Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Few More End-of-Year Thoughts About Branch Campuses

Continuing my end-of-the-year observations, I urge you to spend a lot of time studying your budget.  Take a close look at the gross revenue generated at your campus, as well as your direct costs of delivery.  (By direct costs I mean actual costs of instruction, local staff and facilities.  Do not include any overhead or other charges levied by the main campus.)  In most cases that I’ve seen, the net revenue per student credit hour is significantly positive.  In fact, generally, the net revenue is higher at branches than at a residential main campus, precisely because the branch has a more focused, limited mission.

Your main campus finance people may insist that you consider allocated costs from the main campus, such as for admissions and financial aid support, registrar, and so on.  For some purposes they are absolutely correct, but at the same time, you should know that the overhead you pay (or the branch income they keep) probably is free cash to the main campus.  Would the main campus really save money if your campus disappeared tomorrow?  Even if your instructional cost is buried in main campus academic budgets, I’ll bet the answer is no.

Your president and others may need help to understand that you are a profit center, but do your homework.  Ask your financial aid director how many positions could be eliminated if you disappear.  Ask your admissions director, head librarian, registrar and others.  The answer will almost always be “none.”  From an accounting perspective it may be legitimate to charge you a fair share of underlying costs at the institution, but from a business development perspective, I’ve found that branch-driven costs are almost always marginal.  That may be the real reason your campus is effectively a cash cow.

Finally, it is tempting to think that branches are an outmoded delivery method and that online programs can serve the same audience just as well and, perhaps, less expensively at scale.  But I argue that branches serve a different audience than either the main campus or fully online programs.  This is far too big a topic for a blog post, but I think many branches can make a compelling case for an aggressive growth strategy that will generate enrollment that neither the main campus nor online programs can attract.  Why shouldn’t an institution take distinct approaches in all three worlds and expect all three to perform well?

Here’s a little lagniappe:  Check out Marc Freedman’s piece in the Harvard Business Review blog on the opportunity presented by Boomers. (  Please consider how you might create innovative programs to serve this audience.  It is a special interest of mine, and I have written about the encore stage, both in this blog and in my other blog, Creating the Future, at 

As always, I am available to serve as a resource, coach or consultant.  Get in touch if I can be of help, and I hope you have a great 2015.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Few End-of-Year Thoughts on Branch Campuses

I post infrequently on this blog, especially since the publication of my book, Out on a Limb.  I’m pleased that people are finding the book through Internet searches and word of mouth, as well as through their connection to NABCA (  For that matter, I’m also pleased that I occasionally hear from someone who has discovered this blog and found it useful.

As I continue to scan the environment, visit various campuses, and think about branch campus issues, I will occasionally comment on what I observe, although I may wind up repeating ideas I’ve expressed before.  Thus, here are a few end-of-year observations.

First, I feel increasingly frustrated by the failure of most institutions to fully exploit the strategic potential of their branch campuses.  (Check out this post:  The branch campus audience is not the same as that on a residential main campus, so why are people who have no experience with the branch audience making decisions about recruiting, class scheduling, and student support?  Take a look at my posts over the past couple of years on branch campus trends and on concerns that may interfere with branch campus enrollment growth.

Second, if you are a branch campus administrator, dig into your enrollment patterns.  I talk about “dwelling in the numbers,” and it is so important.  Understand what students are telling you through their decisions on courses and programs and let their preferences help drive your marketing, scheduling, etc.  Make sure you understand what your competitors are doing, as well, and the extent to which your own potential students are choosing them over you.

In this same way, take note of trends across the country.  Some branches are growing rapidly and others are fading.  Why?  And how is technology affecting enrollment?  Should you be doing more with hybrid delivery and online options?  Joining NABCA and engaging more with colleagues from other institutions may help jumpstart your thinking. 

By the way, right now would be a good time to buy copies of my book for your staff and to create a reading circle to discuss ideas.  Judging from the response to Out on a Limb, it has helped plant seeds for some folks.  Maybe you can even engage some main campus people to consider new options.  (I feel as if I should put a smiley face here, but I’ll resist the urge.)

