Colby 360 is grounded in the philosophy that teaching is a central component of student affairs. As such, its organizational structure and personnel and resource management strategies must be constructed in a way that supports this approach. Key elements of the planning process were to assess the organizational chart and deployment of staffing resources, review facilities, and evaluate the allocation of financial resources. Out of that process, four overarching management objectives have been adopted to guide organizational decision making for the Division of Student Affairs:
- Emphasize direct, personal interaction with students
- Support pedagogy of 360° learning
- Commit to a culture of planning
- Maximize financial efficiency
These objectives provide the foundation for a number of changes to the organizational structure and management strategy in student affairs.
Objective: Emphasize direct, personal interaction with students throughout all student affairs programs.
Rationale: Student learning is best supported by close interaction between students and instructors. Similarly, close interaction between students and members of the student affairs staff has a positive impact on student learning in residential and co-curricular settings.
Example 1: In the fall 2007 term the Office of the Dean of Students introduced the Advising Dean Program, which supports and enhances Colby’s commitment to first-rate, individual advising of students. The College has a well-established program of academic advising wherein all members of the Colby faculty serve as advisors to both first-year students and students majoring in a particular discipline. Recognizing that the types of issues with which students require assistance do not always fit neatly into the academic realm, the Office of the Dean of Students established the advising dean system to ensure that all students have a point of contact for personal and administrative advising throughout their tenure at the College. A detailed description of the Advising Dean Program can be found in Appendix I.
Example 2: The newly created Office of Campus Life (described in detail below) is adopting a staffing model designed to maximize interaction with students. Specifically, during the 2007-2008 academic year two full-time staff members who are recent Colby graduates will work primarily with students to support student government, social programming options, and residential education. The guiding philosophy is that this staffing model will lead to more, and more meaningful, opportunities for student affairs staff to mentor and “coach” students in residential and co-curricular educational settings.
Rationale: Colby 360 represents an approach to residential and co-curricular education that is centered on teaching and instruction. As such, the organizational framework is designed to support desired learning outcomes.
Example 1: The Office of Campus Life was created in July 2007 through the merging of all staff, administrative functions, and programs previously overseen by the offices of residential life and housing, student activities, and outdoor safety and education. The Office of Campus Life provides a platform for meaningful collaboration among the programming arm of the Division of Student Affairs, student organizations (including student government), and other areas of the College. This in turn will enable the staff to be more deliberate in working to enhance intellectual life on campus and the learning outcomes and strategic objectives of Colby 360.
Key initiatives that have already been introduced include:
· A First-Year Student Orientation program emphasizing intellectual life and the academic program at Colby. A partnership of Colby faculty, Howard Gardner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Institute for Global Ethics, introduced the day-long Meaningful Work and Life at Colby program as the centerpiece of orientation.
· An overhauled and reconceived approach to residence hall programming called CL 6, which is focused on six learning outcomes and aims to promote them through active participation in existing programs and lectures being sponsored at the College rather than requiring hall staff members to develop and implement programs on their own.
· A restructured approach to new student arrival day and orientation for new student parents/families.
· Plans to review and restructure housing selection in ways that advance the learning outcomes identified in Colby 360 (e.g., advancing student engagement with diversity through student housing, introducing merit-based procedures for some parts of housing selection that would require students to produce written proposals and/or give short oral presentations as part of the process, etc.).
· Work with the Student Government Association to restructure the student treasury to increase transparency, introduce checks and balances and greater accountability, and ensure fiscal responsibility to an organization that has a history of budget deficits over the past 10 to15 years.
Example 2: The staff of the Garrison Foster Health Center is developing strategies to use student health services as a platform for students to develop a greater understanding of issues of personal health and wellness as well as matters of public health.
