Category Archives: Leadership

CODFA Leadership Blog
Announcements and commentary from the CODFA President and Vice President.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | March 21, 2019

We’ve all had that experience that makes us remember how lucky we are. And that experience is especially profound when at the same time, it makes you understand the responsibility that accompanies your luck. 

Last week, we lost a colleague, Eric Martinson, Assistant Professor of English. He battled leukemia for a little over year. He was admired and valued by both his students and colleagues. He was a COD alum and he came back here because he cared about the work we do and he wanted to build a career at the place where he got started. 

I want to take a moment to thank the people who worked to make Eric feel supported and connected to COD throughout his illness. Tim Henningsen, Jason Snart, Melina Martin, Mary Anderson, Danica Hubbard, Karin Evans, Amy Camp and, of course, Tom Montgomery-Fate, who was Eric’s teacher here many years ago.

They are why I feel lucky. They say that the way we treat our sick says a lot about a culture. This shows me that we have a rich culture here. It’s been challenged by controversy. It’s been challenged by bad leadership. It’s challenged by silos. It’s challenged by initiative fatigue. But it’s still here. We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. That’s where the responsibility comes in. And the good news is – I don’t have an ask for you. It’s not your job to build or nurture our culture. It’s my job. It’s their job. It’s our future President’s job. We have a responsibility to this institution, to our students and each other to rebuild and strengthen this culture.

We’re going to start by confronting our fears. We’re not going to be afraid to ask questions and challenge each other’s assumptions. Our business is education – we’re supposed to challenge each other.

We are going to be clear about what our vision is for teaching, advising, and mentoring . We are going to be clear about the resources and information we need to not just get that job done, but also continuously improve. We’re going to figure out how to make our systems of collaboration (another word for committees) more effective.

One of the things that Eric was passionate about was technology and how it shaped communication. The first interaction I ever had with him was at the Celebration of Student Writing, held during the Spring Semester. Students were asked to present their typical research papers in unique ways that engaged technology. The students participating in this were clearly energized by their research and projects. Technology can bring out that energy even fuel it at times.

Tonight, we are finally approving the purchase of software that will help faculty engage in assessment projects that support and inspire continuous improvement in our work. The need for this purchase has been on our plate for at least two years and it’s going to serve as a starting point for more great things to come.

Finally, I do want to mention that the Eric Martinson Memorial Scholarship Fund is being established through the COD Foundation. And now I do have an ask. I hope that we can count on you to support a scholarship will help future students as they embark on their journey at COD.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | March 21, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the packet, and we celebrate the creativity and productivity of the faculty whose sabbaticals are listed for next year. Their work is part of what will continue to develop COD into a 21st century site for teaching and learning.

Innovative teaching and learning requires careful budgeting, of course, and we understand the process behind the proposed $1 increase in student tuition for Fall 2019. At this time last year when this board also voted to raise student tuition, we urged you to examine and champion initiatives that could help students manage the cost of college, including an institutional effort to engage with and support the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and a deliberate strategy to address and resolve the chronic and systematic underfunding of higher education in our state over the course of several decades. We are glad COD is working to include OER in a more visible and central way, but there is work to do regarding a deliberate and long-term strategy in Springfield that serves COD’s students and community.

Ultimately, perhaps this Board can focus on making good public policy decisions around the other source of revenue that supports our public school: the tax levy. Going forward, it is clear that a school board that agrees to raise student tuition must acknowledge a need to accept the regular annual tax levy step-up in order to avoid increasing only the students’ cost of college. Taxpayers, community members, and employers share in the outcome of our students’ educations and have a collective interest in and responsibility to contribute to those costs as well. Raising the cost for students only is not fair and balanced public policy.

All of these efforts, in concert, might send the message that we are working on every front, as a College, to address costs for students with imagination, foresight and a full understanding of revenue streams. COD offers an important public good within our district, and a global point of view would focus on sustainable and effective public policies around resources for that public good.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Feb 21, 2019

Faculty are creatures of inquiry. We’ve always got questions. We’re always seeking to improve and broaden our base of knowledge. It’s our love of inquiry that is at the root of our appreciation for Trustee Mazzochi. Her leadership brought not just answers, but resolution to questions we had for a long time. Her inquiry has sometime prompted us to think more carefully about our work and the role we play in this community. Her commitment to listening reminded us to listen, too.