Next week I’ll offer a few more thoughts for the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Branch Campuses and the Planting of Seeds: A Local Story

Last time I wrote about planting seeds and suggested that the mission of branch campuses is to plant seeds in the lives of their students and then nurture their growth.  Keep in mind, however, that a “campus” is just a place; it is people who plant and nurture those seeds.  In that context, I want to acknowledge the importance of individuals who had the vision and determination to establish those branches and launch the opportunity for their contribution.  Anywhere you see a branch campus, you can be sure that the campus reflects someone’s vision for reaching out to serve place bound students.  The motivation for that vision may have been financial, political, or pushed by some other force.  Regardless, a seed was planted, an idea was nourished, and it made a difference.

I feel drawn to offer a “shout out” to a few individuals who launched and built Ohio University’s branch campuses.  None of these men has a branch building, let alone a campus named for him, but without their vision and commitment, the campuses never would have developed as they did. 

Ohio University’s campuses were founded in 1946, primarily to serve returning World War II veterans.  An economics professor, Al Gubitz, was appointed to oversee their operation, which was expected to last only a few years.  However, Gubitz recognized that the branches, offering only evening classes in area high schools, were meeting an important need.  With the president’s support, the University gained state approval to continue operating.

I never met Al Gubitz, but I’ve talked with people who knew him.  They describe him as smart and crusty, and I’ve heard that he operated the campuses out of the trunk of his car, carrying textbooks, sometimes money, and other things from site to site. 

Beginning in the mid-1960s, under the leadership of Ed Pinson, our “campuses” acquired land and put up buildings to support broader day and evening programs.  From that time enrollment began to grow significantly and the campuses thrived.  I do know Ed, who is a great guy, living in Athens.  Ed went on to become a university president and, later, a consultant.  But that substantial physical plant on five branch campuses owe their existence to his good work.

Still later, my predecessor, Jim Bryant, brought 24 years of steady, well-grounded leadership to our campuses, as they continued to grow.  Jim was an outstanding dealmaker and partnership builder with great understanding of higher education finance.  From him, I inherited a financially solid organization.

Of course, hundreds of administrators and faculty members contributed to Ohio’s branch campus success, and quite a few community members and politicians stepped up at critical times.  My point, here, is that we all need to keep in mind the importance of planting seeds and nurturing their growth. 

More often than not, planting seeds won’t get us in the history books.  Yet branch campuses exist because someone cared and chose to make a difference.  Someone planted the seeds and across generations others continue to plant, nurture and harvest the results.  Not a bad legacy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Branch Campuses and the Planting of Seeds

A couple of years ago I wrote a post for my Creating the Future blog, titled “Coaching, Consulting, and the Planting of Seeds.”  If you are interested, you can find it at

I mention it because four years into my encore career I’ve found myself feeling more and more as if planting seeds has been the underlying significance of almost everything I’ve done.  I enjoy the variety of professional activities that fill up my days, from consulting, coaching and speaking, to writing my blog posts and (at long last) finishing my book on branch campuses.  Looking back, I also enjoyed teaching and administration, which surely are seed planting endeavors. 

I maintain that the mission of branch campuses is access and outreach, providing opportunities for students to pursue their dreams.  Although online programs may be changing things, branches often are the best option for place bound students who want to continue their education, suggesting to me that branches are places where seeds are planted and their growth nurtured.

I don’t mean to be melodramatic here, but typically we don’t know the long-term outcome of our work.  (We don’t experience the harvest, to continue the metaphor.)  In fact, we may be planting seeds without even knowing we are doing so, especially as we affect the development of our institutions, contribute to our communities, and teach our classes.

Awhile back, a former colleague sent me an email, telling me the story of a fellow he met who had started his college education at Ohio State Mansfield.  This student went on to professional and financial success, but he told my friend that it was my general psychology course that turned him around and got him moving in the right direction.  That was great to hear, of course, but the truth is that I don’t remember this student at all, and I have no idea how a general psychology course could have had that type of impact.

Most educators have these types of stories, and I wish we heard more often how our work has mattered.  It’s a little scary, though, because we also know that students sometimes hear a message we didn’t even intend to deliver!

