Minutes, Truman Chapter of AAUP
December 4, 2009, 4:30 pm
Meetings are open to all university faculty members.
Faculty present: Betty McLane-Iles (presiding), Nabil Alghalith, Martha Bartter, James Harmon, Jerry Hirsch, Diane Johnson, Wolfgang Hoeschele, Judi Misale, David Robinson, James Turner
Guest: Andy Hilgartner
1. Minutes of the November 6 meeting were approved (with minor changes to the draft version).
1a. Judi Misale is still assessing the “State of the University” survey; we hope that the results, with her analysis, can be posted soon.
2. Jim Turner, a retiring faculty member from our School of Business, also serves on the Executive Committee of the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club. He informed us about environmental issues currently affecting our state and our universities. In particular, University of Missouri President Forsee recently published a letter, stating that his university was opposed to pending national environmental legislation. Since then, he has backtracked somewhat, but the public backlash against Forsee has galvanized environmental groups in our state and region. Besides speaking out of turn (having neglected even to check with MU Board of Curators before making his political statement), President Forsee definitely betrayed a rejectionist attitude, when universities could and should be leaders in planning, where possible also acting, to develop sound energy programs for the future.
Jim shared lots of literature, mostly from the Columbia press; for example,
We discussed what Truman State University is doing and could do to meet environmental challenges. Interim President Krueger’s Environmental Advisory Committee has already proposed a “sustainability initiative,” and we all really need to be more aware of our energy costs, since everyone has to be part of the solution to this problem. Betty and Diane volunteered to see if Physical Plant has any information on this problem, and James Harmon will talk to the Campus Planner. We will consider having a town-hall or similar event in the near future. For information about Truman programs thus far, see:
3. Wolfgang Hoeschele led a discussion of Appreciative Inquiry.
We spent some time discussing the broad theoretical and, where possible, practical ideas that characterize this more positive (and thus a less destructively critical or “constipated”) approach to institutional dynamics. We append Wolfgang’s introductory memo to these minutes.
During this discussion, Andy Hilgartner referred us to his research, urging that it could provide perspective on understanding hidden assumptions and changing those assumptions to be able to solve some of these recurring problems. Check links for “research” and “essays” at www.hilgart.org
4. The issues of increasing family benefits and “conversion” of contingent faculty lines, in anticipation of a future meeting with Troy. We decided to add Appreciative Inquiry to our agenda of the meeting with Troy. [Since this meeting, Troy was announced as a finalist in our search for university president; this development may affect the timing of our meeting with him.]
5. New business from members.
Diane Johnson, a member of Faculty Senate, told us about a recent inquiry that came to her from a faculty member in Business, concerning an interdisciplinary minor that may have disappeared or been replaced without going through proper governance channels. We will follow up on this allegation, with concern that proper procedures are being followed.
Respectfully submitted by David Robinson, acting secretary
Appreciative Inquiry: A possible way forward for Truman?
As Truman State University is facing substantial challenges in recruiting students and obtaining financial resources, while there is also a fair amount of suspicion among the faculty about the administration and considerable inertia inhibiting change within both the faculty and administration, it may be time for a new approach to charting the university’s future. I suggest here that this new approach might consist of an exercise in appreciative inquiry and management.
Appreciative inquiry was pioneered since the late 1980s by David Cooperrider and others at Case Western Reserve University; it was initially applied to for-profit corporations, but has since been applied to many non-profit institutions such as hospitals and schools, to government agencies, and to economic development activities. (I first learned about this approach in India as it is applied by Myrada, which uses it at the village level in order to spark economic development and use of natural resources that really benefits the entire village community.) The core idea is to identify the strengths of an institution (or a village) and then seek ways to build on those, instead of pinpointing all the problems and then trying to eliminate them. The latter approach tends to promote negative thinking that is not conducive to visionary leadership or change; appreciative inquiry is instead designed to energize people, empowering them to transform the institutions where they work in ways that were previously considered impossible.
More specifically, an appreciative inquiry process designed to move an institution forward involves “four Ds,” namely Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. In the Discovery phase, a large number of stakeholders in an institution are asked to identify their own past experiences of peak performance within the context of that institution, and to reflect on what made these peak experiences possible. In the Dream phase, the same (and possibly more) people are asked to dream what it would be like if the institution regularly performed at this peak level, not just occasionally. Since it is rooted in actual experiences, these dreams are grounded and not just castles in the air. The Design phase concentrates on designing methods to actually make those dreams come true, while the Destiny phase focuses on implementation. In all phases, numerous stakeholders (which in our case would include faculty and staff, students, Kirksville community members, and perhaps parents and state legislators) are involved.
Appreciative inquiry is not completely new to Truman – some portions of it have been used in university-level conferences, and in the retreat led by Michael Kelrick and Judi Schweitzer to get started on the implementation of the President’s Sustainability Initiative that took place earlier this semester. However, in order to have a real impact, real resources of time and effort will have to be devoted to an appreciative inquiry, and there has to be follow-through through all the four phases just mentioned (that follow-through has not yet happened as far as the Sustainability Initiative is concerned). I would suggest that the fall semester of 2010 would offer an excellent opportunity to start on such a venture, allowing sufficient preparatory time to put together a team to lead the process and acquaint everybody within that team with the logic and methods of appreciative inquiry, and then getting the new university president involved as soon as he/she begins working at the university. This would create the most auspicious conditions for creating a collaborative and mutually supportive relationship between the new university president and the faculty, staff and students, and for launching the university on a path towards dramatic and steady improvement.
Substantial resources are available in order to carry out an appreciative inquiry. These include:
David Copperrider, Diana Whitney, and Jacqueline Stavros (2008), Appreciative Inquiry Handbook, Second Edition, Crown Custom Publishing, Brunswick, Ohio and Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco. (This includes details about how each “D” can be performed, sample worksheets to be used in the process, descriptions of what various organizations did and achieved through this process, and an extensive bibliography of published literature, among other resources.)
The associated website from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve is to be found at: http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/