2014 Conference Management & Professional Development

That IS your problem! Creating a collaborative campus

That IS your problem! Creating a collaborative campus

Presenter: Corie Martin – Western Kentucky University

One isn’t always the loneliest number. Corie Martin of Western Kentucky University notes that, if you’re a department of one at a college or university, there can be some perks. For starters, you pretty much have control over your work and how you do it. You generally get to be as creative as you want. And, being the only one tasked to do the job shows that “they” — you know, them — well, they pretty much trust you.

But let’s face it, says Corie, when you bear all of the burdens by yourself, well:

limited time + limited resources = frustration = burnout.

Working in high-ed web can certainly have some unique challenges and frustrations. One of my favorite things about the HighEdWeb Conference — besides all the amazing ideas and collaboration, of course — is being able to safely blow off some steam in a room of people who can truly empathize, and not just sympathize like my poor family and friends.

Because balancing the needs of so many departments, majors, programs, activities, egos, [seemingly] conflicting priorities and the like, well, honestly it can feel a bit like working in a circus at times … with some VERY scary monkeys.

Enrollment is down. Graduation rates are down. Employment rates of college grads are down. Budgets aren’t going up.

But if you’re tempted to say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry. Enrollment is admissions’ problem. I have nothing to do with academic programs or student affairs,” Corie will stop you in your tracks:

“Not your circus? Those aren’t your monkeys? Errhhhh. Try again.”

The problems plaguing the higher education industry affect all of us. And if we’re going to tame this troop that’s affecting our collective backs, Corie says we’re going to need to collaborate. Why? Because we have no time, no money, and no choice.

But if you’re one of those folks who bristles at the thought of cross-campus collaboration, Corie offers some reassurance: good things can come from collaboration!

Corie’s Causes for Collaboration

Someone always has money. Typically it’s academic affairs, though they’ll likely deny this. Seek out those with budgets, befriend them, work with them. Create strategic partnerships and they can help fund your joint projects. You might lose a little control, but hey, at least things are getting done, right? Things like software implementation, marketing campaigns, strategic planning — it’s all good!

Your campus is actually full of content producers. There are so many different content types floating around your campus: social media, testimonials, flyers, calendars and more. Make use of these streams! Comment on things. Share them, retweet them, subscribe to them.

You don’t have to feel like you’re the last to know about things on campus. It’s not easy, but you CAN create a culture where people know you’re the one to call. Train your campus community that YOU are the person who controls what content goes out to thousands of people. Let them know that you’re going to make THEM look good!

Committees! Yay! That’s not sarcasm. Use committees to your advantage. They bring together a fantastic cross-departmental group of people. Find a strategic partnership on your committee, someone who can help you later.

You don’t work in a silo. Or in a vacuum. Or on an island. These are icky buzzwords. Silos are gross and full of fermenting rotting stuff. Vacuums sucks up dirt. Islands can be beautiful unless you’re stranded there. Quit referring to yourself this way. It’s not about us, it’s about the students.

But wait, you might say. People won’t help me. Or I’m afraid it won’t work. Or there’s no way I can help affect change. Corie reminds us that it’s OK to ask for help — always remember that, ultimately, it’s about what’s good for the student.

Corie’s Keys to a Creating a Collaborative Campus

  1. Look at your projects: What do I work on?
  2. Wish Lists: What do I WANT to work on?
  3. Institutional Goals: Are your #1 and #2 in alignment? Yes? There’s a good chance you can get some money to help you!
  4. Build your team: Be smart about it. A strong team includes administration*, academics, campus colleges, and students. Your best friends on campus should be: admissions/enrollment, IT, marketing, creative, student services, reps from colleges/programs, students.
  5. Do your homework: Call other institutions who have done it already. Find out what worked, and what didn’t.
  6. Make a plan: Remember, all strategic plans support a vision. Does your plan support your vision? If yes, build a TIMELINE. Get your data. Because data is how you can get money.

Corie’s Case of Commuters Cavorting in Their Cars
At WKU, they discovered that commuter students were not engaged on campus. In fact, between classes, instead of using the brand new beautiful student union building, they were hanging out in their cars. Why? They didn’t know what services were available to them or where to find them. Turns out they wanted to know where they could microwave, fax machines, printers, etc. But, instead of passing the buck to a singular department, a presidential dictate created a cross-campus collaborative committee to address the situation. A creative new orientation program and campaign ensued, and Corie realized that no one department could have accomplished alone what this group accomplished together. And the real winner? The students.

Corie’s Conclusion
Some final words of advice to all those who would fight their higher ed web battles all alone: Enough is enough! Quit passing the buck, let’s get this done.


Not my circus? TRY AGAIN!

Not my monkeys? Some of the best wisdom comes from unexpected places.


Contact Corie Martin:
Slides can be found at:



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By Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the Director of Campus Sonar. Her professional super powers include designing and analyzing market research, applying social media strategy to multiple areas of the business, explaining difficult concepts in simple language, and using social listening to develop consumer insights and assist with reputation management. She received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University.