I’ve often said that we know education transforms lives, but on branch campuses we see the impact in especially dramatic ways.  It is a fine thing to plant seeds and nurture their growth.  It makes a difference to students, to their families and to their communities, even if we sometimes feel unappreciated or frustrated by the hurdles put in front of us by people who just don’t get it.

By the way, on the subject of planting seeds, I continue to hear encouraging feedback on my book, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life.  In this context, what has been most gratifying has been hearing from campus leaders who bought copies for co-workers and are holding discussions around the chapter topics, as well as some who have persuaded their president or provost to read the book and consider the ideas around program development and finance.  Out on a Limb is available through Amazon in paperback ( or on Kindle (

Tell your friends!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Emerging Branch Campus Trends?

I’ve mentioned this before, but it interests me that the most read post on this blog is the very first one, which followed an opening introduction.  That post concerned branch campus characteristics, and it has been viewed more than twice as often as any other.  It can be seen at  Dating back to 2007, it continues to get regular hits, which I assume means that I chose a good title that shows up on Google searches.

Other frequently and persistently viewed posts mostly relate either to some aspect of branch characteristics, or to financial matters and revenue sharing.  With regard to branch characteristics, in presentations at NABCA and RBCA this year I discussed some emerging trends that I believe are worth watching.  (As usual, what I have to say represents personal observation, rather than any sort of systematic data collection.)

One trend is to open branches at greater distance from the main campus than we’ve typically seen in the past.  Small privates may cross neighboring state lines to place branches in areas they believe are underserved, whereas some larger institutions (also usually private nonprofit) may open branches that lie many states away.  Within a state, I see both public and private institutions opening branches that directly compete with other institutions in a way that ignores explicit or implicit service boundaries established years ago.  (I’m not even going to get into the issue of international branches, which I suspect has a dynamic all its own.)

Perhaps related, more institutions seem to be opening single-program branches or branches that tie only to one or two colleges at a university.  Similarly, some institutions are developing and delivering programs that specifically meet the needs of a major employer, whether a corporation or, in some cases, state government.  (Community and technical colleges have done this for a long time, but it has been less common at universities.) 

Not unlike programs that target the military, these trends make good sense to me, but I also think they stretch the “characteristics” of a typical branch, as I described them in 2007.  Frankly, whereas long-established branches may have been developed to expand access or to block competition, my guess is the newer trends are specifically intended to attract new student audiences and increase revenue.

It also appears to me that more institutions either are pursuing or considering separate accreditation for their branch campuses, or are recognizing their branches as part of a distinct college within the university.  Both separate accreditation and college status strike me as an attempt to give branches more autonomy around program development, allowing them to create distinctive programs to serve their own audience/market, without undue interference from main campus politics and process.

All of this is happening in a context where institutions consider multiple delivery options, create certificate and badge programs that are less than a full degree, or offer accelerated programs that shorten the time to a degree.  Taken together, all these trends suggest a need for targeted marketing/recruitment strategies, in order to make sure that the message gets to the intended audience.  Unfortunately, however, I’m seeing more conflict than ever between branch and main campus marketing and recruitment efforts.  I urge institutional leaders to make sure they have the right structure in place to support success at different campuses serving radically different audiences.

To be clear, I’m neither advocating nor opposing any of these trends.  However, if I were leading a more established branch campus, I believe I’d want to learn more about what other institutions are doing and how I might appropriately reflect those trends at my own campus.  Scanning the environment is more important than ever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The 2014 Regional and Branch Campus Administrators Conference

The annual Regional and Branch Campus Administrators Conference (RBCA) just concluded today.  For a number of years the conference has been held in June, meeting at the Longboat Key Club resort, which is a stunning venue.  RBCA limits attendance to about 60 participants and typically has just one program track for everyone, which has worked well for this group.

As usual, organizers did a fine job.  Jim Smith, campus dean at Ohio University Lancaster was the conference chair, and the program committee clearly worked hard to create a strong set of sessions.  I have attended RBCA most years since 1995, and I always have a great time.  Indeed, I believe that the annual NABCA and RBCA conferences are highly complementary, and I encourage branch leaders to consider attending one or both, whenever possible.

