Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff

If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5. For those of you that didn’t participate, this will still interest you. Here is that recurring statement:

“By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

The unfortunate truth in this statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as UIFs, understand this. Universities are the training facilities of future intelligent generations and need to keep up with what we demand to learn through higher education. Knowing this, you need to be prepared to appeal to the senses of your university, and every university wants reassurance that your idea is going to work and eliminate any and all risk involved.

The best way to create reassurance is to build case studies based on your UIF peer successes or otherwise. These ideas don’t need to necessarily be university-related examples. Ideas can stem from the corporate world and be adapted to your campus ecosystem. I digress to our days of learning from the sing-a-longs of School House Rock, but they got it right when they said, “Knowledge is Power.” The more knowledge you acquire about how these ideas were actually successful, the more faculty and staff will be willing to listen and help you execute your plans.

When looking at potential case studies, you will want to know specific details upfront. When you find the idea you want to implement on your campus, reach out to the people who organized it. This process is much like your experience in building the resources section on the wiki and reaching out to key organizational leaders. Apply that here. Find out how they started, what platforms they used to organize information, how they reached out to volunteers, how they found money, how they landed their keynote speaker, etc. Keep asking them open-ended ‘how’ questions;  this will help you get the most information. This will also jump start your efforts if you get your faculty and/or staff on board. (And who knows – the person you contacted may want to help you be successful.)

After you have done your research and built a stash of great examples, solidify a meeting time and create a plan of approach. Know what you want to say; identify the goals you want to achieve out of this meeting; and practice your spiel. The person(s) you are going to meet with has a time-sensitive schedule and you will typically engage or lose their attention within the first three minutes, so hook them.Speak passionately and confidently about everything you prepared for and what you want to take action on at your campus.

In your plan of approach, anticipate for questions and don’t falter when they ask. By asking you questions, they are making sure that you have done your research and actually know what you are talking about. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” If you need to say “IDK,” follow it with something you do know that directly relates to the question they are asking. Or follow an “IDK” with asking for their advice on how to answer the question they posed. You want them to be so engaged that they are inadvertently dumping information on you that you weren’t aware of and will help you execute your plan (may be helpful to take notes or bring a second person dedicated to taking notes). Faculty and staff will wear the black hat. To prepare for this, talk about your idea with as many students, friends, classmates, or other mentors beforehand. Keep record of the questions they ask you so you can find answers and be more prepared for your meeting.

During your meeting, be aware of with whom you are speaking. Watch their body language and yours. Their tone of voice will also hint at their interest. Make sure they are speaking to you as an equal and not down at you. If they appear to be speaking down at you, your message is being lost on deaf ears. If this is the case, don’t begin pleading and make sure you don’t react to their actions toward you out of haste. Take a deep breath and remember to respond respectfully. Cut the meeting politely and move on. This is a sign that you will need to continue your search in finding a faculty mentor that will listen, encourage and support your efforts.

The faculty and staff on your campus will support you more confidently if you can back up your ideas with evidence that your effort will be successful. In asking for university resources, your mentor will also be more willing to go to bat for you in securing those resources if they can provide the evidence you have connected to other significant influencers. The less perceived risk involved will increase their eagerness to get involved with your movement. So I close with the same recurring statement:

“By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”


~ Katie Dzugan, University Innovation Fellow (Spring 2013) &
Program Associate, University Innovation Fellows

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