Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Way I See It.

Benjamin Franklin once said "three can keep a secret if two are dead." Ben was a wise man.

On Wednesday night, the media prematurely released information about a forthcoming vote by the Board of Regents that will consolidate eight University System of Georgia institutions into four. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday of next week.

This current event is of particular interest to me for the following reasons:
1. I am an alumna [what a weird word] of one of these institutions.
2. I am a former employee of the same institution.
3. I am a current employee of the institution that is proposed to be merged with the aforementioned institution.
4. I am a state of Georgia taxpayer.
5. I hold an advanced degree in HR & Organization Development.

So. The way I see it, I find myself in a very unique position. I'm not the only person in this position, mind you, but nonetheless it makes for an interesting perspective that the majority will not have. By the grace of our forefathers and the 1st Amendment, I am going to share my perspective because writing is one of my primary methods of learning and processing information.

When I put on my alumna hat, my initial thought was "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Nobody can mess my school, and anyone who tries needs to take a step back." You see, as far as I'm concerned, that institution is one of the greatest places in the world. It's a beautiful campus. It's the place where I met my best friends. Yes, I have the 6 (soon to be 7!) bridesmaids dresses hanging in my closet to prove it. It's the place where I gained confidence and became a leader. It's the place where I gained a deeper appreciation for some of the values and traditions that make this country we live in so great. It's the place that I made myself and my mama and daddy proud by being the first person in my family to graduate from college. It's the place where I attained my first ever real job. As an employee, it's the place where for the first time in my "adult life", I felt that I was making a difference in the lives of other people. This place provided me with multiple opportunities that I would have never had otherwise. Opportunities that have shaped and changed my life into what it is and is continuously becoming.

When I put on my current employee hat, my initial thought was "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Am I still going to have a job?". I'll get to my other thoughts momentarily, but I'll address this one first. It's human nature to immediately switch into flight or fight mode when our instincts sense potential threat or danger. [Yep, that quality education at institution #1 taught me that.] I'm a single girl with a single income. I enjoy and appreciate things like a roof over my head, cable television, and three meals a day. [I hope that's the only thing I ever have in common with prisoners.] I have always been blessed with the sense of security that comes with having a job. I just wrote about that earlier this week as a matter of fact. And you see, my job is not just a job that simply pays the bills. It's a profession. It's something that I enjoy because it enables me to help others see the opportunities that are potentially available to them when it comes to improving themselves and their own lives. Speaking of opportunity, allow me to share my other initial thought when wearing my current employee hat which was "What does this mean for my students?" The missions of these two institutions are different so I began to consider the potential impact that this merger would have on any current and future students at institution #2. Would they still be able to have access to higher education? Working at an access institution has changed my definition of "access". It's more than just the initial admissions requirements. It's an education at a more affordable cost. It's more course offerings at different times of day for those students who have to work or do not have the liberties of the "carefree college life" that I was afforded. It's an education closer to home for those students who aren't quite ready to leave mama and her amazing cooking and laundry skills. It's a place that I love because I have watched students transform and grow in ways that they themselves never thought possible. Much like my own transformation as a college student.

When I put on my state of Georgia taxpayer hat, my initial thought was "Well, I certainly am not the person to balance the budget nor do I want to be, but I do understand the importance of fiscally sound decisions. I hope that the people in charge know what they are doing." This has challenged me to become more informed on things like the budget and how it works and who we as a state elect into the position to make such decisions. The Technical College System of Georgia consolidated 15 institutions into 9 beginning in 2009 for the sake of the budget. Honestly, it should come as no surprise that the University System would consider the same measures.

When I put on my Master's in HR & Organization Development mortarboard (ha!), my initial thought was "Change is painful and uncomfortable, but change is inevitable." I will not bore you all with the science and psychology and business theories related to change within organizations, but at the risk of being stoned, I will go out on a limb and say that I absolutely understand that sometimes change is necessary. We may not always have a choice in the change that occurs, but we do always have a choice in our response to it. I am not suggesting we all become puppets and let "the man" dictate our actions. However, I am suggesting that we consider the change with an open mind from a perspective beyond ourselves and our own comfort zone.

The thing about a college campus or college experience or anything related to college is that it's very personal for each individual student. Sure, a student body appreciates and respects shared traditions. That's part of why students choose particular colleges in the first place. However, even those things change over time. While the institution that I graduated from in 2001 still sits in the same location and has some of the faculty and boasts the same great traditions, it's a different place. Old buildings have been torn down and replaced with new buildings. Different students fill the classrooms and residence halls. My college experience was so great for what it was and who I shared it with during that time. So while campuses may be added and merged and administrative costs may be cut, the memories of our own college experience cannot be impacted by the present actions and decisions. [I put on both my alumna and employee hat for this because it was my own college experience that enabled me to encourage and inform incoming college students that they are the ones who drive their own college experience.]

It seems that currently, the only definitive is that there is more unknown than known. It's during the times of unknown that anxiety is at its peak because we all love to play the game of "What if?". We don't like to wait and see. We want all the questions answered before we've even had time to think of and ask all the questions. But you know what they say about Rome and how it wasn't built in a day.

In the meantime, there is a resource on this topic for those who are interested in keeping up with the latest. It can be found here:

1 comment:

Kristen said...

While I'm not informed enough to have an opinion, it's interesting to me because my lil sis is currently attending institution #2 (Cumming campus) but was accepted into institution #1 beginning in January. Wondering what all this means for her, if anything. Looking forward to all of us getting together soon!