Being witness to shared governance #highered

This past weekend the college hosted its annual fall meeting of the Board of Trustees, which reinforced to me how important—and unusual—shared governance is. Board meetings at Augustana involve dialogue, deep discussion and very careful consideration of input provided by representatives of all stakeholders. There is a respect among those who participate for the areas of expertise each brings.

This meeting was no different from most fall meetings as the board went about the typical business of approving fiscal matters, including the college’s budget and audit statements, but there were other items on the agenda that placed shared governance on full display. Among these items were discussions about curriculum revision, the proposed Center for Student Life, Greek life, and the implementation of the Net Price Calculator. I witnessed a curious and inquisitive board throughout.

What is even more impressive to me is the deference board members provide to members of the faculty and our students. There is nary a discussion that takes place, either in committee meetings or in the business meeting, in which members of the Board of Trustees do not ask directly for faculty or student input. This impresses me and demonstrates a willingness on the part of the board to ask; and on the part of the faculty and students to speak up. This is essential to effective shared governance and I am pleased to see it on display at Augustana College.

I also know that shared governance takes practice and a shared commitment, which is why I am so pleased that we’ve identified the practice of shared governance as one of the college’s strategic imperatives as part of Affirm, Assure, Assess.

The recent board meeting serves as a good reminder of the work we must do to fulfill our strategic direction, outlined below:


This strategic imperative will formalize the positive practices of effective communication and good shared governance, which in the past have enabled the college to successfully address significant challenges faced by higher education institutions. The recent national recession, for example, demonstrated the college leadership’s ability to nimbly respond to negative external pressures. The tactics outlined will incorporate the successful strategies employed during the economic crisis, particularly those which promoted greater awareness and involvement of all constituencies. Incorporating the identified tactics into the operational and strategic planning development process is intended to strengthen all campus stakeholders’ understanding of current college goals and issues related to good shared governance.

Augustana will strengthen its shared governance and open communication practices to ensure shared and timely decision-making in response to changes in external conditions impacting Augustana and higher education in general.

To accomplish this we will pursue the following strategic initiatives:

• Develop information resources to educate and communicate to the Augustana community on campus governance, policies and key initiatives, as well as provide opportunities for feedback

• Create and encourage opportunities for informal connections and social interaction to facilitate communication among constituencies

• Develop and promote clear and efficient, outcome-oriented “dashboards” of key indicators measuring the institution’s progress toward the identified goals of the college

• Create a presidential advisory committee or council responsible for advising the president on matters related to shared governance, and fostering open communications among all college constituencies in furtherance of good shared governance

Our goals include:

• Deepening the understanding of Augustana’s shared governance, committee structures and decision processes, as well as current initiatives

• Fostering an environment of collegiality among college constituencies by strengthening the sense of community and encouraging informal communication channels

• Communicating the college’s broader common goals, progress of these goals and the criteria used to measure progress to the college stakeholders

• Ensuring sustained accountability towards the assessment and reporting of initiatives related to progress in achieving our established institutional goals

• Supporting and developing faculty leadership for roles in shared governance and leadership

We will be successful when:

• We develop resources to assess and communicate high-impact goals of the college

• The college community and interested stakeholders are updated three times a year on progress toward achiev­ing the objectives of the strategic plan

• Stakeholders are periodically surveyed to measure awareness of strategic issues facing the college and governance

• Attendance and participation in governance increases

• The work and values of all stakeholders are properly aligned

This strategic imperative is critical to Augustana’s future and responds to the risk of leadership being unable to respond quickly and proactively to external conditions.

I believe our attention to shared governance and our recognition of its strategic importance is noteworthy within higher education.

What do you think about our practice of shared governance? What are your ideas for strengthening our practices of shared governance?

W. Kent Barnds

VP Enrollment, Communication and Planning

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