We have a generation of young adults,
many of whom are struggling with making good decisions.
Let's highlight one area where this happens.
Students don't have an academic problem,
they have a vision problem.
And I'm not talking about their eyesight.
So what am I talking about?
Applying themselves in the classroom starts with an ability to understand why they are there in the first place. If the primary reason is because "they have to be", that ship isn't gonna sail.
The Millennial generation fell out of love with "because I said so" a long time ago.
How do you help an at-risk student achieve the success they want, you want for them, and what the world needs from them?
Stop telling them what to do,
and start helping them discover who they are,
so that they will buy in to why they are there.
They won't care about your "because" until they know THE CAUSE.
Why am I doing it?
Who will it help?
What problem will it solve locally?
What problem will it solve globally?
How will this class help me change the world?
We either start answering these questions intentionally,
or we will continue to see them struggle academically.
So we've identified the problem...
but HOW...how does it change?
What is the solution?
THIS PROCESS IS A START.
I've watched this process change thinking.
I've watched this process change lives.
When you help them discover their vision,
they will want to follow direction.
Systems & structures aren't the enemy
of the Millennial generation.
Helping them understand why they exist,
and how their talents fit into this world?
That's the secret sauce.
Because when they know WHO they are,
they will know WHAT to do.
Or we can keep beating the drum saying everything we've been saying, changing nothing, risking even less...and expecting a completely different outcome. (AKA...rolling the dice)
I believe that's pretty close to the definition of insanity.
These 141 testimonials represent the hope that comes when we go first, change our approach, and risk more...all in the name of a generation that needs us to fight for them, not with them. (AKA...solving the problem)
How can you help?
Glad you asked.
Do you know someone in leadership at a University?
Simply share this blog with them,
and ask them to listen to the 141 voices for themselves.
Then have them call me, so I can tell them what made it happen.
(This number works best for that...716-672-9661)
Thanks for joining us in spreading the word.
You're the best!
It's been talked about a lot, lately. Largely because it's a core attribute of the Millennial generation. With their ability to access almost anything from anywhere at the drop of a hat, how decisions are made is changing.
Collaboration is no longer a nicety, it's a necessity.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I believe the concept was invented yesterday, and the many generations prior to Millennials never worked in groups to solve problems. But...the fact is that the needle towards how much emphasis is placed on collaboration is moving, and moving fast.
When you can get information from anywhere, it's expected that any voice that wants to be part of the conversation can be. And we no longer live in a world where that is up for debate. Ask just about any organization, and they will tell you (if they know what they are doing) they no longer "control" the conversation about who they are.
The same is true in higher education.
And that's not bad news.
It should be seen as an amazing opportunity.
To connect. To engage. To empower.
What's the alternative?
The exhaustion found in isolation.
Administrators having closed door meetings, deciding on the entire direction their institution will take. Faculty believing their only role is to teach, and retreating to their office with a closed door when they are done. Students understanding that thumbs on keyboards, and earbuds in ears aren't valuing the relationships next to them. All of it creating more isolation, when what we need is healthy conversation. Across all groups of people, and beyond just the walls of the institution.
I'm not over-generalizing, and saying this is the case everywhere, for every University. But I'd be willing to bet that there are pockets of this on most campuses. And therein lies the amazing opportunity. Again...trading isolation for conversation.
No University is an island. And it's time to look deeper into why the recruitment, enrollment, and retention challenges are here, and what can be done about them.
There are 3 things that the exhaustion from isolation
will do to any team. And more good news...it's avoidable.
1. Desperation: Some institutions of higher learning fall into this trap. It's trying every idea that comes across the table to be "relevant". Most of the ideas tried end up being ones other Universities have tried, and have been remotely successful with in the past. The problem? Notice I said "the past". There is no forward thinking leadership in desperation. It's hang on and survive, not step out and thrive. But, Brett..."new" might not work. You're right. If it does? You just traded in desperation for innovation. That's a solid upgrade.
2. Frustration: When enrollment and retention begin to decrease, frustration increases. Trying to solve the problem only through internal channels may seem like the natural play here. I'd suggest this is the time to look externally as well. A "both-and" approach. Taking the best of who you are and connecting it with the very connected world "outside the University walls". Fighting off frustration comes when leadership is committed to doing something very different. Daring to question the status quo.
3. Unmet Expectation: Unfortunately, this is the "blame game" portion of the program. It's when the numbers don't look good, so the institution looks for the person they need to pin it on. I would suggest it's less of a person problem at this point, and simply a vision problem. What do I mean by that? It could be one of a few things. The University may not have a vision that is clear and concise (not a wordy paragraph where every other word is five syllables, just to sound good). If you can't articulate it, how can anyone be expected to follow it? If the University does have this in place, it's possible that hiring faculty and staff is done more as a "fill the position" mode, than to "support the vision". Bringing in people who aren't sold out to who you are and why you exist is a recipe for unmet expectations, because the measure of success looks different to everyone. And lastly...the recruitment never stands a chance, because it's being done by best of intentions, rather than intentionally. The "fill the funnel" method...aka, just get them here, and get a deposit. It just doesn't work that way anymore. Sometimes you have to grow differently. Addition, by subtraction...so that you can multiply. Cut out what doesn't cling to your vision (prune), so that who you are can grow back even stronger over time.
I realize it can be hard to have these conversations, and I applaud all of the Universities that are currently taking the time to do so. It's time we look at collaboration as a gift. The alternative? Continuing to work in isolation...facing the unwanted acts of desperation, feelings of frustration, and the reality of unmet expectations.
