Teaming Up for Change

John Wanzer is the assistant vice provost and assistant dean for undergraduate education. He has nearly three decades of experience in advising services at Ohio State.

Over last summer and through the fall, I worked as part of a group charged by the Enterprise Project to redesign the business processes involved in academic advising. I confess to some initial skepticism about a project to transform advising, to be led, I was told, by consultants with no experience of advising, a process that seemed likely to reach foregone conclusions. In the course of the weekly meetings that followed, I learned a great deal about the value of approaching change as a team, of committing to collective goals, rather than focusing on the interests of a unit. Now, months later, I couldn’t be happier with the resulting recommendations.

The future the group has imagined represents not only the experience and expertise of the participants—advisors and student-support staff from across campus—but the richness of discussion, the dedicated listening and learning that occurred along the way. As the weeks passed, as alliances and understandings developed among those attending, I could feel the team grow. Our extended weekly discussions knit together individuals, many of whom, at the outset, knew each other only casually. The growing sense of community reflected the group’s shared vision for the future, one in which enhanced collaboration, along with more streamlined and efficient processes, will better enable students to conduct the business related to advising and better support advisors as they work to support students.

Arriving at the end of the transformation workshops has brought us to the start of a much longer game, one we must challenge ourselves to keep in view:  to implement the recommendations the group identified, changes that promise to transform the ability of advisors to engage students and more effectively support their academic success. The team meets only occasionally now (going forward, we will meet every three or four months, for updates and advice on implementation), but those meetings always feel like a raucous, joyous homecoming. I feel fortunate to have been part of so inspirational an effort.