After writing and editing for University Business more than a decade ago, and then becoming editor-in-chief and executive editor of our sister education publication, District Administration, for K12 superintendents, it is an enormous privilege to step into this new role as columnist for both magazines and editor at large (although my wife says it is more accurate to say editor at “extra-large”).
This, then, is the first iteration of the “UB At Large” column, where I seek to address timely issues and developments in higher education, and provide insights based on my long and varied experience. My goal in every column is to present shared solutions and usable information, but the first order of business is an introduction.
I completed a career as a professor of education at the University of Connecticut, where my added responsibilities included undergraduate and graduate admissions, faculty promotion and tenure, accreditation, schoolwide program design, and supervising hundreds of students. I am presently serving a third, four-year term as a trustee of Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., where I chair the education group and participate on the executive committee.
I also directed a cooperative college curriculum implementation project with 19 school districts, funded by the National Science Foundation, and later served on proposal review panels at state and federal levels. I was active in professional associations throughout my career, being on the board of directors for one organization, and national membership director for another.
I have presented professional development programs throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad, in almost every instructional model anyone can suggest, starting with print-based courses at a distance.
These have included information tours for school executives in major cities, sponsored by companies such as Microsoft and the former Compaq (which merged with Hewlett-Packard); week-long and weekend programs at colleges and universities; summer programs for the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe; presentations at professional conferences; and day-long workshops in hotels across the country.
In fact, my coast-to-coast record at the start of the computer revolution involved presenting an informational program in Cleveland on Monday, in Detroit on Tuesday, in Chicago on Wednesday, in Denver on Thursday, and arriving in San Francisco Friday for a program on Monday. Such rigorous consulting is clearly a “young person’s game,” which is why I am no longer someone who’s on the staff development circuit.
Some readers may know that I also collaborated on the Emmy-award-winning “Schoolhouse Rock” series on ABC-TV in the 70s. I still do presentations with executive producer George Newall, who wrote “Unpack Your Adjectives,” and music director Bob Dorough, who wrote the famous “Conjunction Junction.”
Many of our readers were part of the Schoolhouse Rock generation, and still know the songs and lyrics. This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of that cultural phenomenon. We recently shared some of what we learned at several state conferences, as well as at our own UBTech conference.
I have faced and continue to face many of the same professional challenges, pressures, and frustrations in higher education as you, especially in this “new normal” era of declining enrollments, restrained budgets, changing demographics, competition from alternative programs, increased self-directed learning, reconfigured staffing, explosions in social media, realigned resources, and program prioritization.
I plan to address each of these issues and more in the months ahead, starting with staff development essentials, and look forward to meeting you here on the back page. Please call me “Gil” (from my middle name), and feel free to drop me a line.
Odvard Egil Dyrli is editor at large for University Business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.