This year, I provided the opening keynote, discussing my new book, as well as offering some thoughts on future opportunities and risks for branch campuses.  On Monday, I was extremely pleased and flattered when it became apparent that at least a few folks had read my book and found it useful.  Book sales continue to go decently well, I think, although I have no benchmark for comparison.  My deep hope is that Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life will be helpful to those who work on branch campuses, especially if they are newly arrived.  Out on a Limb is my attempt to tell a branch campus story, but I also believe interested individuals could find quite a few potential research projects to test out whatever "claims" I've made.

I know that people working on branch campuses can feel under appreciated, and very often they have limited opportunities to network and share ideas.  RBCA and NABCA help speak to those issues, and I hope my book does, as well.  On branch campuses faculty and staff are all about providing access and opportunity to people who otherwise may have no reasonable expectation of realizing their educational dreams.  It is important work, done by remarkably dedicated professionals.  They deserve support and encouragement!

Monday, May 26, 2014

An Appreciation of Branch Campus Visits

Continuing to share from my personal experiences, I’ve been fortunate to visit a wide range of branch campuses both across the United States and internationally (Hong Kong, Russia, Mexico and Canada).  Some of the domestic visits tied to meetings of NABCA or RBCA, whereas others were consulting jobs, mostly over the last five years.

The consulting work shaped my understanding and opinions more than I expected.  In the absence of a substantial literature or research that identifies best practices, institutions developed branches for their own reasons at varying times in their history.  Every institution I visited had a unique story to tell.  There were common themes, of course, such as struggling to bring programs from the main campus, wrestling with interference from certain main campus offices that think they know more about the branch audience than the people who work there, and making sure that courses and class schedules actually meet student needs.

On the other hand, I’ve been impressed by the way branch leaders manage to get things done in the service of their access mission.  Financial arrangements, partnerships of various sorts, and persistent advocacy often produce remarkable results, even if the organizational structure or institutional politics throw up one barrier after another.  Good job, I say.

The challenges faced by small enrollment branches, with, say, 300-500 students, as well as the way an enrollment of several thousand students changes how a branch operates intrigue me.  At every stop I’ve met people who wear more hats than is fair, with job descriptions from the main campus that don’t begin to describe their days.  I’ve learned about unique strategies developed by campuses that deserve to be shared with other institutions.  I’ve also talked with students who are passionate advocates for their campus and community leaders who cannot understand why a program needed in their town can’t be delivered at their local branch.

My experiences are necessarily anecdotal, I suppose, and they may help explain why it is so difficult to do good research that is not simply descriptive.  I started this blog mostly as a way to share my thoughts and experiences, and my book, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life was an attempt to organize those thoughts and experiences in a way that might be useful to others who want and need to know that they are not alone.

The future of branch campuses can and should be bright.  I worry that institutional leaders won’t understand the distinctive characteristics of this unique delivery form of higher education that serves audiences in different ways than a traditional campus.  Branches have an important role to play, in combination with online programs and traditional residential campuses, with each meeting a different need, but contributing meaningfully to the institution’s bottom line.  If I can be of help, please let me know.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Out on a Limb: Drawing on the Experience of Leading a Branch Campus System

Perhaps the most interesting career transition for me came with my promotion to vice president at Ohio University.  In that position, I was responsible for five campuses, with a combined enrollment (at the time) of approximately 9000 students.  Each campus had a dean, as well as local faculty and support staff.  In addition, I was responsible for the Division of Lifelong Learning, which supported a variety of programs, including paper-based correspondence courses, summer programs, conferences and workshops, and other activities.  In fact, we had a center in Hong Kong that reported to the dean of Lifelong Learning, so in a sense, we even had a branch on the other side of the world.  Later, we also provided administrative support for online courses and programs, which drew my work in new directions.

Although having a vice president specifically focused on branch campuses and other outreach programs may not be unique, I do believe it is relatively uncommon.  Indeed, Ohio University moved away from having a vice president and now has an executive dean, who reports to the provost.

