Lemon doughnut

I bit into a lemon doughnut the other day. If you’ve never done that, let me explain what it’s like.doritos-cool-ranch

It’s like finding a hundred dollar bill on the ground, only to go to a convenient store to buy Doritos and have the manager tell you the bill is counterfeit. It’s also like buying a bag of Doritos, only to discover the bag is completely empty (not just half empty like it normally would be).

It’s like working with NVivo.

NVivo is a computer software that, at its basic level, categorizes your notes and finds common themes in them. We at the IUP SVP have begun to use it to help us organize the notes we’ve taken during our group discussions.

But it’s not as easy as we thought. It’s not a wizard with magical categorizing powers. On the surface, it’s a doughnut, but it’s filled with lemon-flavored gelatin.

Without getting into specifics, we’re finding that it requires much more manual work than we first thought. Not as pleasant as we judged it to be. I guess I’m a product of my generation — I assume computers can do everything for me. And that’s dangerous. I need to work smarter, not harder, and not let computers take over my job.

And avoid lemon doughnuts.

–Caleb Murphy

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…Umm, next question

It’s been very interesting for us to see all the different opinions that people have to offer when we do facilitations. Students share one opinion, faculty share a completely different one and community members are completely different from the first two groups. While it’s fun to be able to talk to all types of groups, it’s been a challenge to reign in all of the diverse opinions to form a productive conversation. At a facilitation the other night, a participant brought up a good point.

“Everyone complains about the bad, but no one praises about the good.”

Period. End of story.

He’s so right! People are so quick to voice their opinions when it comes to things they want to complain about, but when things are going well, they very rarely share their thoughts. So how do we change that? How do we find out what people think the positives are?

Our hope is that we can find some common (positive) themes to be able to change the future of the university through a new strategic vision. But the challenging part is, how do we get those positive opinions out of people when a lot of the time people want to complain?

Your initial reaction when someone gets you off topic is to say “let’s move on to the next question.” However, we’ve been taught and have practiced facilitating productive discussions. We’ll persevere!

–Kelly

diVeRSitY?

In the group discussions we host, many people say that IUP is “diverse” and that IUP’s “diversity” makes us unique.

Well, let’s see about that…

Below is the diversity — the “ethnic breakdown” — of IUP…

And here is the gender breakdown…

What do you think? Is IUP diverse? Is that what makes us unique?

You can comment below, or sign up for a group interview to tell us what you think.

–Caleb Murphy

Looking for the Beaten Paths

An old footpath

The old footpath

If you’ve ever walked from the suites to Eleventh Street (the street that Foster Hall and Davis Hall sit on, barely visible in this photo), maybe you’ve seen this new piece of sidewalk. I love cutting through the suites when I’m walking to Davis because it’s much faster than walking alllll the way up Grant Street, turning left at Foster, and then walking all the way down to Davis. I’m either too efficient or too lazy.

Apparently I wasn’t the only student who enjoyed this shortcut because there used to be a well-worn footpath going from the old part of the sidewalk (which you can see in the bottom right corner of this photo) toward Grant Street. That wide, new sidewalk was nothing more than a dirt path that students wore out after years of trampling the grass.

Funny thing is, there’s an almost-identical sidewalk about 15 feet from the old sidewalk that will take you to Grant Street, but so many people were headed downhill that they elected not to walk up that extra 20 feet just to go down. Is that silly? Probably. Did it stop us from wearing that path? Not a chance. (Here’s a Google Maps street view showing this.)

I wish I had a picture of how this area used to look. Believe me, it was what groundskeepers would call “unsightly,” especially when it rained for a week and turned into mud so thick you could lose a boot. But then someone made the fantastic decision to turn the path into a sidewalk, and as you can see, there’s no more dirt, mud, or trampling of the grass.

I tell you all this because it occurred to me last week that this is what we’re trying to do with IUP through the Strategic Visioning Project. Bear with me. I’m also an English major–I like metaphors.

Some universities use committees to formulate their strategic visions and plans. In our research, we’ve read a few case studies touting the success of visioning/planning groups in which professors and administrators from various departments get together a few times a year to draft the plans that will move their universities forward.

While we’re not exactly drafting the plans for IUP’s future, I’d argue that our process of hitting the streets and reaching out to get input from many people connected to the university is much better for the vision/mission and the university family as a whole, and it’s because of the sidewalk thing. In the group interview process, we’re spotting the unacknowledged paths that people have already worn and seeing how we can turn that into something “official” for everyone to be a part of. Like the smart ways we’re adapting to budget cuts. The ways professors are getting their students out of the classroom and into research and projects. The ways Indiana residents connect with IUP students that don’t make page 2 of the Indiana Gazette.

Whatever unnoticed trails you’re blazing out there, that’s what we’re looking for. It’s just as much a part of the university as the stuff that we already know about. Tell us about your well-worn path. 

-Emily

Let’s make it hotter in here

faculty thermostatWe have a thermostat hanging in the IUP SVP Command Center. Not for temperature — for faculty.

Let me explain. Faculty are crucial to IUP. We want their input. We invite everybody, especially IUP faculty, to tell us what they think. All for the future of IUP.

So far, 25 IUP faculty members have given us their support in the form of opinions. We’re shooting for 258, a statistically relevant fraction of all IUP faculty.

Why the thermostat? To measure the number of faculty.

Help us heat up the Command Center. Let faculty know we want to hear from them. If you are faculty, tell us what you think and help form the new vision for our university.

–Caleb Murphy