This theme invited us to explore the various roles that we play as faculty developers, administrators, teachers, and students, and the ways in which we capitalize on the assets around us to meet the many needs of the higher education community, ideally doing more and better work with less effort. We hoped this theme and conference would build on Kathryn Plank’s 2013 Presidential Address, during which we all contemplated who we are and our relationship to the meaningful work that we do. In that spirit, how do we leverage who we are to better accomplish all that we are asked to do, and why do we persevere?
The concept of “leverage” can have many implications in our work, and this conference examined the myriad manifestations of our need and ability to do more with less. We certainly leverage our resources every day as we manage teaching and learning centers, departments, and offices, sometimes even on a shoestring budget or with a skeleton crew of staff. How do we make the most of the resources that we have available so that we remain effective, and how do we do this without overtaxing ourselves in the process?
We must also leverage our knowledge along with the knowledge of others to function successfully in the rapidly changing world of academia; research continuously informs our best practices for the advancement of learning and the improvement of teaching. We likewise leverage our experience to lead from above as well as to push from below to influence meaningful change on our campuses through programming and consultations, and to stay relevant and deftly navigate the political landscape of our campuses. What knowledge has been especially powerful and meaningful to your work, and how have you successfully shared it with others? In what ways have you built from and shared your experience to help those who have come after you to avoid mistakes and better succeed? How do we utilize that knowledge and experience in our scholarly practices to facilitate innovation and change?
Our work also relies heavily upon leveraging the communities with which we engage and our ability to connect with others. We must foster relationships on and beyond our own campuses, both personally and professionally, because our effectiveness is often inextricably connected to our interpersonal skills. And perhaps most importantly, our work requires leveraging our heart – the drive to help others, a passion for good teaching that fosters deeper learning, and a desire to endure because the work is meaningful and important. How do we draw strength from our community, and remember the heart at the core of our work during times of upheaval and change? How do we continue to pave the way for academic excellence and foster a culture that values teaching?
The vast metropolis of Dallas, Texas was an appropriate setting for our conference as we investigated the enormity and variety of our work. “Big D” is the 9th largest city in the United States, and flexibility and innovation have helped it grow from its humble beginnings as a farming and cattle town to a powerful center for corporate commerce, art, and culture, with bases in computer technology, energy, telecommunications, and healthcare. Dallas is clearly a city that has learned how to leverage its strengths, and as such was the perfect place for us to explore our own power of leverage!