There were advantages to being a vice president, and in measurable terms, things worked well. We were entirely independent, financially speaking, and paid an overhead of about 8% of gross revenue to the main campus, in addition to other transfers that came to an additional 4% of our revenue.  In my consulting work, I learned that it is unusual for branches to be completely self-funded and self-supporting, but I appreciate the advantages that came our way because of our approach.  We assumed the risk for our campuses, but we also received most of the financial gain from enrollment growth, allowing us to add programs, hire faculty and staff members, improve marketing, and stay current with technology, among other things.

All of this is discussed in more detail in Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life.  I’m sure that my view of branch campuses and how they either thrive or struggle was enhanced by the opportunity to work at the level of an executive officer of the institution.  The last several chapters of the book represent my attempt to capture something of the view from that executive level.

Although branch campus administrators should be committed to the development of their own campus, I believe they often could be more effective lobbyists and advocates in the political environment of a college or university if they better understood how things look at the main campus.  I hope my descriptions have some value on that score.  More importantly, I hope they encourage a more strategic perspective that supports a “mutual gains” approach to negotiation for resources, whether programmatic or financial.

If you work on a branch campus and choose to read Out on a Limb, perhaps you will recognize your experience in the first six or seven chapters, then find some helpful ideas in the remaining parts.  If you are a main campus person who works with branches, I hope the book brings some clarification and encourages deeper conversations with your branch campus colleagues.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thriving "Out on a Limb"

I consider myself to be an advocate for branch campuses.  At their best, branches create access and opportunity for individuals and contribute to the economic development of the communities they serve.  In Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life I go into much more detail about why branches matter, but for present purposes the key point is that branches serve an audience that is different than the audiences served by a traditional main campus or by a fully online program.  There are excellent opportunities for campuses and programs to partner in multiple ways, but it is a mistake to overlook the differences.

Institutional leaders certainly recognize that the world of higher education is much more complicated and more competitive than it was just a few years ago.  Count me among those who believe that the financial/business models are broken, and the impact of technology has forever changed delivery options in ways that are exciting but also increase risk.  In my opinion, despite recognizing the issues, most leaders remain stuck in frames and practices that are unlikely to be effective in this “new world,” but that’s a story for another day.

The last few chapters of Out on a Limb are more explicitly strategic about the conditions that allow branch campuses to thrive and the likely challenges they will face in the future.    There are outstanding opportunities, but institutions need a comprehensive strategy that includes distinctive approaches for their traditional audience, for online programs, and for their satellite operations.

For branch campuses, I believe the greatest threat to growth occurs when the main campus attempts to control too many decisions that are better made locally, in the mistaken belief that they understand the branch audience or that they need to guard against branch campuses somehow undermining the institutional brand.  Prospective branch students are not the same as main campus prospects, and their priorities are quite different.

Specifically, I believe that course scheduling, marketing/recruitment, and those support services that are directly visible to students should be administered locally, whereas those that are more of the “backroom” sort, such as financial aid needs assessment, registrar, and bursar functions can most efficiently be centralized at the main campus.  Any given institution may vary somewhat from the ideal, but enrollment success depends on connecting effectively with the audience.

Failure to appreciate the perspectives and priorities of different audiences is a serious mistake.  For both online and branch programs it is important to give them enough independence to avoid getting trapped by the demands of the “production engine” (see Govindarajan and Trimble, 2010, The Other Side of Innovation), which will try to rein in anything that is truly innovative, simply because the established academic and administrative units will view that innovation as a distraction, perhaps as a threat, and for sure as inferior to their own efforts on behalf of the institution.  It isn’t easy to support entrepreneurship in an established organization, but those who thrive in the future will figure out how to make it happen.

Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life is available in print and Kindle versions on  I hope you will check it out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NABCA Conference for 2014

I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Branch Campus Administrators (NABCA) last week, and it was a great time.  The program was strong, but as usual a lot of the value in attending was the opportunity to network with people committed to the branch mission of providing access to higher education.