Example 3: In the fall of 2006 the Building Colby Community through Art and Culture (BCCAC) was introduced as a way of increasing opportunities for Colby students to experience the arts on campus and in the region. By contracting services of an external consultant with expertise in community-based art promotion and production, we have been able to give Colby students more opportunities to develop planning and organizational skills, enhance their understanding of the arts, and work collaboratively with a diverse collection of students, faculty, and staff. Due to the success of BCCAC in 2006-2007, we have extended our relationship with this particular consultant to include work with the Pugh Community Board (PCB). This will facilitate the cross-cultivation of interests among the culturally based groups that make up the PCB with the arts communities on campus.
Example 4: In the fall of 2007, oversight of all student disciplinary functions was centralized under one associate dean. This move was made to increase consistency, enhance transparency, and improve efficiency in the student conduct and disciplinary system. A committee has been formed to conduct a comprehensive review of and recommend structural changes to the policies and procedures governing the student disciplinary process. The student disciplinary process plays a vital role in shaping student life on campus and can provide important opportunities for students to learn about and practice self-governance, community oversight, and ethical decision making. The reorganization of staffing and review of student disciplinary procedures is intended to better facilitate student learning while, also ensuring that students facing disciplinary action have access to a fair process.
Example 5: During the 2007-2008 academic year, a comprehensive review is being conducted of the chaplaincy and support for student religious/spiritual life on campus. Understanding the importance of spirituality in students’ lives, the Division of Student Affairs seeks to review and assess the current organization of the chaplaincy at the College to enhance institutional support for student spiritual life.
Rationale: Deliberate, goal-based planning is essential to advance the educational objectives of 360° learning. Given the plethora of administrative functions for which the Division of Student Affairs is responsible, absent a deliberate, planning-based approach to management, staff and departments tend to get be mired in a reactive stance – putting out “brush fires” rather than focusing on educational opportunities. Introducing a strategic approach to residential and co-curricular education will enable us to advance the program and contribute to student learning outcomes in a more fulsome way.
Example 1: Beginning in the fall of 2006, all staff members, offices, and programs were required to develop a set of annual goals approved by the vice president for student affairs/dean of students that serves as the basis for annual program and staff performance evaluations.
Example 2: Through the 2007 spring and summer, each student affair department/program was also required to develop and adopt a vision/mission statement to serve as the basis for future goal setting and decision making.
Example 3: The Division of Student Affairs has committed to adopting three to five annual strategic objectives focused on addressing key issues in student life in a timely, agile, and action-oriented manner. For the 2007-2008 academic year the annual strategic objectives are:
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse
- Diversity and Human Difference
- Student Academic Support
- Engaged Citizenship/Understanding Democracy
To advance these objectives four interdepartmental working groups have been formed and charged with identifying two to three action items under each objective, developing an implementation plan, and carrying out implementation. The philosophy behind the annual strategic objective initiative and the working groups is to commit to taking tangible steps to address large-scale, vexing issues in student life. While permanent solutions for issues like alcohol abuse do not likely exist, by adopting a focused, strategic approach we can effect change and improve conditions on campus. Moreover, by giving the working groups a short timeframe in which to do their work and begin implementation we can infuse vitality and agility to the program, which is critical to staying current and relevant to college student life.
Rationale: Effective financial oversight is an essential component of any well-functioning organization. By focusing more energy on budget planning, financial management of allocated resources, and exploring possible external funding opportunities we can improve the overall quality of the organization and improve outcomes for students.
Example 1: Explore the possibility of working with human resources and the budget office to provide a budget management workshop for student affairs staff. Most mid-and upper-level student affairs managers have little or no training in financial management. A basic workshop on preparing and managing a budget, as well as basic information about the College’s annual operating budget and fund accounting, would help them to be better budget managers and College citizens.
Example 2: Work with the college relations staff to identify areas of the student affairs program that may be appropriate targets for external funding. Particularly as we explore programs around enhancing understanding of diversity and human difference, civic engagement, and alcohol/substance abuse prevention, there may be grant writing opportunities worth exploring. Similarly, other aspects of the Colby 360 initiative may prove to be appealing opportunities for potential donors.