I have a friend, who is a professor, that made a comment recently about what needs to happen in higher education. Short, sweet and to the point.
"Deconstruct to reconstruct".
The only way it will work is through true collaboration.
Administration, faculty, staff, students...
AND those outside the 4 walls of the institution.
In the same room.
Make the decision to be intentional about building these relationships,
so that you create teams of influence.
That's how you...
Change a campus.
Change a life.
Change the world.
One collaboration at a time.
Today alone, I have been in contact with Universities that have the following titles on their leadership teams...
Director of Student Success & Retention
Director of First Year Programs
Director of Campus Life & First Year Experiences
VP of Student Success & Calling
Dean of Student Success & First Year Experience
Director of First Year Experience
When I hear these titles,
I can't help but get excited.
This is educational leadership at the highest level.
They are recognizing that the world of higher education is changing...
and doing everything they can to lead the way.
These titles tell me that campus leaders are willing to do whatever it takes to meet students where they are at. By doing so, they are walking with students on their journey, to get them where they are called to go.
It doesn't get any better than that!
It's an honor and a privilege to be part of that process.
The 2015-2016 academic year is going to be EPIC!
Buckle-up and enjoy the journey!!!
Helping students identify WHO they are and WHY they exist isn’t just something to do,
it’s giving them an opportunity to articulate the someone they are.
And without someone knowing WHO they are,
how can they possibly know WHAT to do?
I'll prove my point...
We are addicted to "WHAT" questions...
and we start asking them about the time kids can talk right through their college years.
WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?
WHAT is your favorite subject?
WHAT is your major?
WHAT are you going to do with that?
WHAT kind of job do you want?
But when questions are based on WHAT they should do, we miss the point.
On the other hand, when they are based on WHO they are, everything changes.
Try these WHAT questions instead...
WHAT breaks your heart?
WHAT do you daydream about when you are in school?
WHAT would you change if money were no object?
WHAT keeps you up at night when you can't sleep?
WHAT gets you so excited it's hard to sit still?
That will get you closer to understanding WHO students are, WHY they exist, and the unique purpose they are hard-wired to fulfill. They've got gifts, and talents that could change the world. But when they are simply used to check off boxes for majors and jobs to get through school and pay bills...again, we've missed the point.
When we value WHO they are (relationship) over just WHAT they could do (transaction),
we help them get to WHERE they will one day leave a legacy of massive impact.
That sounds exciting!
For your University.
And most importantly...
For the lives they'll change,
as they live out their calling.
Your "retention problem",
is really a relationship opportunity.
It's a much needed shift in perspective.
It's a much needed shift in focus.
From trying to come up with initiatives to keep someone (that sounds like prison),
to creating environments to get to know someone (that sounds like a lot of fun).
No two experiences on campus will ever be the same.
They can't be.
Every single student coming to your University brings different baggage.
And not just the ones on move in weekend.
The emotional ones they carry with them every, single day as they go to and from class.
The emotional ones they carry with them trying to look strong, when they feel weak.
The emotional ones they carry with them when they aren't accepted by someone.
The list is longer than we'd ever know.
And the effort it takes to carry them weighs on a person's heart.
It did for me as a college freshman,
and it does for many, many students on your campus as well.
But here is the good news...
The opportunity is greater than ever before.
Engage them in conversation from day one.
Empower them to talk about their baggage and they'll be more likely to open it up.
Excite them that their best days are still in front of them, on your campus.
Energize them by showing them they aren't alone, and that others carry baggage too.
Remind them they are a relationship you value,
by creating an experience that matches your words.
Give them access to people who have been through what they are going through,
not just people that want to "fix" them so they don't leave school.
That's a very important part of the process.
People respond to the opportunity to hear from someone who has been in their shoes.
You'll be amazed how willing they are to open up about what their greatest needs are, so that in 4 years or so they walk across a stage having reached their next milestone.
It's what you want.
It's what they want.
It's what I wanted.
And it will happen when we stop referring to them as a retention problem,
and start honoring them as real people, with real needs through a real relationship.
It's what helped me on my journey from failing out of college,
to becoming a scholarship musician and athlete, and graduating Cum Laude.
There are countless stories similar to mine waiting to unfold on your campus.
The only question is are you willing to seek out the conversations early on,
so that you don't have confrontations (removal from school) when it's too late?
I believe you are.
I believe you can.
I believe you will.
Please remember to connect with someone who has carried the burden of failing out, as part of your freshman initiatives. There aren't many Universities doing this. And if you are looking to lead...to differentiate yourself as a University, that would do it. It's an integral part of the success for every one of your students. And if you don't know where to start looking for that person, I've got good news...
You've already found him.
Another reason your "retention problem", is really...a relationship opportunity.
For you and me,
so that it is for you and your students,
at your University.
If Ben & Jerry started a college.
What a thought!
Their enrollment would go through the roof because of these 5 reasons.
They've done what they can,
with what they have,
where they are.
That's why if Ben & Jerry ever decided to start a College they'd crush it.
Value Your People.
Seems simple really.
Yet so many Universities are stuck in the Vanilla ice-cream race,
trying to be just like that place down the road...or across the country.
Stop being a "me-too" University,
and you'll stand a chance of being the Ben & Jerry's of Higher Education.
The AmeriCone Dream.
Go create one the next generation wants to be part of.
From the desk of our founder, Brett W. Gould.