Registry member Dr. Kathleen Nelson, Interim President, Glenville State College and President Emeritus, Lake Superior College shared with us some valuable insight gathered during her current assignment. Here are a few pieces of advice she passes along to her fellow interim candidates:
- No amount of research, reading, or discussion prior to an Interim President’s arrival on campus will uncover the intricate power quilt which blankets the institution. Discovering, quickly, the college or university’s internal and external power influencers is critical to making a successful transition to a new community and higher education institution. Failing to make this discovery could lead an interim leader down a pathway littered with obstacles and strewn with hidden dangers.
- All leaders, but especially interim leaders who are unknown in a college or university setting, should immediately use the power of language to introduce his/her values, personality, and passions to their learning communities. Well-chosen words, heartfelt messages, and well-constructed verbal images are powerful tools to help higher education colleagues understand and support the principled-centered leadership interim leaders bring to their roles. Language is Power.
- Our challenges associated with living through an historic pandemic have created hurricane forces in higher education leading to a myriad of conflict situations……..conflicts between tradition and new realities; conflicts with who, how, and when decisions are made; conflicts between decisions based on feelings and traditions or ever-changing facts; and conflicts between those with ultimate authority to made decisions and those who always know better. The Chinese ideogram for the word “conflict”, when translated, means “opportunities blowing on a dangerous wind.” COVID-19 is surely the treacherous wind threatening the life, health and safety of our higher education institutions and our lives. In such menacing times, however, opportunities arise…..opportunities to engage in new modes of academic delivery; to discover and use new technologies; to re-emphasize the concept of student relationship management; and to develop new external partnerships with vendors, healthcare systems, and local, state and national organizations. From the ashes of this pandemic, our higher education institutions, like a phoenix, can arise stronger, better prepared, and more committed to meeting the educational needs of our students.