A periodic update for faculty from President Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong
January 8, 2008
Let's put Team before Tribe in 2008
Welcome back. Hope everybody had a great holiday break. We begin 2008 having just finished what is arguably one of the best years in the history of the university. I don't need to list all the accomplishments of 2007—you actually constructed many of them.
I published a new list of Bulldog Resolutions for this year, but I want to add one more for all of us. Let's resolve to put the Team before the tribe this year. One of the main reasons we were so successful this past year was that we worked together—we are better together than we are apart. Decisions that may not appear to be best for our respective tribes may be best for the Team. And when the Team moves forward, all the tribes benefit.
Let's think first about what's best for all of us as opposed to what's better for each of us. It's OK to present your position for how to best move your tribe forward - in fact, it's very important that each tribe be heard and understood. But let's resolve to not let our own self interest impede the overall motion that is moving us forward. The good news is that we do a pretty good job of taking the bigger view—let's just resolve to continue down the path of a university vision, versus a tribe view.
In addition to putting our money where our mouth is relative to the motto "One State—One Team," I propose that this year we saddle up on accountability. I intend to do that in a personal sense. I have my personal goals and intend to hold myself accountable for them. I suspect you have done the same. But I propose that we do the same thing professionally. We should start by holding accountable all of those professionals who do great things for the university. We don't do a great job of recognizing our star performers. I propose that we do better at holding accountable those who do superb work and that we do a better job of letting others know of their achievements. I'll work on that, but will need your help in identifying our heroes. Let me know who you think is doing good things and who you think deserves to be recognized.
The other side of accountability is to accept the responsibility for our mistakes and to work to make sure we don't repeat those mistakes. Unless a crime is involved, this is not a one-mistake institution. We'll all make them. But we should all be held accountable if we screw up something. So let's resolve to be more accountable if we err and more responsible by admitting it when we do. It's not a weakness to admit a mistake—it's a weakness to not admit it (and correct it).
Speaking of accountability and responsibility, here's an area in which I'll need help from faculty this year. I continue to need your good advice on how to best move forward on academic issues. Please keep our high standards and let's lean forward on how to best provide a quality education to our students. Curriculum development, grading standards, and mechanizing distance learning opportunities are all areas where you clearly represent our corporate expertise.
I'll also need your help prioritizing our budget—which may be smaller than we have had or need. As you offer advice about how to best spend our money, remember to balance your own tribe's needs against the needs across the campus. It's the Team thing versus the tribe thing. But who better to ask how to spend that portion of our budget committed to academic excellence than those who ensure academic excellence? We need your help.
And I'll ask for your help with the strategy—not so much with the tactics—of how we move forward. Your support of our budget request to state policymakers and the way we pursue resources would be useful. (Note that the University of Mississippi faculty senate recently voted to support an "equity adjustment" for their institution.) Rather than checking on my schedule, help support our requests for more faculty positions, better classroom equipment, and other needs. By the way, it's not me you have to convince that we need more faculty positions and better classroom equipment—I'm you strongest advocate for those needs, and our proposed budget will present that case.
Your expressions of support to the lawmakers and policymakers who determine our funding levels is much more helpful than sending me a note suggesting that we can save money by curtailing our African American Studies Program or leadership initiatives (which are generally paid for via external resources that are strictly designated for that purpose). As you give me your best advice on academic matters, remember to balance it with a broader view—diversity, character, and leadership count too.
Last year I read the minutes of a meeting that I will paraphrase to protect the innocent. A statement directed toward the faculty essentially said that the president (that would be me) wants us to be more respected, and that means we will have to work harder. The implied question was, "Do we really want to work harder just because he wants us to be more respected?" It actually jolted me to realize that anyone could think that we shouldn't strive for more respect, or fail to understand that gaining more respect would mean working harder. You are all smart people and don't need reminding that you that you have to work hard to demand respect.
Fortunately, most of us—and I mean the vast majority of you—have worked harder, and our respect is climbing. Thanks for that. I hope that we will be able to continue to recognize and reward you for that "harder" work. I also consider it an honor to work harder with you to claim the respect you deserve.
Glad we are in the same Dawg Pack. Last year will be a hard year to top. Let's just remember that we're better working as a Pack than as singles.
Thanks for community engagement
Many MSU faculty and staff are members and leaders of a variety of local civic clubs and service organizations, and we applaud and support those activities, especially those that focus on education and character development. Thank you for engaging with our community in a way that helps to build strong ties between the university and our neighbors.
Charles Palmer, associate professor and clinical coordinator in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education, took office on January 1 as president of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association. NRCA is the nation's largest professional association of rehabilitation counselors, serving people with disabilities in all 50 states and territories.
Jeanne Jones, associate professor of wildlife and fisheries, was cited in competition sponsored by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for the best wildlife research report, which she and four colleagues prepared on bird communities in two Mississippi agricultural land bases. Co-authors included MSU professor emeritus Dale Arner, post-doctoral associate Jarrod Fogarty, alumnus Jimmy Taylor, and state biologist Dave Godwin.