We’re a week away from the 27th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium and I can guarantee you we’re not ready (yet)! We’re in the “final details” stage. We’re finding typos and mistakes in our program (published online this year for the first time!), printing table signs and packing boxes to ship to Santa Clara. But – we’re shutting down here for the New Year holiday and so I can’t help but be pensive.
I find the best break in the action and – simultaneously – a way to keep in touch with the big picture during hectic times at work is to find time to read. I usually read for a couple of hours in the morning, and again at the end of the day. The morning reads, especially, clear my mind for writing and the tens of emails I’ll compose in a given day at CSUPERB. I’m omnivorous (scientific journals, newspapers, books on higher education, blogs, nordic noir, etc.). But 2014 definitely tilted my reading to electronic formats over hardcopy. I also found myself leaning increasingly on Twitter and Feedly to find new, challenging, simply delightful, and kind-of-weird delightful stuff. This open access to global thought (and, yes, silliness) is a huge change from my early days as a scientist when the quality of your campus library often dictated whether you were working at the bleeding edge or reinventing wheels. What a change in culture.
As the symposium takes flight, we’re also working on a new three-year strategic plan. We’re about 2/3 of the way through a planning process started at the August 2014 Faculty Consensus Group meeting. Luckily I’m working with the Strategic Planning Council on this project. I read something today that explained why our strategic planning retreat went so smoothly, “Participants need several years of regular meetings to build up enough experience with each other to recognize and appreciate the common motivation behind their different efforts. They need time to see that their own interests will be treated fairly, and that decisions will be made on the basis of objective evidence and the best possible solution to the problem, not to favor the priorities of one organization over another.” This is a part of CSUPERB culture of which I am very proud; we were not so aligned eight (short!) years ago.
One reason for past discord was the multiple disciplines – biology, chemistry, math, business, engineering – that come together under CSUPERB’s programmatic umbrella. We speak different languages. Despite our harmonious retreat in November, one theme that emerged from our conversations and our fall faculty surveys was the need to build even stronger and more effective internal (within-the-CSU) partnerships. Our old explanation for why CSUPERB faculty banded together was to build “critical mass” across our chronically underfunded public university. But I think the underpinning reasons for the CSUPERB faculty’s desire to collaborate has shifted to reflect how information is shared, science is done and teaching practice has evolved in 2014. We currently support biology and math collaborations (a theme of one of our symposium workshops). Internal collaboration might mean academic affairs and student affairs working together – intentionally and tightly – to help all students persist to a STEM degree. It might also mean working together across campuses to offer innovative, “massively-parallel-undergraduate” research opportunities around a real-world genomics research project. It might mean melding business and science/engineering faculties to better teach biotechnology commercialization concepts. All of these collaborations serve to set students up for success in college and in the world after graduation. It’s a good thing for students – but how can faculty and administrators get better at it without losing needed disciplinary expertise and perspectives within the university?
I’m thankful – as always – for the multi-disciplinary voices and opinions shared with me in person and online as we do this work. CSUPERB’s work won’t end with the year – we have plenty to do in 2015 (like that symposium Jan. 8-10th!)! A happy New Year to you all!
Readings for the New Year
Lior Pachter (December 2014) The two cultures of mathematics and biology. Bits of DNA Blog.
Amy Celep & Sara Brenner (October 2014) Integrating Intentional Influence into Your Strategy. Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Mark J. Graham, Jennifer Frederick, Angela Byars-Winston, Anne-Barrie Hunter, Jo Handelsman (2013) Increasing Persistence of College Students in STEM. Science Vol. 341: pp. 1455-1456.
John Kania & Mark Kramer (Winter 2011) Collective Impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Dana O’Donovan & Noah Rimland (January 2013) The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy. Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Chris Newfield (December 2014) Trends We Can Work With: Higher Ed in 2015. Remaking the University Blog.