“Capacity Building” at Home

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Dr. Lisa J. Waits has over twenty-four years of leadership in student services and college administration at both four-year and California community colleges, including the positions of Interim Superintendent/President, Vice President of Student Services, Provost of Student Services, Dean of Student Services, Dean of Enrollment Management, Director of Campus Activities, Assistant Director of Student Activities, Residence Dean, and Professor at Ohlone College, Mills College, Mendocino College and Solano Community College.
In March 2009, Dr. Waits received the “Pillar of the Profession” award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administration (NASPA) Foundation.
Dr. Waits earned a Doctor of Education in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco.

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The best leadership tool is to invest in the development of our faculty, staff and administrators in order to accomplish the goal of transforming students’ lives.  We know that building individual staff capacity results in new skills, new solutions to old problems and a re-energized approach to our work.  The tough part comes in how to provide quality staff development with meager resources.  This article discusses the NASPA Student Services Institute which offers quality professional development on your college campus for 30 or more staff and faculty at a low per person cost.

 

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Michael Fullan’s book, The Six Secrets to Change:  What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive, is a short and powerful read.  One of the six secrets, “Capacity Building Prevails,” is not a secret to Student Services professionals.  We know that our best leadership tool is to invest in the development of our faculty, staff and administrators in order to accomplish the goal of transforming students’ lives.  We know that building individual staff capacity results in new skills, new solutions to old problems and a re-energized approach to our work.  The tough part comes in how to provide quality staff development with meager resources.
Two years ago, I invited the college community to apply for the opportunity to participate in forty hours of professional development delivered to them at their place of work by experts from across the country.  The topics included student development theory, the history of community colleges, customer service, diversity and legal issues.
The total cost for the thirty applicants (staff, faculty and administrators) was less than $10,000.  If you think this is expensive, do the math and you will see that it is low cost capacity building per person (40 hours of professional development for $10,000 / 30 staff = $333.34 per person).  When was the last time you paid just a little over $300 to send your staff to a conference that actually netted more professional development benefits because they were able to work together, hear new material together, and review legal issues together?  The opportunity to discuss issues together to form better organizational responses was powerful. 
At Solano Community College, the classified staff was thrilled to be invited and was empowered by the information that typically only the counselors or administrators have had training in (e.g. student development theory); the faculty was happy to have an opportunity to hear about new student retention research and to contribute their expertise.  The administrators ended up with happier employees who were excited about delivering a higher level of service to students.  As Vice President, I had the opportunity to interact with staff and faculty who worked the front lines.  The experience together helped us understand our work for and with our students. Dr. Denise Swett, Dr. Ed Shenk, and Dr. Ron Travenick have all been participants and can give you their perspectives.
This exceptional program was delivered by NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) and could be coming to your campus with an invitation from you.  The NASPA website, www.naspa.org , has all of the information.  The contact is Stephanie Gordon, sgordon@naspa.org . Tell her the ijournal sent you! 
In addition to matters of low cost, high quality, great information, and happier employees, this effort improves your institutional responses to many of the accreditation standards and gains respect from the visiting team.
So get off your good intentions and bring quality professional development to your college today.