What I love most about working in higher education is that there is NEVER a shortage of great ideas. Student affairs professionals are constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to enhance the learning and social experiences for students. At NASPA, we continue to be impressed by the many ways our members have instituted highly effective practices to further student success. Whether you have built comprehensive academic and career advising structures, designed programs to support traditionally underserved student populations, or implemented effective practices to create a more inclusive and safe campus environment – your efforts are making a difference!
One of the things we keep hearing at NASPA is that despite the great work happening at institutions, there is always a need and a desire to do more. Questions like, “How can we increase the number of students served by the program?” “How can we encourage more staff and faculty to engage in the effort?” “How can we offer a greater variety and breadth of offerings to appeal to more students?” all relate to scale.
In the last decade or so, the word “scale” has turned into one of those buzz words that you may hear mentioned at least once in every department, committee, and/or board meeting you attend. But what does it really mean? How does one take a successful program or practice and have it reach more students AND still have the same impact? Short Answer: A LOT OF WORK!
However, with some thoughtful planning, realistic expectations, and patience, achieving “scale” may become a less daunting task.
The first step in scaling is to be clear about the change you want to happen. Asking yourself, “How will the campus and/or my work be different if our scaling work is successful?” While this may seem elementary or obvious, it is important because this helps to establish a vision for the work ahead. Additionally, it allows you to better define the scope of the work. In a perfect world, we want to strengthen programs that can benefit all students across the campus; however, given resource constraints such as funding, staffing, physical space, and time (you still need your sleep!) this isn’t always immediately achievable. Therefore, it is important to think through a number questions to craft a strong vision:
By answering questions such as these, you can begin to develop a realistic, ambitious, and more manageable vision for the work.
Once you have developed your vision, it’s time to think about how best to prepare. No matter how big or small your effort is going to be, you are creating change. And, let’s be honest, change is hard! Especially if you are requesting people to do their job differently or revising a practice that has been in place for years. But one way to make the change process less challenging is to do a quick assessment on your institution’s readiness to successfully adopt the change. This will allow you to better understand the work needed to achieve success, as well as to address any potential challenges early on in the planning stage of the effort.
Assessing readiness is two-pronged: It’s about understanding your institution’s ability to scale effectively (i.e. having adequate resources and the right structures in place) and understanding the willingness of senior leaders and staff at the institution to engage in the upcoming work. Both go hand-in-hand and cannot work without the other.
Some questions to help understand readiness include:
By doing a quick assessment with these questions and more, you can begin to develop an actionable scaling plan, which lays out the work, presents measurable outcomes and timelines, and includes the needed communication and engagement strategies to successfully scale.
Remember, the work that you are undertaking is difficult. It may take some trial and error but you will be able to see some success if you stay diligent, regularly assess your progress, hold yourself to realistic expectations, and most importantly, practice a little self-care along the way. We look forward to hearing about your success!