Public Purpose Magazine, Summer 2011
Public Purpose Summer 2011 cover

Stewardship in an Era of ConstraintWhen fiscal realities threaten academic programs and staff slots, how can universities also balance their role as stewards of place?By Stephen G. Pelletier
Beyond expectations that higher education prepare the future workforce and build knowledge through research, society also looks to public universities to be, in AASCU’s parlance, “stewards of place.” To that end, one of the central missions for universities is to contribute directly to their communities by developing regional economic competiveness, improving schools, managing natural resources and helping to chart the future.
When institutional coffers are full, universities can afford to educate students, conduct research, and contribute effectively to their communities and regions as stewards of place. But when times are tough—as they are today—those missions can collide and compete.
Inviting the AASCU community to the association’s 2010 annual conference, then board chair James Votruba, the president of Northern Kentucky University, framed the current realities: “Internally, we are working to guide our campuses through a period of enormous uncertainty and realignment,” Votruba wrote. “Externally, we are being challenged like never before to be full partners in advancing the progress of our nation, its states and communities. In short, we are being challenged to exercise a new level of stewardship on behalf of America’s future.”

Oh My!How to Avoid Social Media Pitfalls and Become a Marketing WizardBy John R. Bell
Public Purpose asked social media guru Scott Stratten for advice on how colleges and universities can improve their use of social media. Stratten was the keynote speaker at AASCU’s 2011 conference for senior communications professionals. He is president of and author of UNMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging.

Public Purpose: How do you think colleges and universities can better use social media? What are some things they’re doing wrong?
Stratten: I’ve found that it’s similar to a lot of other industries, in that there are a few doing a great job, the majority aren’t doing any job at all, and a few are doing it terribly. That’s actually reflective of most industries.
The tragedy is that there’s so much potential with colleges and universities to use it, because their customers—their students—are using it, their potential students are using it, their alumni are using it. The demographic that’s hardest to reach is that teen demographic; they’re the most stubborn. They think they know everything. It’s a lucrative market to go after, especially in the high school grades, when colleges want to go after them. They’re the ones who are using Facebook. They’re now using Twitter more than anyone else.
To me the problem is, social media is tapping into the passive conversation. I don’t think industry grasps that. It’s the most honest, casual conversation that’s going. It’s a conversation between peers.
If I offered this tool 10 years ago to the heads of all colleges and universities across the United States, to listen to the conversations of the youth of North America, you can listen to what other schools are saying, and you can Purposejump in and talk with them, each school would have paid me $50,000 a month to access this earth-shattering tool. But now that it’s here and it’s free, we question it? We wonder what the ROI is going to be?

The Presidential PipelineNontraditional Candidates Often a Natural Fit for Campus Top SpotBy Karen Doss Bowman
When Patrick Gamble was named the 13th president of the University of Alaska Statewide System in June 2010, the retired four-star U.S. Air Force (USAF) general and former head of the Alaska Railroad Corp. had a proven record of managing large organizations with thousands of employees and massive budgets. His experience in education, however, was more limited. He had served for several years as commandant of the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colo.) and had several appointments to university governing boards, including the USAF’s Air University (Ala.).
“The biggest challenge [of the presidency] is there’s a culture deep down inside an organization that you have to figure out and respect,” Gamble says. “During my first year here, I’ve worked really hard to gain a level of understanding of the culture of academia . . . I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of talking to people. I may be an outsider looking in, but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand and respect the culture at the same time.”

Education Information TechnologyHow University Presidents Can Be Green, Global and MobileBy Mohammad H. Qayoumi
Information technology (IT) and the Internet have changed dramatically the very nature of how we live, work and learn. In fact, applications of this everincreasing
technology in education and business have transformed our lives providing increased capacity, efficiency and access to information in our knowledge-based economy and world.
University presidents must appreciate what journalist Frances Cairncross calls the “death of distance”—how the IT/communications revolution has altered radically the relationships between time, space, work and our learning environments. University presidents must recognize the three key dimensions of being green, global and mobile in their approach to using IT in education in this new era.

You Bet!Impatient to Achieve Student Success?By Mildred García
We recently received an evaluation on our “Closing the Achievement Gap” initiatives on campus. The evaluators applauded us for our commitment to student success. Commendations were given for the commitment to student achievement from all sectors of campus including faculty, staff and administrators. The evaluating team met privately with students and reported that the campus community takes the initiative to help students before being asked.
One comment in particular, however, caused me to pause. Although there have been recent and steady gains, the team noted that we shared a “productive impatience,” a feeling that we wish things were moving faster. The team praised our imagination but cautioned us that student success towards graduation—especially for under-represented students and those from the low income strata—is a long-term game of steady, incremental success.