Love To Lead: How Consolidated Administration Can Transform Every Corner of an Institution
The discourse between traditional and non-traditional learners needs to adapt to an online cohort.
An administration’s organizational model can shape its learners’ lives; it dictates how staff interact with one another and the institution.
But a consolidated administration requires the faculty, staff, administration and students to know what is expected long before they enroll.
On this episode of the Illumination podcast, Michel Bellini, Director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, sits down with host Amrit Ahluwalia to discuss how consolidated central administration can benefit an institution, and why the business element of continuing ed is just as important as the academics.
A consolidated administration, one with faculty intertwined between departments, enables new administrative and support services to be put in place.
The University of Illinois is a decentralized environment; Each faculty member and department acts on its own and essentially has its own playbook.
Bellini thinks that implementing the right support systems is one of the most challenging aspects of college administration.
“It’s not immediately clear how you change the culture of the faculty and how you put in place and invest wisely or effectively into the processes that need to be in place to enable effective deployment of online programs for non-traditional learners,” Bellini says. “It behooves us to think about how we come up with a consolidated central administration.”
In what he calls “rehabbing the colleges,” Bellini believes there needs to be that central support to ensure that autonomous, decentralized, non-traditional learners can thrive. Bellini envisions putting together an effective consolidation administration in charge of the administrative and support systems to boost enrollment.
Supporting students is only one of the things that consolidated administration should be aiming for; the other, Bellini says, involves the nature of teaching non-traditional learners.
“It is difficult to be a great teacher even for traditional learners,” Bellini says. “There’s still a concept that if you’re going to teach for non-traditional learners, it’s less important for them because they’re not academic. There’s a barrier there and a culture change needs to happen.”
It will take time, even for faculty at the University of Illinois, but Bellini does see slow change happening. Just as the transition to remote work was fairly slow at first—admittedly sped up by a global catastrophe—the same can happen for an administration shift.
Administration shifts are one way an institution can change, but a business process shift can really upend the operation of the institution.
Having the right business model is critical for the school’s and its students progress. This means targeting the right students to ensure their success.
“I can speak from experience,” Bellini says. “When I started as an assistant professor, I was sort of a leader in the faculty bubble. I wanted my research lab writing grants, getting teaching lined up and providing services. My department head was telling me to go through tenures. And I was, but I was really not caring much about the rest of campus. I was in a faculty bubble.”
The faculty bubble led Bellini to do as much as he could with the power he was given. But as soon as tenure came, and he became the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, he found that the tuition students paid was funding quite a lot of the school.
He asked himself, what is the university actually doing for students?
“I developed the Center for Innovation and Teaching and Learning because these are the things that are truly important to our students,” Bellini says. “We needed to make it happen the right way.”
Financial strains can make it difficult to build the “right way”, and makes developing the right programming for students a key motivating factor for driving enrollment numbers up. But if only a few students enroll, then it’s not finically viable. The lack of student interest is an issue that Bellini has run into a few times.
Keeping an institution afloat is difficult. With so many options for programming, administration style, and faculty involvement, as hard as the choices are, they’re necessary for the betterment of the students.
Listen to This Episode
Last updated: June 17, 2022