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February 2004 Issue

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Management Strategies & Tips

By Jan Norton, Missouri Western State College

Email: norton@mwsc.edu

Traveling Beyond Status Quo

Itís easy for managers to get bogged down in the day-to-day details of budgets and services.  If weíve succeeded in creating a successful program, we feel like weíve succeeded indeed.  The trick is to avoid complacency - - and for many people, winter is the ideal season for sitting back and relaxing with the status quo.  Just hunker down, wait for the changes that spring brings, and survive the rest of the academic year.  But if youíre feeling a bit restless, GOOD!  Create your own professional education seminar.

If itís possible, plan a trip to a nearby community college or university.  Check out a commercial learning/tutoring service.  Next time youíre out of town for some other purpose, set aside an hour or so to v is it someone elseís learning center.  Go to conferences and meetings that will help you expand your ideas about the potential range of your services.

Even some excursions around campus may be helpful during this relatively slow part of the semester.  V is it with faculty members or full departments to promote your services, explain your policies, and ask for input about programs that they would like to see changed or added.  Wander through the halls and plan enough time that you can be stopped unpredictably to chat with students, staff, faculty, or administrators.  As you think about or walk by other departments, notice how they are advertising their majors and courses - - any ideas that might work for you?  Imagine what kinds of new connections might be possible: maybe your learning center and the health center director could explore possibilities for cross-referrals of mega-stressed students, or maybe youíll d is cover that an academic department has just begun to administer a professional licensing exam that you could help students prepare for.

Less literal travel has its advantages, too.  Go for a virtual v is it by cruising the websites of other learning centers and see what your peers are up to: you can find these easily on the LSCHE website (www.pvc.maricopa.edu/~lsche).  Reviewing other web sites can not only help you think of changes you want to see in your own site design and content but may also give you some intriguing leads on other services you might want to try.  Call or write to colleagues at other schools and see if they can send you publicity brochures, lists of services, or an inventory of equipment. 

Then thereís the ultimate in no-mileage travel: reading.  NCLCA newsletters typically profile learning centers, and these can describe a range of services that might spark your imagination and energy.  You can check out their website (www.nclca.org) and read some sample newsletter articles by Karen Agee, Frank Chr is t, and Paula Ottinger.  Journals from NCLCA, NADE, and CRLA all provide useful information that is well worth the time you might need to set aside in order to soak it all in.  Read books - - Hunter Boylanís What Works is a short but intense text.  And it is never a waste of time to look over the explicit hallmarks of excellence in the field: NADE Guides, CRLA tutor and mentor training programs, and the CAS standards may all provide you with some ideas for minor upgrades or major projects.

Iím not suggesting that you probably have money and time to kill, or that you shouldnít take genuine pleasure in what youíve accomplished.  You and your staff have worked hard, and itís good to look around and appreciate where you are.  But then turn around and find another road; look for energizing challenges that will enhance your learning center even more.  Staying alert to the possibilities lets you develop plans for the future even as you enjoy the present.

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