- Author: Wendy Powers
I spent the afternoon with some of our new academics at the Programmatic Orientation. Some of them have been on board as much as 2 years but many (most?) for less than 6 months. It's always exciting to see new blood! Julia Van Soelen Kim, Lisa Blecker, David Doll, Mark Hoddle and Yana Valachovic shared their insights into developing a new program. This type of sharing experiences reminds me of the concept of ‘learning circles' that seems to be trending now in Extension. I've heard about them during the National Extension Directors Association (NEDA) meeting (via eXtension), from one of our academics who is thinking about a thought leaders group, and from a colleague who has been reading “Working Out Loud”. At the NEDA meeting, we talked about learning circles from the perspective of encouraging innovation in Extension. I've shared some of those updates previously.
At the Programmatic Orientation, I was thinking about the learning circles as the basis for developing peer cohorts for Advisors and Specialists. In addition to a traditional mentoring approach, peer cohorts offer an equally valuable method of mentoring in that peers better recognize current challenges and what is needed because our peers are faced with those same situations. Essentially it becomes a learning circle for trading ideas, successes, cautions, and information. This group of academics are an impressive group. I look forward to helping them get started with the cohort and supporting them along the way.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of a learning circle, as I see it, is the opportunity to get ideas from others, particularly when the circle is comprised of those who are otherwise strangers – I don't normally work with them and have different areas of expertise. Albert Einstein said “We can't solve problems using the same thinking that was used to create them”. That learning circle of strangers is a mechanism to engage in different thinking. Perhaps this is the path towards addressing emerging issues that arise as the result of current conditions, that we helped to create. Looking at problems from 30,000 ft and spending some time working at that level offers the same opportunity – the logic behind Strategic Initiatives, I presume.
Two Vice Provost positions are posted. We took a different approach to constructing the positions from how they had been constructed when Chris Greer and Lisa Fischer were in the positions. They are big shoes to fill but hopefully we will be successful with this new configuration. In addition, we are looking for 2 Assistant Vice Provosts. These are partial appointments for existing academics and offer an opportunity to not only support one of the Vice Provost positions but also provide an advanced leadership opportunity to 2 of our academics without having to jump in with a full time effort. These positions, in particular, are not fully described. Rather, we are going to build the airplane as we fly it and tailor the positions to the strengths of the individuals in the positions, including the Vice Provost when they are on board. Please help share these positions with your colleagues in California and across the US!