that in the AVP book as well.
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