DUE Leadership Team Retreats and Advances

By Elizabeth Reed, Senior Associate Dean, DUE and Dan Hastings, Dean for Undergraduate Education

On January 22 and 23, 2009, the DUE Leadership Team held our annual winter retreat. Retreats have been essential to our ongoing planning, since we developed the DUE strategic plan in 2006. We typically focus on issues facing DUE and the Institute, engage in problem-solving and prepare for major organizational events, such as the Visiting Committee proceedings last April.

At a time of greater uncertainty than in memory, this retreat had a particular sense of urgency. We wanted to use it to actively address the challenges ahead, in ways that prepare and position DUE as well as possible. In this article, we would like to share the agenda and some of the outcomes to give you a sense of what is underway.

After reviewing some of the accomplishments and progress across DUE since 2006, we identified factors affecting our work and the implications of these factors. We explored opportunities that could help us in the future and that respond to the Institute Task Force charge (http://web.mit.edu/instituteplanning/taskforce.html).

To support a process for moving forward that is consistent with our mission, values and vision, we developed a set of guiding principles. We discussed in detail the importance of open, accurate communication and how to ensure this as we go forward, and we agreed on some ways to increase staff involvement, input and information sharing. While always beneficial, such opportunities are especially critical in times of great uncertainty and challenge.

We spent several hours engaged in large and small group discussions which produced many compelling ideas worthy of further exploration. Some of these ideas are the basis for three cross-cutting Working Groups comprised mainly of DUE staff, announced at the February 12th All Staff meeting. Their work will be guided in part by the principles mentioned above.

The foci and co-chairs of these groups are:

  • First Year Experience – Julie Norman and Lori Breslow
  • Support for Faculty in Sustaining Educational Innovation and Leadership – Diana Henderson and Vijay Kumar
  • Program and Service Delivery Across the Student Lifecycle – Mary Callahan and Melanie Parker

Your thoughts and ideas will be essential to the working groups and to DUE. There are several ways to have input including contacting the co-chairs or using the DUE Idea Bank which will be launched shortly. We look forward to sharing more information about the groups’ scope and some of the topics they are considering in future issues of this newsletter.

As part of our ongoing Succession Planning work, we developed a competency model for DUE leadership team positions and mapped out next steps for its use. Budget reduction decisions for FY10 were discussed within the context of DUE as a whole, not in terms of individual offices. Since the retreat, the Office Heads have communicated the FY10 budget decisions within their respective offices. We will do our best to share information about changes resulting from these decisions that may significantly impact other parts of DUE.

We approached the retreat as a unified team committed to making good but potentially hard decisions. With great teamwork and respect for the DUE enterprise, mission and people, we accomplished a lot of high priority, difficult work in a thoughtful way that will help us endure and advance in FY10 and beyond.