I presented a session, titled “Get Strategic to Compete:  New Directions for Branch Campuses” which turned out to be a lot of fun.  The audience was engaged and participated enthusiastically, which in turn gave me all the more energy for my topic.  In a later post I’ll share more about some of the new directions I’ve observed.

My book, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life was available for purchase at the conference, and I was pleased to have 34 copies picked up.  I also noticed an uptick in purchases of both print and Kindle versions on Amazon, so maybe word is getting around.  I’m not aware of any comparable book that is relatively comprehensive on the branch campus topic, but it is difficult to promote it in the absence of any sort of broad database covering branches.

In fact, I found sessions tied to members of the NABCA research committee to be especially interesting.  That committee has come a long ways over the last several years, and I noted enthusiasm for further steps.  The challenge simply to identify branch campuses and their characteristics is enormous. 

As one who has been around for most of NABCA’s existence, I felt real pride in the work of the current leadership.  I wish the original founders could have attended this year.  Their vision seems to have reached a tipping point, and the organization is definitely on a roll.  NABCA seeks to be a national, broad-based organization in support of branch campuses, and I was struck by the diversity of campus missions represented on the program, including both public and private institutions and growing participation from community colleges.

For years we hoped to establish a position of executive director to provide consistent leadership and better organization, and joyce gilley gossum is making a huge difference in that role.  My congratulations to joyce and to the members of the executive committee who hired her.  Susan Cooper, dean at California State University, Fullerton—Irvine Campus has been president for this past year, and her campus also hosted the conference:  Great job!  Leigh Atkinson, from Ohio University, was conference chair, and Allison Fitzpatrick, from Brookdale Community College was co-chair.  They and their committee had everything well organized, and if there were any glitches, I didn’t notice them.

If you see this post, then by all means track down NABCA.  You can become a member, “friend” NABCA on Facebook, and join their LinkedIn group.  Check out and keep returning, because things are moving ahead quickly.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Comments Regarding "Out on a Limb: A Branch Campus Life"

Early feedback on my book, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life, has been gratifying.  I’m pleased that people find it an interesting read, but even happier when they find helpful information or ideas.  There are so few resources for people working on branches that I hope my contribution might provide some support or encouragement.

A few friends have asked about my intended audience, and that’s a good question.  Although I’d like to think that lots of people might find Out on a Limb interesting, the specific reader I kept in mind as I wrote was a campus chief administrator (dean, director, or whatever the title).  In particular, I was thinking about an individual who recently landed on a branch campus without having an extensive branch background.  I know from meeting people at NABCA and RBCA meetings that one can feel a little lost and alone out on that limb, and so I wanted to extend a helping hand.

Secondarily, I also was thinking about a main campus administrator who has branches reporting to him or her and wants some help in thinking through the branch mission, opportunities and challenges.  I’ve met a number of individuals, from presidents on down, who have more or less inherited branch responsibility, and they may quickly begin to realize that working with branches is different than anything they’ve done before.

More broadly, I think the book will be of particular interest to administrators and other professional staff.  Faculty members may or may not be interested in most of the topics covered, although I personally believe the more anyone understands about how branches grow or decline, the better they will be able to contribute to the success of their own campus and to design a satisfying professional career.

I’ve also been asked about my decision to approach the book more or less as a memoir.  Frankly, that decision was the most difficult planning choice that I made.  It was driven partly by the lack of research or other sources that could have supported the broad presentation that I wanted, but also by my desire to present something of a branch campus story, rather than necessarily a work of scholarship.  Eventually, the book concept fell in place for me, when I organized chapters to follow my career trajectory.  Thus, my decisions about audience and to use what I call a “quasi-memoir” approach were conscious decisions on my part that gave the project its focus and structure.

Just as a reminder, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life is available through Amazon, in either a print or Kindle version.  Tell your friends and colleagues! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Out on a Limb: A Branch Campus Life

I’m pleased to announce publication of my new book, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life.  It has been a long time coming, but it is now available on Amazon, in both a print (paperback) version and a Kindle e-book version.  You can find it at (Kindle version) or (Print version).

