We Really Want Your Opinions…Really

As another way of trying to reach out to faculty members, we decided to break the university down into departments and email each professor individually. So, I whipped out a spreadsheet and began assigning names. Naive me thought that there couldn’t be that many faculty members in certain departments…I was wrong.

I looked at the departments I had assigned myself: nursing and allied health, economics, counseling, health and physical education and professional studies. I had 140+ professors to email. Individually.

About two days later when I had finally accomplished this, I was optimistic. I’d already received a few responses and it was looking like it was going to be a good turnout. Not so much.

Of the 140+ faculty members I reached out to, only about 10 got back to me. That’s not a very good rate of return. If I was looking at this from a numbers standpoint, I’d probably fire myself.

So what do we do to get people interested? We can’t pay people, we can’t threaten them and we can’t force them to share their opinions.

We tell people over and over how important this project is and how their opinions matter, but not everyone listens. So we’ll keep persevering and keep hounding people to share their opinions with us. When you open your email and have 47 messages from me, at least I know I tried.

So if you have even a sliver of interest in IUP, your opinions count and we want to hear them. Sign up to be interviewed, follow us on Twitter and let us know what you think makes IUP distinctive!



Wash Your Face(book)

We’re not robots who spend every waking hour working for IUP’s strategic visioning project. We have lives outside of work and school, and sometimes those lives show up on Facebook and Twitter.

It’s okay to have a life outside of work, but there are just some things that you don’t want potential employers or clients to see. Yes, it’s okay to go out and have a drink every once in a while, but do you really want to have that photo as somebody’s first impression of you?

I found one tool, called SimpleWash, that can help identify and get rid of these kinds of references on your Facebook or Twitter page. Instead of employers or clients searching your name and finding terrible pictures online, you can feel better knowing that your pages are professional and make a good impression.

But I live a pretty dull life, it seems. I decided to try SimpleWash on my own Facebook, wondering what it could possibly flag as inappropriate. Take a look at what SimpleWash found for me.


SimpleWash example

Yes, that’s right folks. Take a look at what SimpleWash decided potential employers should not see, including but not limited to:

  • Me talking about “crack”, i.e. two stray cats trying to poke their noses through the crack in the front door
  • Me using the most profane of all swear words: butt. I was comparing my butt to a rhino I saw on Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney World.
  • The butt does not stop there. I then called my fiance, Jeremy, a (gasp) “cranky-butt” when he wanted to stay in the hotel room and nap instead of go to one of the Disney parks.

SimpleWash example

It also flagged some of the things I became a fan of on Facebook, including some books and music.

Notice that “speed” from the “Speed of Darkness” Flogging Molly album is flagged. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is also flagged simply because someone is unfortunate enough to have the last name “Beer-Davies.”

As you can see, SimpleWash isn’t perfect. It can flag plenty of things that are innocuous.

But if you’re concerned that you Facebook or Twitter might have something that you wouldn’t want other people to see, SimpleWash or other similar tools can be a good place to start.

Try it out for yourself and see what comes up.

Leave a comment and let us know the silliest thing SimpleWash flagged for you.

Explain Like I’m Five: What is Strategic Visioning?

Reddit - Explain Like I'm Five

Reddit.com – /r/explainlikeimfive

One of my favorite websites is Reddit.com. I’m totally addicted. And one of my favorite “subreddits” (sub-forums on the website that deal with one topic) is “Explain Like I’m Five.”

Kind of like the Simple English version of Wikipedia, it’s a great way to learn about something that you never thought you’d be able to understand before. Complex issues are broken down and explained in a way that easier to comprehend.

One day I was browsing /r/explainlikeimfive, and it made me think, “Do the people we interview actually understand what strategic visioning is?”

Sure, we try to explain it to each person we come in contact with. We hand out papers that go into detail about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and the process we’re using to accomplish these goals. If you look to the left, this blog even has a page dedicated to explaining it.

It never hurts to explain it one more time though and to explain in a simple way.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about strategic visioning, by the way:

“Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. In order to determine the direction of the organization, it is necessary to understand its current position and the possible avenues through which it can pursue a particular course of action.”

Visioning Binoculars

Photo credit – fluffbreat, SXC.hu

Did you understand that? Even though it’s summed up fairly concisely, I feel like we still need to get a little simpler.

How about this?

Strategic visioning lets an organization (like IUP) know :

  • What people think about where it stands now and where people think it should head in the future
  • What the organization excels at
  • What needs to be improved
  • How and why it has succeeded in the past
  • Exactly what it does, and for who it does it

Strategic visioning answers these questions by:

  • Interviewing “shareholders,” aka people who are in any way affected by what the organization does
  • Gathering data about what the organization has done in the past
  • Collecting information from as wide and comprehensive a group as possible

Is there anything I forgot? What are some questions that you still have about the project? What would make the concept of “strategic visioning” easier to understand?

Comment one or two sentences as if you were explaining strategic visioning to a five-year-old.

–Brittany Madera

Why People Love to Complain and Why We Need to Listen Anyway

Brittany Madera

Brittany Madera

People love to complain. And people love to complain to us.

I feel like nobody knows more about listening to complaints than I do. I worked in food service for a couples of the years and then “upgraded” to retail in my later college years. No one knows complaints better than someone who has worked in retail. People will complain about anything, and your job is to nod solemnly and say something sympathetic like, “I understand how that would be frustrating for you.”

