On March 1, 2012 Dr. Linda Eisenmann, Provost, and Dr. Lee Williams, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Wheaton College in Norton, MA spent time with members of the BSU Student Affairs staff to talk about Academic Affairs/Student Affairs collaboration. The fact that they started working at Wheaton at the same time helped to establish a working relationship between members of two separate divisions that was different than at other times in their careers. They learned about the history and character of the institution, at which they are now employed, at the same time. This mutual starting point allowed them to be on even ground and helped to make the relationship building easier. They acknowledge different work/management styles yet focus on similar things; mainly developing an environment that promotes learning and helps to bring students to graduation. Retention is a job that belongs to everyone at the institution regardless of the division in which a staff member is employed. Neither woman concentrates on the primacy of their own agenda but rather on their part in fostering the institutional mission. When ego is not in the way it is easier to work together toward a common goal.
A recent opportunity became available when the long-time Director of Athletics retired. It seemed that before bringing on a new person to lead the Athletics program it would be beneficial to develop a better understanding on how Athletics fit into the institutional mission. Williams and Eisenmann worked to develop a group of college community members to study the place of Athletics in Wheaton’ s past and present to help set future direction. Faculty and staff worked together to review the program’s place in the institution and identified its strengths and weaknesses. The process brought faculty and staff together to help make an informed decision about the future of the program and therefore the implications for the leadership of the program.
Not all of the joint efforts were immediately successful. A decision to redesign the orientation program for new students into a summer session seemed to be a good idea however did not run as smoothly as expected. The change was a significant one and it became apparent that not enough study had gone into all of the implications for all involved.
What they learned from the experiences were a few things to consider when working collaboratively.
• Joint efforts need clear goals
• Data led work to accomplish change is favorable
• Joint efforts benefit from good resource (budgetary) justification
• Small steps help move the process along smoothly
It was clear from their presentation that two campus leaders have a good working relationship that is built on mutual admiration and trust. They understand the responsibility they have for their respective “divisions” but also understand that neither of them stands alone. They acknowledge that working together toward institutional priorities is essential to their overall success and ultimately the success of the students and the institution. They are good examples of Academic and Student Affairs Collaborators.