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Campus Impact

I’m editing this post. My husband, who does not yet keep a blog but who actively reads them, came home yesterday and said “Your post on Campus Impact might be a little vague, dahling.” (Okay, he didn’t say “dahling,” but the rest is more or less true.) His English upbringing results in a certain delicacy of expression; translated to modern-day conversational American English, what he meant was, “I’m pretty sure that people who haven’t heard you talk about this particular project day in and day out for the past I-don’t-know-how-many-weeks won’t have a clue what it’s about from the little bit you chose to say about it.” So I’m editing this post, which he assures me is a perfectly acceptable thing to do in the world of blogging, so long as I’m up front about it.

Yesterday’s vagueness had a lot to do with late-stage writer’s block. I was in the push-on-through-till-dawn phase of writing and wasn’t sure what else to say. There wasn’t really a single coherent question I could ask. The post, which ran as follows, was basically a cry for help:

The NMC is working on a paper that discusses what it means to have an impact on campus (for a new media center or similar organization). It’s sort of a how-to guide for directors of such centers, with suggestions about ways to make a difference on campus. We affectionately call it “Campus Impact.”

The material for the paper has come from several discussions with the directors of centers that belong to the NMC, so the suggestions are good, solid ones that people have actually employed, illustrated with examples. The paper covers seven strategies that can be used together to increase a center’s impact on campus:

  • be focused
  • be adaptable
  • be productive
  • make allies
  • set expectations
  • make your boss’s goals your goals
  • be needed

Obviously the paper goes into a little more detail. It’s in a late draft stage at this point, but if you have ideas, I would love to hear them.

That said, the suggestions I did get were actually quite helpful. Thanks to Bryan’s example (The Studio at Colby College), I emphasized the role of students in making an impact. Nick’s point about leveraging campus networks is an excellent one, and found its way into the paper as well. Just the fact that someone out there expressed an interest in reading the thing gave me new energy as I tackled it (thanks Steve!). Of course, I also took a direct line of attack and walloped that writer’s block with some really good tea and top-of-the-line chocolate — desperate times call for desperate measures. All of this together got me past the hurdle.

I realize I still haven’t put in the “more information,” so here it is. The idea for the paper came out of several conversations among NMC directors (that is, people who run new media centers or similar organizations on various campuses). The directors were sharing stories about things they had done that had made a noticeable impact on their campuses, and asking each other questions about their stories. Victor Edmonds from UC Berkeley gave a presentation at the 2005 NMC Director’s Meeting based on his experiences running ETS; he’s the one that came up with the seven strategies, and the other directors really resonated with those ideas. In that session and in a similar one at the 2005 NMC Summer Conference, the directors explored those ideas some more, and swapped stories, concerns, and suggestions. Craftily, we took notes. (We told them we were going to, so it was crafty in the clever sense, not in the sneaky sense. In fact, I took notes on giant 4’x8′ sheets of paper, so it would have been really hard to be sneaky about it.)

We’ll share a draft of the paper at this year’s Director’s Meeting, which is next week (back to Texas for me — more travel stories for you), and use it as a springboard for further discussion of the topic. When the paper is finished it’ll likely be posted on NMC’s website, so I’ll include a link here for those who are interested.

As a proof-of-concept, though, yesterday’s post worked really well. You can be sure that the next time I’m stuck, I’ll be writing about it here. Thanks y’all!


  1. I don’t have any ideas, but I’d love to see the paper when it comes out.

  2. Nick Noakes says:

    Perhaps a couple of others:

    * leverage existing professional/personal networks within the institution
    * create wants (maybe this one is just be needed reworded though)

  3. Colby College’s Studio might be a useful example. They are largely student-staffed and student-organized, doing advanced projects with faculty. They use social software and project management practices to organize advanced media work.

  4. Gardner says:

    Hmmm. What *does* it mean to have an impact on campus? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to assess teaching effectiveness, and the question of what does it mean to have made a difference in someone’s life keeps coming up. Does an “teaching outcome” count as a “success’ if a student offers a passionate eulogy at your funeral? I’d say yes. I’d say it’s a crucial assessment measure. (I’m not being facetious, either.) But in the arts of civilization and the experience of community, it’s hard to get at those assessments, or to plan an assessment cycle around them.

  5. […] I get to do a lot of really cool stuff for my job. Yesterday, in addition to finishing a paper (see previous post), I accepted a very persuasive invitation from Gardner Campbell to attend his next big party, the 2006 University of Mary Washington Faculty Academy on Information Technologies. I will be following in the footsteps of Those Called Br*an (the one with the y and the one with the i both presented last year). It looks like an awesome event and I’m really looking forward to going. […]

  6. Nick Noakes says:

    Bryan, thanks for the link to Colby, will check it out.

    Gardner, have had the same question, “what *does* it mean to make an impact?”, uppermost in my mind the last few weeks too. I agree about the eulogy but I guess some follow up questions would be “what sort of change (affective, cognitive, volitional, behavioural, spiritual, cultural …)? for whom (individually and collectively)? and when? This is something I’d like to talk about in real time (in person would be great but if not then virtually). It is such a key question.

  7. Gene Roche says:

    Nick’s follow-up to Garnder’s question about what it means to have an impact on campus is a good one. I think we know a great deal about the conditions that increase the chances that teachers will have an life-long transforming impact on students. That comes when they participate together in significant, personal learning which involves the whole person–feelings and cognitive aspects. A course can provide an overall structure, but the involvement in the learning is self-initiated and self-evaluated, and throughout the student is treated as an equal participant in the learning–even though the faculty member has far more experience in dealing with content. The faculty member demonstrates an obvious acceptance and appreciation in the student as a human being and as learner.

    The effects of these types of interactions have been documented for decades, but most universities allow faculty to remain too wedded to a mission of “covering the content” rather than developing human beings as learners.

    By their natures, studios get outside that “covering the content model” and provide a unique opportunity to use new technologies to tap into authentic modes of learning. John Seely Brown has a great presentation on studio learning at that provides some good comparisons to traditional academic practice.

  8. Gardner says:

    Gene and Nick, you’ve grokked my question through and through. Thank you. I’m keen to continue this conversation. It is the key question that should be approached thoughtfully and humbly whenever we start talking about assessment. It’s right up there with “what do we mean by understanding,” in my view.

    Gene writes of “the conditions that increase the chances that teachers will have an life-long transforming impact on students.” I like this phrasing. We need to build the conditions, not engineer the processes. I’m reminded of how Howard Rheingold described ARPA’s strategy: fund the people, not the projects. Such potential for abuse there, but such potential for transformation as well.

    I really do think we’re trying to scale Socrates. The older traditions of education emphasize cognitive apprenticeship. I think that’s something like the “studio learning” Gene mentions. That kind of apprenticeship can happen in lots of ways. The tradition I’m bucking is the post-WW II industrial model.

    Does anyone have a wiki of essential books on education? Could we start us one? A kind of group bibilography, for our own edification?

    This is tremendously urgent stuff. I feel a podcast series coming on…. And I’m looking forward to the JS Brown presentation.

    Rachel, thanks for the edited post!

  9. […] There have been a number of thought provoking comments on one of Rachel’s recent posts on a paper she’s working on that focuses on what it means for a New Media Center or other organization to “have an impact on campus.” Gardner commented on the original post asking: Hmmm. What *does* it mean to have an impact on campus? …..Does an “teaching outcome” count as a “success’ if a student offers a passionate eulogy at your funeral? […]