When I was a freshman in high school my mom and I realized that I needed glasses. After I got the glasses fitted I couldn’t believe how beautiful the world looked. I still clearly remember going outside for the first time with glasses on, telling my mom that the trees had leaves, and I could see all of them. As a young girl interested in art, there’s really nothing better than getting sharper eyes. I was delighted.
Because of this past year as a leadership fellow on our campus I feel as if I’ve now been fitted with administrative glasses. My world as an academic in a mid-sized university setting simply no longer looks the same. The fellowship allowed me entry into the life of my mentor, the university’s VP for Business & Finance. As a result of the meetings I had with him and his direct reports I no longer see my role on this campus within the narrow scope it once had. It is clear to me now that my role here as a librarian fits in with the larger picture of the role that the library plays in student life, among all of the other components of the campus.
I find myself reading the Chronicle of Higher Ed differently than I used to, thinking about larger issues like communication structures within academic units, adjunct faculty, and sources of scholarship funds. Being prompted to think about things like this gives me a greater appreciation for the work that our library Dean does, with a better understanding of how what she reports about what is going on in her library affects the rest of the institution. Thinking about these issues with a bigger-picture focus isn’t a new thing for me, but knowing the specifics of how the administration of my university works makes the issues much more relevant and real.
The bottom line: if you are ever offered the opportunity to participate in a leadership program like this, take it. For me the benefits were not so much the academic reading and discussions with the four other fellows (valuable in its own right) but were rather simply being in the room with my mentor and his direct reports, to hear the honest, open talk by people making decisions on behalf of the university.