Earlier this week I attended a national meeting of EAB’s Superintendents’ Leadership Forum in Chicago. Admittedly, I don’t yet know a lot about K-12 outside of having friends who are teachers and the handful of folks who were in my graduate classes. What I learned should not have surprised me: K-12 leaders are challenged by many of the same things that those of us in higher ed are dealing with. Some that resonated with me are preparing students for careers, motivating students and teachers, declining enrollment, navigating politics, providing wrap-around services, and perhaps most top of mind, student safety and responding to activism.
Both the K-12 and higher ed sectors are also dealing with state divestment. EAB has many tool kits and research to help these sectors succeed, and I would urge K-12 and local higher ed partners to work together even more than they already do. It’s difficult; time and money are finite, they run on different schedules, and there are so many things that they could organize around. I’m not sure I would have said the same in 2010 when I started my first job out of my masters program. I loved so many parts of that job but the thorn in my side was a tutoring partnership with a local high school. I spent a lot of time trying to order pizza and take attendance for high school students who didn’t seem to care. If they didn’t, then why should I.
Of course now I know that that was misguided. Those students were primarily, if not entirely, students of color. They came from low-performing schools and from low socio-economic background. The tutoring was important, of course, but what was more important, was showing them that college was a possible pathway for them. I know there are lots of these types of programs across the country, and I hope that the staff “gets it” sooner than I did.
I’m almost two weeks into my new role on the research team at the Education Advisory Board (EAB). EAB has several offerings that support of our mission to make “education smarter.” In practice, this means student success and institutional efficiency technologies, enrollment management support, and research memberships. Research informs all work that we do. This research is highly qualitative and seeks gather best practices from within our membership. We then find opportunities to share back through on-campus visits and national meetings focused on areas like advancement, student affairs, academic affairs, IT, and others.
There is so much to learn, and I feel like I’m back in grad school. Right now is my “reading period,” and I am catching up on all those higher ed books I purchased and never made the time to read as well as the research done by the firm in our topic areas. It is important context that will inform the rest of my career with EAB. The good news is I seem to have become more efficient in getting through material than I was in grad school. I’m also spending time attending national meetings to learn about what our member campuses are dealing with and how our research can help.
Perhaps more importantly though, is the culture of the firm. From day 1 I felt that everyone I came into contact with was invested in my success and was there to help me succeed. I’m sure part of this is that I’m now working in the private sector and happy and productive employees hopefully means happy members and ultimately, a better bottom line. But I can’t argue with that. I feel very supported and excited about my future with EAB. I also appreciate the high priority that the firm places on community engagement. It seems genuine and they have even received recognition from my friends at Points of Light.
Additionally, I am excited to continue to learn and expand my expertise. My heart will always be in civic and community engagement, and I look forward to finding ways to continue that work in my role here. I already have some ideas on that. In the meantime, it’s important that I learn about all aspects of higher ed, not just so that I’m successful here at the firm but so that I can think about what that means for me as a higher ed professional.
Next week I’ll be in Chicago for my third national meeting. Perhaps a hotel/travel post to come!