Changing the student experience

View of the lake with the Washington Monument in the background. Trees in vibrant fall orange and yellow hues line the lake.
Washington, D.C., was much colder than I expected. It started warming up as the week wound down. (Adobe Stock)

Washington, D.C., was much colder than I expected. It started warming up as the week wound down. I think I missed the best day of the APLU Advocacy Meeting: an invite-only session where the afternoon was spent “backcasting” a scenario in which federal agriculture research support and federal Extension support increased substantially.

The idea of backcasting is that you work backward from the outcome (in this case, increased federal funds) to identify what actions were necessary to get to that outcome. Part of the exercise involved determining what one would do with the increased funds. I heard from a session participant that attendees struggled a bit with the entire activity.

Thanks to the recent CAHNRS Growth and Visioning Task Force work, I have a good idea of how I would use an increase in ongoing support funding from either federal or state sources. Identified needs include beefing up some longstanding teaching, research, and Extension areas to restore capacity that has been lost over the years, as well as establishing new programming areas to address key future challenges. Funds would be deployed for career and tenure track positions as well as research, teaching/advising, and program coordination support. Let’s not forget that program personnel can only do their work because of operations personnel. We need more capacity on these teams (finance, grants, communications, office, and facilities, among others), as well.

On one day of the meeting, a participant commented that “until we do something different in higher education, we can’t anticipate a different outcome.” The remark was related to declining student enrollments. I was reminded of a couple comments that came at the end of the recent Pullman town hall, when two of our early career staff members raised the topic of changing the student experience. We ran out of time before I could learn more, but I am eager to explore those comments and hear from recent graduates. I hope CAHNRS is up for exploring how best to meet student and employer needs. I know at least a couple of faculty members are eager to engage in brainstorming. How great would it be to include some of our employers?

Thanks to all who have sent me impact statements. Please, keep them coming! I never know when I will have an unexpected opportunity to share the stories. I have another flight across the country at the end of the week. I am taking an extra-long weekend and spending Thursday through Saturday with siblings and friends before heading back to Seattle on Sunday. You never know who might be seated next to me. The more stories I have, the more opportunities to connect with a new advocate, partner, or friend.

I hope everyone has a relaxing long weekend. Be sure to thank our veterans for keeping us all safe!


Leave a Reply