Trustee Mazzochi has also been a valued leader in the way that she inspires discipline among those around her. She has continually demanded of us to be deliberate in our approach to things like budgeting, strategic planning and hiring.

We hope that her commitment to inquiry, listening, discipline and process is something that we will continue to see from the board of trustees for years to come. We also hope that she finds a way to use these skills in Springfield as she proudly represents District 47.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Feb 21, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we recognize the faculty retirements listed in the Board packet, especially Dr. Sheryl Mylan, whose service as an associate dean and a faculty member has been expert and valued over the past 15 years.

This evening, our College appears to be on the verge of further change, based on the agenda item about a trustee resignation and replacement. As in the past, we are optimistic that the Board will pursue a transparent and public process that welcomes applicants from across District 502. In the all-too-recent past, there was a time when a somewhat different Board could not agree on how to fill such a vacancy, and so we hope everyone on our Board is committed to meeting, achieving a quorum, and avoiding that scenario this time around. A calm, orderly, typical transition is in order, with every effort made to avoid drama, headlines, or disruption for our school. Furthermore, it would be very meaningful and even reassuring to see our board reach a consensus, or even achieve a unanimous decision about this appointment, as it would be one way to show the world that we have truly developed beyond the strife and difficulty of 2016. We continue to hope that each crossroads is another step in the path forward for COD and its faculty, staff, and students.

Thank you.

President Toler’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Jan 17, 2019

Good evening. Happy New Year – or, honestly, at the beginning of Spring semester it feels more like Happy Mid-Year. We have just finished the second day of In-Service activities designed to bring us back together, help us prepare for our students, and get us thinking about the future at COD. While discussions about Pathways were plentiful, other important academic topics like assessment, Blackboard and universal accessibility, and even Frida Kahlo were covered.

The work that goes into these days – from logistical coordination to presentation preparation – does not go unnoticed and I want to express sincere appreciation to Dr. Lisa Stock and her team, numerous faculty colleagues, as well as Dr. Mark Curtis-Chavez and Dr. Brian Caputo who provided some clarity and direction to get us started on what is truly a new year.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Jan 17, 2019

Good Evening and happy new year. We are glad to begin the spring semester. As always, It will be a busy term, but faculty look forward to the start of classes and seeing our students on Tuesday.

In retrospect, 2018 was a significant year of change at our school; the coming calendar year promises even more change at every level. We hope, of course, that change also means progress, and progress in the right direction. At this time last year, we spoke about the need to reflect on change, and to evaluate and absorb the implications collectively and in due time, and on some issues, the college community took some time to do so. On other fronts, this wasn’t possible or available, and perhaps we can all keep working to do better. Building ample time and meaningful dialogue into the process always leads to better collective decisions. It also seems clear we are all better off when decisions are made based on good public policy by high-information leaders who care about the common good.

So our wish this year is that our College continues to evolve through dialogue, deliberate collaboration, a culture of rigorous dissent, and honest conversation about real students, as they are, in all of their variety and complexity at our school. As we’ve learned over and over in the past several years, complicated problems require complicated solutions and a longer timeline than anyone can estimate. So here’s to more variety and complexity in 2019.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Nov 15, 2018

It’s been three years since COD’s Board fired a past college president, and three years since COD was placed on accreditation probation. Our school suffered through the headlines in the wake of that time, and we all worked hard to repair the damage done to the College. While our national accreditation and our local reputation is largely restored, and we celebrate the work President Rondeau did to move our school forward and wish her well in her next endeavor, it is fair to say we continue to uncover work that needs to be done at COD, even as we enjoy an improved outlook overall for our school and our students.

But hard work and general resilience cannot fully insulate us from the challenges posed by yet another crossroads. As we head into the next year with another presidential vacancy and significant changes in state-wide leadership, it is important that the COD Board and administration continue to build collaborative and responsive relationships with faculty and staff in order to understand and resolve issues for our students and our school. After all, Board members come and go; Administrators come and go; even students, as important and central as they are to our work, individually spend a very short time at our school. It is front-line faculty and staff who persist, and our institutional memory, knowledge, and experience keep the engine running while the other pieces change around us.

