Thursday, May 31, 2012

Branch Campus Article: Pruning the Branches

Today's (May 31, 2012) daily update from Inside Higher Ed has a lead article on branch campuses. There are interesting points in the article, but there also is the suggestion that many universities are moving away from offering programs at branch campuses or are focusing their programs at the graduate level. There are a few comments after the article, including one from me. Note that the title of the article suggests "pruning," not necessarily cutting down the entire tree.

You can access the article at: You may have to copy and paste the address.

As indicated in my comment, my own impression is that many branch campuses are growing, and at least some presidents expect to see greater enrollment growth at branch campuses than at their main campuses. In my opinion, branches need to be aggressive about shifting toward hybrid delivery of their programs, and I believe it will be most sensible to form strong partnerships between branches and whatever unit at the institution develops and delivers fully online programs.

Some institutions may, indeed, find it wise to focus on graduate programs, whether online or at branches, and there certainly are ongoing discussions/arguments regarding which programs should be offered at branch campuses. However, I don't see the evidence that there is any broad move to cut back programs or close down campuses. Unfortunately, there is no data base to which we can turn to know for sure.

The article only refers to two institutions, both located in Boston. Both are fine schools, with successful online programs. One of them, Northeastern University, also is pursuing a relatively unusual strategy of developing new branch campuses in locations that are far from Boston. (A campus has opened in Charlotte, NC, and one has been announced for Seattle, WA.) The other institution, Boston University, has no such plans. Take a look at the Northeastern story, because it is both interesting and well-thought-out, in my opinion. (I've mentioned before that I do some work with Northeastern, so draw your own conclusions about their strategy.)

It appears to me that the "contraction" in the Boston area has had more to do with cutting back on what branch folks would call sites, not true campuses. That change might make sense, given online and hybrid options, but I still believe there is a place for a regional strategy that includes a physical presence, as well as increased reliance on technology.

Give the article a look, and see what you think.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

More on Coaching

I’ve been asked to explain more about coaching and how it works, so here goes:

Coaches serve clients as a “thought partner” or “trusted adviser,” by supporting them in an exploration of goals and options for achieving those goals. When I coach, I like to concentrate on identifying both individual strengths and strengths in the organization or leadership team, where appropriate. I encourage people to think about times they felt especially energized and committed to their work and what it was about them or the situation that contributed to success, so that they can consider those experiences in new contexts.

I’ve found that the coaching process not only leads to identifying options and clarifying ideas, but it releases a lot of confident energy. Sometimes coaching clients also want to use me as more of a consultant, especially with regard to resolving a specific issue at work. I’m generally aware of which role I’m in, but I do try to be careful about doing too much “consulting,” when coaching is called for. It’s the client’s choices that matter.

Coaching can be used with groups, as well as with individuals. You may hear terms like “executive coach,” “life coach,” or “transitions coach,” but I seem to cut across those boundaries with most of my clients. In my own practice, I typically talk with clients over the telephone, usually for 50 minutes to an hour. I like to talk with new clients once a week, for three or four weeks, to establish the relationship and start working on goals. After that, we follow whatever pattern is most useful to the client.

With regard to branch campus administrators, my coaching experience falls in three areas. First, some individuals want to move up the administrative ladder, and either they or their supervisor thinks I can help with the preparation. This type of developmental coaching generally involves some assessment of strengths and exploration of career options, but I also ask questions intended to explore specific leadership challenges the person has encountered, as well as to clarify the role and situation that might represent a good career move.

A second opportunity comes when someone actually accepts a new position or takes on new projects. If he or she is changing institutions, we might talk about an exit strategy, as well as an on-boarding strategy for the new position. Very often, people encounter unexpected challenges and reactions in their new position, and a coach can help with the transition, not to mention adjusting to a new culture.

A third coaching opportunity arises when people consider leaving full-time administration and want to give thought to their future. A coach can help shape the planning process, provide resources, and advise on options. This type of transition coaching provides an opportunity to think about one’s “life portfolio,” considering the balance of work, recreation, family, and other elements of life. I am especially interested in working with people who are considering an encore career, because the creative potential is so high.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Enjoyment of Consulting and Coaching

When I take tests or inventories, designed to identify individual strengths, a top strength always is that I am a “learner.” I do love learning new things, and perhaps as a result, I have very broad interests and (sometimes) a short attention span for the routine. My good fortune to work in academia allowed me to follow lots of different paths and to choose a “road less traveled,” when it suited me.

In that context, I feel especially blessed to pursue an encore career, as a consultant, coach, and speaker. Getting to meet people from around the country, and occasionally from other parts of the world, is terrific. I enjoy visiting new places and learning the unique history of various institutions. After more than 36 years of association with branch campuses and, more broadly, programs for adult learners, I’ve had remarkable experiences and opportunities to learn.

I suppose it is natural that a learner would enjoy sharing what he’s learned, and in the sense that I am still a teacher, the opportunity to consult and coach is satisfying. I am happy to share my thoughts, when asked, to critique current practices and future plans, and to provide examples of effective approaches to new challenges. However, as I’ve moved further into coaching and a strengths-based perspective, I’ve also found even greater pleasure in serving as a “thought partner” to individuals, as they consider opportunities and options.

I mention all of this for a couple of reasons. First, I’d be pleased to have more opportunities to coach, consult, or serve as a speaker for conferences and the like. It is fun, for me, and supports my desire to continue learning and sharing. Second, and more importantly, I want to encourage others to be excited about possibilities in their own lives.

We live in an extraordinary time. As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, it is exciting to think about the possibilities open to us, in the “second half of life.” For younger people, it is intriguing to consider options to work together, to create a future that is based more on abundance than on scarcity, and to reinvent what it means to work.

I was talking with an old friend and trying to explain why I am so pleased to be in the encore stage. I miss being part of a team, but on the whole, I feel as if I am back to being a professor, which was a great experience for me. My “learner” has come back to the fore, pulling along my strengths in areas like strategy and connectedness.

So, just a brief commercial: I am always interested in opportunities to work with individuals and with campuses, when they are looking to the future and considering possibilities. We can learn together and do some good.