I love working for IUP SVP much more than working in retail, but there are some similarities. I still have to listen to complaints. Except now, instead of hearing complaints about a return policy or a defective purchase, I now hear complaints about the university’s party image or that departments aren’t interconnected well enough.

It’s not like we try to avoid talking about the bad things. Yes, our job is to focus on the positives and figure out where people want IUP to focus in the future. However, some of that requires knowing our weaknesses and where we need to improve. And when the time comes to talk about those weaknesses, boy, are people ever willing to talk. A lot.

To get a little background on why people (myself included) love to complain, I found this About.com article on why complaining feels so good and how to know when you should stop complaining.

Ironic complaint door sign

Photo credit – penywise, SXC.hu

Here’s the gist:

Why do people love to complain?

  • It feels nice to vent and blow off steam once in a while.
  • Sometimes it’s your only chance to make your voice heard about something that’s bothering you.
  • If you complain, people can help find a solution to the problem.
  • Even if a solution isn’t found, now people at least know a problem exists.
  • “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” – Complaints can get problems noticed and solved efficiently.
  • It makes us feel validated whenever someone recognizes or apologizes for something.

It’s important for our team members to be able to listen to these complaints and note them, even if they won’t necessarily be used in a vision statement. And none of the people we are interviewing expect their complaint to be used in marketing or strategic planning. No one wants the front page of IUP’s website to say, “A top-rated university that allows students to enjoy a high-quality education for a low tuition cost. Oh, and by the way, we have some potholes in our parking lots that need attending to.”

People just want to be heard. They want their problems to be acknowledged. They know that we’ll listen to them because we’re asking. They also know that our anonymous notes are going to end up in the hands of important people, like Michael Driscoll. This is one safe way for their voices to be heard about things that they aren’t necessarily asked about all of the time.

So if you come to one of our facilitation meetings and we ask you, “What are some of IUP’s weaknesses, and how can we improve?”, don’t be scared to answer. We want to know.

–Brittany Madera

Who said Stephen King doesn’t have some wisdom?

Playing off one of the previous blog posts about the sidewalk, I thought I would add my own perspective.

An old footpath

An old footpath

We were talking about the history of IUP and the muddy path that used to be under the new sidewalk when Michele mentioned there was a quote by someone famous about not pouring a sidewalk until you find out where people were walking, and then create the sidewalk.

So, on to Google I went, in search of the person who said this so long ago. It was thought that Andrew Carnegie was the one who said it but the only reference I found was something by Eisenhower, so that didn’t give me concrete evidence on which one said it. However, in the process of looking at quotes, I found something from my favorite author, Stephen King:

“You could start at a path leading nowhere more fantastic than from your own front steps to the sidewalk, and from there you could go… well, anywhere at all.” ― Stephen KingIt

Apparently, this came from his novel, It, which still freaks people out to this day. I guess he does his job well. But that isn’t the reason behind this blog post, even though I can sit and talk about his books for hours, if not days.

Stephen King's "It"

Stephen King’s “It”

So, let’s break King’s quote down and apply it to our Strategic Visioning Project because I think it really fits. In all reality, though, this quote can be used by anyone.

We are working toward something huge on this strategic visioning project, and I can say that this quote fits. In other words, we’re running focus groups, holding private interviews, collecting and analyzing the data that we are gathering, and it is very much a journey. That journey really does start at a front door: IUP’s front door.

I, for one, really love this campus and I love the education I have received here. I loved my bachelor’s program so much that I’m continuing on to get my masters… and that has been my journey which started on my sidewalk and led me here.

For me, the history of IUP is intriguing. Starting out as a teaching college for women and growing into the multi-college university that it is today, speaks of how the sidewalk here has evolved and grown. I bet the people who started this place when the only building was Sutton Hall never envisioned something like this, and I truly hope that if they are up there somewhere looking down on us, they are grinning from ear to ear.

Sutton Hall

Sutton Hall



The sidewalks of this campus have really changed from those old mud paths the students used to trek upon, and in full-length dresses to boot. This project will hopefully expand on the sidewalks of today and move them into a place that, in another 150 years, we who live in this era, will look down with face-splitting grins ourselves.

We hope with this project, the sidewalk to progress will make a huge difference in charting the school’s future and make it something future generations can be proud of.

I personally want to see the “party school” stigma to change. I was at a wedding reception recently and someone actually said the words I can’t stand in reference to this university, and those words were: IUP = I Usually Party. I wish that people who think that will come to realize that IUP is a great place to get an education. It’s a place where faculty and staff create a nurturing environment which enables students to learn and grow, practice their craft and truly be proud of their accomplishments.

The university acts as a front door for recent graduates to follow a new sidewalk out into a fantastic world where you can do anything. I can also mention the many sidewalks, both literally and figuratively, in which students have had to walk while receiving their education here.

Those of us working on this project want to take this amazing opportunity to help IUP create that new vision for this university. We want to create a written foundation in which to build upon and truly make IUP a place that makes a statement but also stands behind the statement it makes.

So Stephen King’s quote really is true as to the path from here leads… anywhere at all.

~ Shawna McCutcheon