Chapter topics are:

1.     A Partial Memoir
2.     Characteristics of a Branch Campus
3.     Politics, Purpose, and Practice
4.     Students
5.     Branch Campus Faculty Members
6.     Branch Campus Support Staff
7.     Agendas and Stakeholders
8.     Financing and Managing Budgets on Branch Campuses
9.     Lessons Learned:  Leadership on and in Support of Branch Campuses
10.  Future Challenges and Opportunities

Writing for my blogs, especially Branch Campus Life, definitely helped organize my thoughts and ideas around branch campuses, but I drew directly from previous material on only a few occasions.  No doubt, the book was enhanced by the many opportunities I’ve had to visit institutions around the United States and, in a few cases, in other countries.  Each campus has its own story to tell, yet there are relatively consistent themes that I encounter everywhere I go.

My goal with the book was to tell a story.  Because there is so little research on branch campuses, I drew heavily on my own experience, and I make no claim that Out on a Limb is a work of scholarship.  On the other hand, I’d be pleased if it led others to look thoughtfully and creatively at some of the issues I raise. 

Toward the end of the book I became more direct about what I believe to be critical for branches to succeed in the future.  These campuses are an important resource for students and for institutions, but if people don’t understand the unique nature of branch campuses and the keys to their success in a highly competitive environment, then opportunities are likely to be lost.

As I wrote, I especially had branch chief administrators in mind.  Leading a branch campus is a challenging role, but it also can be immensely rewarding and can open the door to higher education for people who otherwise would be pushed to an online environment for which they are not prepared, or forced to turn away from their dreams.  Branches change lives in myriad ways.  If you work on a branch campus you should be grateful for the opportunity and proud of the difference you make.

I hope readers will find Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life interesting and helpful.  If you know people who might enjoy reading the book, I hope you will let them know it is available.  As always, I’m also interested in opportunities to provide coaching or consulting services, visit institutions to facilitate a planning conversation, or speak at meetings with an adult learner or nontraditional student theme.

Finally, I want to express my appreciation for the many friends and colleagues I have around the country.  Your support and willingness to share ideas has made a great contribution to my work.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Time for a Break

I think it is time for me to take a more extended break from regular posting to this blog.  I’ve covered a lot of topics over a number of years, and although I will continue to post from time to time if I feel I have something to say, I’m not sure I can add much more value by trying to make monthly or bi-monthly posts.  Of course, all of my previous posts will be available on this site.

My intention with the blog was to provide a resource that might be of use to people who work on branch campuses or who have some main campus oversight responsibility for branches.  Personal feedback over the years has been gratifying, so I think I reached my goal, even if the number of monthly visits was in the hundreds, not the thousands.  The number of international readers was a surprise to me, but very pleasantly so.

At this point, I am more interested in working with individuals or with institutions in a more personal way.  I enjoy my work as a consultant, and I am a certified professional coach, which supports working with individuals or leadership teams as they look to the future. On a few occasions I’ve been employed by an institution to participate in a one-time discussion about their branch organizational structure or their strategies to encourage enrollment growth.  On other occasions I developed and facilitated planning workshops to engage various stakeholders in a conversation about the future of branch campuses.

As a coach, I’ve worked with individuals who find themselves in a new leadership role, in which having a coach (a “trusted advisor”) outside of the home institution can be helpful.  I’ve also worked with younger administrators who have been identified as having potential for advancement, but may benefit from coaching around strengths-based leadership, building a strong team, or the development of negotiation skills.

I want to mention here that another reason my posting has been less frequent is that I am completing a book on branch campuses.  The book is tentatively titled Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life, and it should be out in the spring in both electronic and print versions.  I will announce its publication here, and I hope readers of my blog consider buying a copy.  Better yet, if you are in a branch campus leadership position, buy enough copies for everyone on your staff and invite me for a teleconference or a visit!

I enjoy sharing ideas and exploring possibilities, and these are increasingly challenging times for many institutions.  Branch campuses have so much to offer, but it is important to get the programing, services, and finances right, to understand marketing and entrepreneurship, and to build the right types of internal and external partnerships.  Please get in touch, if I can be of help.

Watch for that book announcement!