My Curriculum Vita (available on my website) follows the conventions of university communities by providing a somewhat tedious list of things done. This statement is an attempt to provide a more filtered view of how I view my work because I think the quality of one’s experiences does not come though the one line entries of curriculum vitae. I highlight below some of experiences referenced in the vita—beginning with the distant past—that I see as formative.
Vermont I worked at a unique private school called the Stowe School. This institution accepted adolescents who were unhappy at home and in their resident schools. They traveled to this boarding school in Vermont that provided an academic program and a fascinating experiential education program. Long before Outward Bound was known for its innovative educational programs, the Stowe School was providing adventure experiences as a means of helping adolescents develop agency in their lives and gain control over their futures. One of my satisfactions in those years was leading a group of eleven students on a week long trip in February over four peaks in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Tackling such tough challenges in the deep snow and biting cold of the mountains left lasting memories of how extremely significant such experiences were in helping individuals grow and develop.
Vermont I worked as a curriculum coordinator at a new open area concept middle school. Our program became a model program and I took much satisfaction from the many other teachers who would visit us. One of the big satisfactions was working collaboratively with six other teachers. We met twice a week to plan, and change, and review student progress. At that time I think we were the only public school faculty in the state to write narrative reports home to parents.
3) I love to downhill ski. While teaching English at the Stowe public high school I found a group of boys who also loved downhill skiing and we began a men’s ski team. Several days a week we trained together. On Saturdays for two winter months, I piled these enthusiastic youngsters into a van and we traveled to different ski areas in
Vermont to compete. We would return to our house in rural Vermont for cookies and hot chocolate full of talk about the races we had won and lost. Creating a small community that worked together was a fine experience for me. I still find time to take my sons to Colorado for skiing trips in the winter. One of my favorite trails is Buddy’s Run at Steamboat Springs. Another is the Nose Dive at Stowe, Vt.
4) In California I helped support my doctoral study by carrying out a large program evaluation project for the Colleges of San Mateo. Two or three days a week I spent hours huddled over computer printouts trying to figure out some way of costing out academic and vocational programs based on monetary inputs and student credit hour outputs. At the time, the three campuses had close to 35,000 students so this was a big and important evaluation project. I liked that this evaluation sincerely attempted to treat each unit of evaluation fairly in ways that faculty could support. I have continued my interest in evaluation and teach a course in Program Evaluation.
California I took on the very difficult job of trying to keep a private school alive. This school had mismanaged funds and accumulated a large debt to the IRS by not submitting social security withholdings. I was able to raise over $100,000 to pay off this debt and I still look at this as one of the most difficult administrative challenges I have faced. Not many academic leaders have to set out to raise money to pay for an IRS debt. But I did and the debt was paid.
California I completed my doctoral degree in Administration and Policy Analysis. This was not easy although I loved every minute at Stanford University. It took days and weeks and months to do the research and the writing necessary to complete the dissertation. It was very lonely work. In retrospect, my experience doing my own dissertation has proven excellent training for the work I now do in helping others write dissertations.
Nebraska, I started a course on cross cultural leadership that quickly took a focus on leadership perspectives of different Native American tribes. As part of that course, I traveled to a reservation for three consecutive summers with a group of students. We helped a traditional Lakota prepare for his annual Sundance and in so doing were participant observers of Lakota leadership in action. This was as close to ethnographic research as I have ever been and I came to understand more fully the power of this kind of qualitative work. Humbling and absorbing are two words that come to mind. I still hear from the students who went with me. I still teach cross cultural leadership although the course has now become an “on-line” course. It is now a much broader course in terms of encompassing other cultural views.
Nebraska I noticed that many doctoral students joined us who came from other countries. These students often had fascinating stories. To connect these international students with local Nebraska kids, I started a program called International Students in the Schools, a program that ran for four years. During that time I was always helping link these two groups.
9) I had the interesting experience of teaching for three weeks at
Shanghai Normal University in . The most exciting part of this experience was living in the Foreign Visitors House where educators from all over the world stayed. Each night the conversation ranged freely over ideologies and politics and popular cultures. China
Nebraska I became the co-coordinator of an unusual marriage—a shared doctoral program between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. This was a difficult challenge because the culture of the two campuses is very difficult and because the program was forced upon the two faculties for political reasons. This was done over ten years ago. The program is still going and has over 100 doctoral students and I view it as one of the few examples of successful collaborations in doctoral education across campuses.
Oregon I taught with a remarkable mentor, Pat Schmuck, at Lewis and Clark College. Her program was a remarkable program for its collaborative approaches and singleness of purpose. I left a stronger educator. For a brief period of time, I had tenure at two institutions but did not make the move to Lewis and Clark for a variety of reasons.
12) Not long after my time in
Portland, OR, I had the good fortune to be asked to teach at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in BeerSheva, Israelfor part of a sabbatical. Everything about this experience was strange and different and emotional. I should also add that my wife and I lived in a very tiny two room apartment with a counter top stove and our two boys. This arrangement caused us to travel about as often as we could. Israel
Nebraska I became part of the largest rural education reform initiative of the past fifty years—the Annenberg Rural Challenge. I was asked by the director of the evaluation of this program, based at Harvard, to serve as a research associate for the project. This connected me with a national group of scholars and educators who enriched my professional life greatly.
Nebraska I produced a documentary movie of rural school curriculum projects that involved about two years of off again, on again travel, picture taking, editing, and production. This too was a collaborative project that produced many fine memories and what I conceive of as a very usable product. The video, called Making Waves, has been shown in many different places. One of the teachers with whom I worked closely has been named the Nebraska Teacher of the Year and a major part of her documentation of her application for that honor came from the research work that I conducted in her classroom. One of the projects that I documented in this teacher’s classroom is now archived in the Library of Congress as a Local Legacies award recipient.
15) In 2001/2002 I served as the president of the university’s academic senate. There are about 1,200 faculty members at this institution and while I think timing had as much to do with my election as personal attributes, I am nonetheless proud of the honor. During my term in office, I worked to make faculty government work in a cooperative manner with administration. I can think of no better introduction to the complexity of a large university than serving as a faculty leader. In the later part of my term, the university began the first of a series of budget reductions that led to the firing of tenured faculty. This was a tremendously difficult time for me because while I understood the budget issues, I was very much opposed to breaching the tenure contract. I suspect that feeling has led me to more involvement in the AAUP, the American Association of University Professors. I was recently elected as the incoming president of the
Nebraska chapter of that national organization.
16) For over a decade I have worked with doctoral students across the program areas of Teachers College (now the
College of Education and Human Sciences) who seek to craft their dissertations. I have attempted to convey in a new book called the Portable Dissertation Advisor what we have learned as we have done this work. I hope that the book will be useful to the growing numbers of part time students and full time workers who attempt to complete doctoral degrees. Thus far, it is selling well and appears to be headed toward the usefulness I had hoped for it. There is a web link to this title on my website.
I connect personal growth to each of these experiences listed above. I have been fortunate to have had many of these.