Up close and personal

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been emailing and scheduling private interviews with professors, and consequently doing a lot of house calls.

In addition to the added cardio I’ve been getting from running around campus, I’ve been hearing a lot of new perspectives from some of IUP’s brightest and most distinguished faculty.

Throughout the duration of this process we’ve been trying to interview people as a group, enabling participants to feel more comfortable, bounce ideas off each other, and allowing us to knock out more than one person per facilitation.

Switching gears and doing more private interviews has definitely been an entirely different experience. I feel a more personalized connection, which has been both good and bad. In a one-on-one setting, I have noticed professors speak more candidly and freely, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because they don’t have to worry about defending their ideas or positions to other participants.  This has resulted in some really honest answers, which is exactly what we’re looking for.

Doing all private interviews really isn’t feasible, and I think there are benefits to both methods. It really also depends on the person you’re talking to. Sometimes in group interviews certain people dominate the conversation while others don’t seem as eager to participate. One way that we’ve been able to still get results from those who are less eager to express ideas out loud is having them write down their thoughts on our question outline.

Being able to conduct interviews, whether privately or as a group, has given me a better perspective on the way people communicate. It has sharpened my people skills and thickened my skin, especially when conducting a private interview with anyone who is skeptical of our project.

The best way to silence the doubters is by asking for their opinion.  The only thing we can do is keep talking to people, and if you ask me, I think pretty soon they’ll be talking about us too.

–By Juliette Rapp

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!

–Kelly

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

Breezedale

Breezedale

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

Our Meeting with Office of Housing, Residential Living, and Dining

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We recently held a group meeting with the people from the Office of Housing, Residential Living and Dining. We even grabbed some photos before we left, so take a peek at how we facilitate some of these large meetings.

Melissa Esing and Brittany Madera (me!) co-facilitated the meeting, which meant that we took turns explaining the project, asking questions and clarifying. Caleb Murphy was our scribe, which meant he was constantly busy writing down what everyone was saying.

We kind of hijacked this meeting. It was originally supposed to be an official meeting for their own team, without us. We asked if we could have a few minutes of their time to talk about the project and get their thoughts. The people from the Office of Housing, Residential Life and Dining agreed the set aside 30 minutes for us.

It was way longer than 30 minutes. It was about an hour before we left.

Here’s the thing: That was okay. We felt terrible about sucking up their time, but they were so into it. They weren’t ready for us to leave. If they wanted us out of there quickly, we definitely could have done so. I think they were glad to have something different instead of just another meeting.

That’s something that we’re encountering pretty frequently. Once people start discussing, they want to keep going. Once they’re warmed up and brainstorming, ideas are flying everywhere. With a big group like this, especially a group that is familiar with one another and not afraid to speak up with conflicting ideas, it takes a while to make sure that everyone has said what they want to say.

If you know of a department or office on campus that has a meeting set up for the summer, let us know by emailing iupsvp13@gmail.com. We’d like to take over other people’s meetings too!