It’s July. This month, along with BBQ’s and family trips, can often be a great time for college and university administrators to reflect, regroup and implement changes within campus structures. When addressing the implementation of changes, countless books, webinars and strategies have been developed to help ensure success. While the suggestions leading to success can be different, one thing we do know is change is hard and without a unified effort, any implementation will be sure to fail. While change management is important, one piece that can often be ignored is the campus culture leading up to it.
When thinking about change management, it is critical that college and university administrators remain cognizant of the various intricacies and consider every possible stake holder in their action research. However, even when implementing the smallest of processes, if the campus culture leading up to the transition isn’t healthy, any measure of change management will be very difficult to maintain.
Changing campus culture can hurt. Maintaining a healthy student-centered college or university can bring about challenges. It requires sacrifice, a strong sense of humility and an active presence with faculty and staff. Consider this… when trying a new work-out or exercise routine, maybe even coming back to one that you had mastered a few years prior, it can leave you a bit sore. What seemed great at first now feels like a self-inflicted wound that simply won’t heal. Mid-workout thoughts of “Why am I doing this?” or “Am I really paying money to feel like this?” scream through our minds as we count down the minutes until the workout is complete. Change is hard. In an effort to change your current situation, you merely exercise and while it sounds simple, because we all appreciate when A + B = C, there are factors surrounding this simple equation that can muddy the waters.
Now take this into account. What is the culture of your current living situation? Do your family members actively exercise? Is it relatively normal for you to eat out a few times a week but still choose the healthiest options on the menu? Do you work so much that finding the time to go to the gym or even for a walk seems impossible? Have you established a culture that would make it really difficult to ensure a successful change? Change is hard, but culture hurts!
When looking at culture from a campus perspective, this is also vital. From the onset of hiring a new success coach or faculty member, are we ensuring that this person is receptive to the college or university culture we are constructing? This also needs to be paired with a little (really – a lot) of self-reflection. Does our student success team feel like they have a voice? Do success coaches and faculty members feel ownership of our campus and their position? Are they being heard? This is where the “hurt” can really gain momentum. Change is great, tough, imperative and exciting. Yet if we have not developed a campus culture that is strong enough to withstand the “hard” part of any change, inevitably we hurt student success and retention.
The tone of any campus culture starts with the institution’s administration. While it’s great when a simple equation works, higher education can be one big gray area. With this in mind, we can avoid the “hurt” if we establish a culture that can move through the “hard” part of any change. That is when we are sure to have a pathway to success.