What I Learned at the Leading Change Institute

By the time you read this, my time at the Leading Change Institute will almost be over. I’m heading back to Maine this evening (cross your fingers and toes for a smooth flight). Before I came to this conference, I had a really hard time figuring out exactly what I’d be learning for these 6 days. I knew it was a really prestigious conference, and that it would be full of high powered people and ideas, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what we’d be doing for those 6 days.

I get it now.

In essence, these 6 days have been full of leaders in education coming to talk to our cohort about the issues facing higher ed today. We were exposed to perspectives that ran the gamut: chancellors, presidents, public relations, business office, government agencies, technology, librarians, board of trustees, and more. Each one offering their considerable insights into the issues they see from their perspective. It’s been an extremely eye-opening experience.

Many of them touched upon similar themes, but because each was informed by their own perspective, it was possible to get a much richer understanding of the nuances of those problems. Up until this point in my career, I’ve always approached things from a fairly limited viewpoint. I have experience at my library and through talking to other librarians. I have a few faculty friends or friends over in IT. But even trying to talk to friends and acquaintances, I was only able to see what was going on in my neck of the woods.

This really helped fix that. Better yet, it did it by adding a national viewpoint on those issues. By taking things and separating them from the day-to-day issues I’ve seen facing my campus, I was better able to get an objective understanding of those issues. And because all of this happened in a 6 day firehose-to-the-brain format, I could get a much better idea of the complete picture.

In many ways, so much of what’s facing higher ed feels like the blind men and the elephant, with all sorts of very intelligent people being very correct about what they see, but still coming to an incomplete conclusion. An experience like this really helps counteract that limited information.

So am I ready to go out and conquer the world tomorrow? Not quite. I have a lot to think about and process, however, and I have a much firmer idea of how I can contribute to my library and my institution. Where it goes from there remains to be seen, but in the end, I’d have to say this really was an incredible opportunity, one which I’m very happy to have been able to experience. Many thanks to Educause and CLIR for organizing the program, and to the Jane N. Ryland Fellowship program, which helped pay for my attendance.

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