President’s Perspective: Seeking volunteers for “kitchen cabinet”

October 8, 2013  |  

Randy J. DunnBy President Randy J. Dunn

Greetings!

As you will see with this “Perspectives” column on occasion, I will sometimes ask for your help as part of my bi-weekly missive. Today is just such a case.

I am in the process of forming two work groups out of my office – I’m calling them Issue Management Teams – and I am hoping that a few of you might join me in the effort. Let me explain what I have in mind.

I am going to be putting together two teams, one to look at Recruitment Marketing and the other to consider International Partnerships. I like to use the structure of an issue management team to generate new ideas and expand institutional thinking across a fairly narrow focus area and for a fairly short period of time, usually less than an academic year.

The point of these issue teams is not to undertake the overall functional responsibility – nor even specific jobs or tasks – of the areas under review. Such rightly belongs to those administrative units charged with doing such work, respectively in this case, the Office of Marketing Communications and the Center for International Studies and Programs. And it is not for the teams to micromanage or second-guess in any way the ongoing work of these or any other offices on campus.

Rather, my idea of using these informal groups (as I have frequently over the years) is to create a kind of “kitchen cabinet” – or group of knowledgeable, unofficial advisors – who can assist me in providing the best guidance, direction, advice, counsel and ideas possible to those who are serving in these important functional areas for YSU.  Indeed, the “client” of any issue management team is really myself, as I look for more and better ways that I can strengthen and support our people who are doing this critical work for the university…in this case, to increase enrollment and opportunities for internationalization.

Given this background, my selection of individuals to assist me on both the marketing and partnership teams is purposive and intentional. Each team will be comprised of six to eight individuals, both internal and external to YSU, but who are not staffers within the related offices. And it is not simply a generic focus group. Instead, I’m seeking out those who have developed an expertise, background, knowledge base or specific intelligence from previous opportunities and experiences here or elsewhere. As one example: A current YSU faculty member may have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with a foreign university partner during his or her previous employment – I want an opportunity to learn from that experience to inform my own thinking of what we might do here.

Also, though I refer to it as an issues management team, the “management” term refers to the handling of the issue itself – not the fact that the group must be comprised of YSU managers. I am looking to any constituency of the campus that has the background and willingness to share what he or she has learned around recruitment marketing and building international partnerships.

So, if you have a particular interest in volunteering, and believe you have some good advice to share, please call my office or send me an email (randy.dunn@ysu.edu),  and we can explore that further.  I do not anticipate a large amount of meeting time, nor do I believe that the groups will need to be convened beyond the next six months, at most. I would look forward to getting the opportunity to get to know some of you better, while at the same time “picking your brains” for your thinking about best practices in those fields you’ll be assisting with. I hope to hear from a few of you who might have interest within the next week to 10 days, so that we can get our team meetings underway.

A Note About Budget Reductions: As you’ve noted on campus, we’re going through a challenging period to bring our budget into balance by June 30, 2014.  I appreciate your patience during what is always a difficult and frustrating time. This is not the first occasion where YSU has faced this problem, and I know it’s been even more disruptive in previous years – but again, I hope there can be a shared understanding around the importance of preserving academic programs and services to the maximum extent during this time. Enrollment has taken a tremendous hit these past three years as most of you know. However, if there’s any silver lining here, it’s the fact that we have the potential and ability to move our numbers and thereby stabilize our revenue, and work is well underway for that purpose. We are “planning our work and working our plan” to grow the university first; if we don’t see sufficient growth with a reasonable investment of time and resources, then our organizational conversation will turn to a re-visioning of YSU at whatever the new “set point” of our enrollment is.  We have miles to go and much work left to do, and there will be ebbs and flows in that process.

Finally, I want to thank our union presidents for their call to form a joint task force to look at alternative approaches for budget reductions at YSU. While there is no promised outcome to this undertaking, and the limited number of planned layoffs will move forward during this period, it is always a plus to bring folks together to examine critical issues, communicate interests, and see if alternative actions exist. If all the parties can find other areas of budget savings upon which we all can agree, particularly if jobs can be saved, then it’s worth sitting down to explore ideas.

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