Leading Campus-Wide Committees

MegSidle2016.jpgAsk eAIR invites questions from AIR members about the work of institutional research, careers in the field, and other broad topics that resonate with a large cross-section of readers. Questions may be submitted to eAIR@airweb.org.

This month’s question is answered by Meg Sidle, Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, Pikeville University.

The ideas, opinions, and perspectives expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily AIR. Members are invited to join the discussion by commenting at the end of the article

Dear Meg: What advice do you have for IR professionals involved in leading campus-wide committees?

Institutional research professionals are reasonable choices for leading committees on their campuses in such comprehensive areas as student retention, outcomes assessment, regional accreditation, and long-range planning. Whether you are leading a campus-wide committee at a small college or a large university, there are some basic concepts to keep in mind for successfully completing the charge of the group:

Use the expertise in the room. While you have been asked to chair the committee, you were not asked to do everything yourself. Keep in mind that the other members of the committee also have experiences and abilities that need to be fully utilized. For example, you know the retention rate and have computed the regression model to determine retention factors; however, the faculty (who teach the students) and the student affairs professionals (who see the students outside of class) on the committee know what students are saying and feeling that affect their decisions to remain enrolled at the institution. It will be the combination of this expertise that will help address the retention issues on your campus.

Allow the committee process to work. Institutional researchers are typically “doers,” and, hence, sometimes have difficulty being a part of committees when exchanges of ideas and attitudes need to have a place throughout the life of the group. Remember, this dialogue is not a waste of time but a necessary process for the committee to come to the best solution for the issue at hand. For instance, coming to a consensus on what exactly constitutes a learning outcome versus a learning goal will impact full adoption of the assessment plan by the faculty on campus and their timely completion of those annual program reports.

Use committee members’ time wisely. Developing a manageable agenda for each meeting (and sticking to it) will ensure that the committee’s work is effectively accomplished. There is a difference between healthy dialogue and beating a dead horse. Perhaps one of the most important roles of the committee chairperson is to recognize the difference and tactfully move the committee to agreement so that the group can address the next item on the agenda. While it is good to hear what went wrong with compiling the compliance document for the last accreditation visit, at some point the committee needs to start preparing the compliance document for the current visit.

Give everyone a task. The work of the committee is not completed entirely during the hour of the monthly meeting. Assigning tasks to be completed before the next meeting will not only keep everyone engaged in the life of the group, but will also ensure that the charge of the committee gets accomplished on time. Because everyone on the committee is busy, these duties cannot be too laborious. Biting off small pieces of the accreditation requirements and standards will result in a completed compliance document.

Listen and observe. The chairperson’s primary role is to see that the committee maintains a healthy relationship among its members while successfully completing its work. During the long-range planning meeting, is everyone engaged? Has someone’s input been dismissed, and therefore he or she has stopped participating? Is someone dominating the discussion and the rest of the group is looking to you to step in? To lead a campus-wide committee, you need to be able to listen to what the committee members are (and are not, in some cases) saying, and this will most certainly include observing non-verbal communication.

What other advice or suggestions do you have for leading campus-wide committees? Share your comments below.



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