August 10, 2012
On August 7, ACUI hosted a virtual round-table discussion about strategies and experiences for instilling the college union idea while navigating organizational change, which was facilitated by Matt Ducatt from Texas Tech University. This post gives insight into some of the topics addressed during the program.
When abrupt change occurs on campus, communication becomes key. There may be little time to focus on what happened and where you’ve been, but rather you need to figure out where you’re going. Through the mix of individual reactions—whether happy, upset, angry, etc.—the team needs to rise to the occasion to continue to provide programs and services. Things might look and feel different, but the core purpose and mission of the union and activities area likely hasn’t changed significantly.
One recurring theme in the discussion was also about the importance of relationships during change. Whether starting new or rebuilding upon existing relationships, these are important times to show how community, support, and open conversations will help overcome any animosity or organizational challenges that exist.
Some of the other topics of discussion included participants seeking and giving advice related to:
- Making moves to let go of old habits when a staff grows or brings on new employees
- Overcoming the image of being the “really cool dining hall” on campus
- Navigating the mentality shift that might be needed if funding models or expectations change
When merging units or changing reporting lines, a few ideas were shared for how to promote the role of the college union with new constituents, such as inviting non-union professionals to attend sessions at a local ACUI conference or doing a poster campaign around ACUI’s core values, core competencies, and Role of the College Union statement. It can serve as a reminder that we need to tell our story to external stakeholders, not just our own staff and students. The new Role of the College Union video could help, as well.
Some recommended readings that were mentioned by participants included:
- “Sacred Cows Make the Best Burger: Developing Change-Driving People and Organizations” by Robert Kriegel and David Brandt
- “One Size Does Not Fit All: Traditional and Innovative Models of Student Affairs Practice” by Kathleen Manning, Jillian Kinzie, and John Schuh
- ACUI publications such as “The College Union Idea” and “51 Facts about College Unions”
Ultimately, Ducatt concluded the discussion with a reminder that change can be valuable and productive. For the most part, once getting through the immediate emotional response and understanding what the change really means, people are pretty resilient, and the process of re-evaluating our work and values can lead to a stronger organization.
is the Online Engagement Manager at ACUI.
As a member of the education department, Justin is responsible for content delivery and member engagement through new technologies, working with all of ACUI’s online learning programs, communities of practice, and other online and social media projects.