Leading Change: What's in a Name?

By Joanne Kossuth posted

The question is often asked, “What is in a name, anyway?” The answer, when it comes to the newly titled EDUCAUSE/CLIR Leading Change Institute, is “Everything.”

The Leading Change Institute, formerly known as The Frye Institute, has a tremendous history including a number of highly connected cohorts from the various classes. When the Frye Leadership Institute welcomed its first class of students in 2000, the prevailing views of higher education leadership, information services, and the relationship of information services to the college community were in flux. According to a review of the Top Ten Trends by EDUCAUSE, in 2000 the focus was on funding IT, faculty development and support, distance education, e-learning environments, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Emerging technologies, advanced networking, e-commerce, and e-learning environments were the issues to watch.

In 2000, conversations were shifting from a single department or campus focus to a collaborative theme. Regional connectivity and networks were works in progress, and digitizing materials and archives had become a burgeoning business. “E” conversations were dominant and information services professionals were looked to as resources to navigate the path from print to digital repositories. Classroom technologies were becoming more complex and faculty and other academic professionals were seeking guidance, training, and assistance in leveraging the growing number of electronic tools in order to change the student experience.

Today, the top ten issues as identified in the 2012 EDUCAUSE survey include: updating IT skills and roles, IT consumerization, cloud strategies, using IT to improve efficiencies, integrating IT into institutional decision making, analytics, funding IT strategically, and using IT transformatively. Wow!  The conversation has definitely changed since 2000 and the skill sets of the leaders needed to move forward are fundamentally different.

The need for creative, innovative leaders increases each day, but such leaders are in short supply. Surveys by higher education and library organizations such as EDUCAUSE, ARL, and ACE point to a diminishing number of aspirants seeking careers in information services and a decline in the number desiring to hold the most senior position in these areas.  

In response to this dynamic, fast-paced environment and in conjunction with the feedback from the 2011 institute, the Leading Change Institute will emphasize participant projects and real world experiences that develop higher-level skill sets. A basis of these skill sets is understanding the “bigger” picture of higher education, major issues of the day, perspectives of current institutional leadership, viewpoints of national association leadership, and the interactions of these in developing effective solutions to the challenges of higher education.

The ability to lead change requires flexibility, an understanding of the current issues, the ability to think critically and to analyze issues and potential solutions, a willingness to collaborate, and the ability to think creatively about the best interests of institutions and higher education. Cultivating these qualities requires an environment where viewpoints are shared, positions are advocated for, and individuals are mentored and a gain a network from which they benefit throughout their careers. It is an environment where issues are discussed, investigated, critiqued, collaborated on, and solved in the greater context of the challenges of the next generation.

All leaders are and will be required to be change agents and change managers. The application of lessons learned from colleagues, deans, national leaders and next generation learners will inform and affect the higher education community in ways we can only imagine. Preparation for these positions and challenges is critical and the Leading Change Institute is an important part of the path to the future.

Joanne Kossuth is vice president for operations and chief information officer at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, and a dean of the 2013 Leading Change Institute.