While change is inevitable, and it can be argued that higher education on the whole is facing similar challenges, we really do seem to experience more than our fair share at the College of DuPage. We can’t help but wonder if it may be possible to mitigate some of the whiplash and change fatigue by asking ourselves, as we contemplate various significant issues, will that change actually create improvement, and does it really need to happen right now? Or can we take some time and gather more ideas and dialogue about it before we decide? In that vein, we appreciate efforts to revisit the SLRP (Strategic Long Range Plan) in whole and over time, and we hope for increased time to incorporate and uphold stakeholder input on that document. We appreciate efforts to contemplate and discuss the appointment of an interim president (and we look forward to working with Vice President Caputo in that capacity). As in these two examples, we hope that other searches and organizational decisions will take time, not haste, and rely on the expertise and take seriously the point of view of the stakeholders who are here for the duration.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Oct 18, 2018

Of course one cannot let the night pass without some reference to the announcement last week by Dr. Rondeau of her imminent departure to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. I look forward to my invitation to visit. While coming out of the blue at this juncture, I balance the sense of loss with the realization that this was a calling that she could not deny. It is not yet time for the heartfelt farewells since we have two more months of shared work ahead, but I will say that for these past two years it has been my honor to work with Dr. Rondeau as the faculty representative. She has modeled the covenant leader to the maximum.

Thanks in large part to her work, the college is in excellent shape to navigate the transition. The selection of fine senior cabinet members has been a hallmark of her presidency. I don’t wish to prejudge your discussion of the succession planning (item 10), but I am quite confident that our members would be accepting of an internal appointment of an interim president.

In similar vein, I see no reason at this point to alter course on major initiatives like Pathways, for example, about which you will receive an update this evening. More than fifty faculty members are involved or have been involved in this complex, evolving, multi-dimensional undertaking and I sense a high degree of shared commitment in this work. Not everyone shares that view of course.

I do need to share a sense of, for want of a better word, change fatigue among a significant fraction of our members as they see the disappearance of another president, the appointment of another interim, the installation of a brand new provost, even for some the consequences of Pathways, and the prospect of a reorganization, with pieces moved around big and small. I know that change is part of the business, but I am urging careful consideration of all the issues and proper engagement of all the players so as to minimize any unintended consequences.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Sept 20, 2018

One month ago, Mark Curtis-Chavez was an item in the consent agenda. One month on, he is here in the flesh occupying a seat at the cabinet table. I wanted to welcome him once more. In early conversations, he has already shared one initiative around enrollment with us in which he identifies faculty input as important to its success, and we look forward to working with him on that and other ideas in the coming months.

Turning to this evening’s agenda, you are set to approve renewal of the employee benefit plans tonight: item 8.d. I can report that our members did approve the college’s health insurance proposal with 88 % of the members voting in approval. I appreciate the effort made in crafting this proposal that will moderate the alarming and perhaps unexpected increases in premiums for the existing high deductible plan.

Nonetheless, when change is mentioned relative to insurance, emotions run high; people fear losses in something that is intimately essential and personal. And, it seems, the price always goes up. Given the inevitable tightness of the timeline between getting reliable data in July, to finalizing a proposal by August, people feel rushed, under-informed, and insecure. A lot of work went into the education process and I want to thank our Welfare representatives for their effort in this.

I am haunted by a phrase I heard at a board meeting back in 2016: the need to bend down the cost curve. Of course it is necessary to have costs commensurate with revenues. Health insurance cost increases constantly outpace revenue generation, largely due to factors beyond local control. Inevitably, this problem will be revisited again. Are there perhaps more radical approaches to the whole health insurance question to be explored here? Something perhaps to explore going forward.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Sept 20, 2018

Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our retiring faculty colleagues listed in the Board Packet: Professor Barry, Professor Reed, and especially Professor Tallman, who served many years as a CODFA leader and as our local Grievance Chair during some very difficult times. We wish him a well-earned retirement and the satisfaction of knowing that his intelligent and persistent efforts have been affirmed by what has transpired in the past several years. We also wish Associate Vice President Karen Kuhn all the best and appreciate her work at the College of DuPage.

There are several important items before the Board tonight that have long-term implications for teachers and students, especially the Strategic Long Range Plan update. As COD faculty continue to weather significant changes in administration and organizational structure, there is a serious theme emerging in faculty questions and concerns that is also evident in the Planning Update itself: establishing priorities in the short term and the long term means including and accepting the work and insight of higher education professionals, including full time faculty, staff, and administrators who will be working on the front lines to realize these plans. So while it is valuable to be inclusive of representatives from these groups, it is essential to be able to show where and how their contributions are manifest in the document itself. It is one thing to have a voice at the table; it is another thing entirely for those voices to manifest into reality.