Stage Perceptions/ Leadership Reflection

Stage Perceptions/ Leadership Reflection

Lights, camera, action. The music is playing, the dancing begins, Lord don’t let me forget too many steps and keep my feet moving when I do miss a step or two. Keep on moving, keep on smiling, focus on joy. What fun!

Recap. I saw the judges, the first few tables under the judges box, and nothing else. My view was focused because I was in the spotlight (and maybe room 2). This is not within my comfort zone. I would much rather plan the event and host the experience. Keep the acts moving, be the conductor of the three ring circus. That was not my role when I danced. I was to perform. Yikes.

In retrospect and after reviewing the recording I was forced to confront the reality that my view from stage with lights beaming down was very different from the view from the audience. The energy seems high from both perspectives, although no one joined me on stage (I did issue an invitation). The number of people in the audience, the people clapping and engaging, the number of people who stormed the stage with purple roses seemed to be much more than from the stage. To be honest, I only saw one person come forward with the roses from stage. Boy, was my perception off!

Clearly, in this experience, as with many situations in life, context, perspective and personal reality form individual experience. My experience from stage, was so different from my perspective after I viewed the recording. It was stunning. I started thinking about how perceptions and spot lights influence my everyday choices.

Being unaware of other perspectives and perceptions can be comforting. I could dance through life and decisions without thinking. No need to move the spotlight to consider another view. However, I am uncomfortable with that narrow approach. I never really believed in the concept of one simple problem, one solution, done. First, what if the one solution is not a good solution. Second, is there any such thing as one, simple problem? My experience has been that every problem is complex and simple answers run the risk of missing the point. Life is complicated. People are complicated. Solutions need to be multi-faceted. Any solution that doesn’t consider a broad scope of approaches falls short of being acceptable. We owe it to our work, our community and our neighbors to consider complexity when identifying solutions, developing policy or determining direction.

The best way, from my perspective, to shine light in many corners of the room is to be intentional, invite everyone to the stage, and build more stages, or just turn up the house lights(!!). Shining light into the darkness and dim-lighting when addressing complex issues will be a goal for me. I am open to suggestions and hope that others can begin to reframe perceptions which focus our choices, and shine a light on a broader perspective.

Hope and Transcendence 

I imagine 100 years ago several Winona “normal college” faculty were visiting with Rochester school teachers about ways to offer education courses in Rochester and the surrounding area. Well that happened, and then in 1920 Winona State started a nursing program in Rochester. The programs kept growing and the offerings expanded to meet the needs of local industry. More learning from industry experts and programs grew. Here we in our centennial years with over 7,000 living alums in the county and celebrating another commencement on Friday (May 5).

The graduates have accomplished a lot and they have a great future ahead of them. Their parents will be celebrating as will the WSU community of faculty, staff and students. This is my favorite time of year, hope is in the air. Actually, hope is always in the air in higher education, students are hoping for a better next semester, a better approach to life, a better future. The tools to bring people together and be tomorrows leaders, developing a path to a brighter future. There are few experiences that embody hope in the same way that education does.

It is this time of year that I recall a quote that fits the energy and hope of the season.

“Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.”
~ Václav Havel, “An Orientation of the Heart“

Enjoy the week – experience the hope and consider your role in transcending the world and mentoring a new graduate.

Why public higher education?

Why public higher education?

The buzz in higher education funding is about technical careers (note*). These are entry level positions that often are above minimum wage and may or may not include benefits. These positions are a great way to get to work quickly and many individuals launch their life careers with a technical education. Some of the people who have a technical education choose to step to leadership roles and may need another certification, degree, or credential, which is why connecting technical careers to a solid pathway is essential. Further, it is imperative that we consider the importance of partnering with public institutions for these pathways as they are obligated to a president, chancellor, board of trustees, state legislature, and the public. This is not about an entitlement but how our nation has entrusted the education of citizens to become productive (tax paying) members of our society. “The connections among industry, education, and government are at the core of higher education today—and for the future—and the partnership will have to be about more than just money” (Lambert, 2014). The obligation to educate and partner is considered the primary responsibility of leaders in public higher education institutions.

I believe we need to also consider the cost, benefit and portability of options in higher education institutions. In public higher education, I do not feel obligated to sell you a narrow set of options (McMillian Cottom, 2017); I want to hear about your interests, skills and educate you about choices that fit you and the current/emerging career needs in the region. This takes time and serious respect for individuality. Career availability in our region includes multiple sectors and roles, so I don’t need to determine a career for someone – they should love what they do in their career.

The risks of embarking on a higher education path include the financial, personal time, and the ability to sacrifice those costs to achieve a future benefit. If you are someone who is living paycheck to paycheck, then these risks may not seem reasonable. If you are able to begin your higher education path and then have a life hiccup that requires you to stop out, what is the risk financially and is there an opportunity to step back in? The complexity increases with family needs (children, parents, grandparents) and stability of transportation, daycare, housing, and food security. These are real. I would like everyone to consider the risk and portability options that tend to happen with public higher education institutions:

  1. Less risk
    1. Cost is reasonable
    2. If you take out loans, chances are you will be able to pay them back and not default
  2. More portable
    1. Credits come from regionally accredited institution; these credits are more likely to transfer
    2. The institution is likely to be around if you stop out and come back, so you can step in and not lose credits or years of work.

I think it is fair to reconsider how we advise and see the benefits of a public education.

Lambert, M. T. (2014). How is the historic role of public higher education changing?

McMillian Cottom, T. (2017). Lower Ed. interview heard on Fresh Air.

Note * my career path began in high school in a career training course and continued in an area vocational technical institute. I transitioned from career education to bachelors, masters and PhD. A pathway success.

April Showers!

April Showers!

Happy April – the month in higher education that exemplifies “march madness”, even though it is April. We are in the home stretch, getting closer to commencement. I am so fortunate that my colleagues have the march toward commencement expertly managed so I am thinking about fall 2017, and beyond. Thinking 6-24 months ahead is the gift of a strategic/futuristic (Strengths ™). There are a lot of potential opportunities headed WSU’s way in Rochester! The population is growing, including our alumni base, and the workforce needs are on the edge of urgent. Several industries would argue the on the “edge” imagery and say we are already in need of skilled individuals in a wide range of roles in Rochester. We have community need, we have opportunities for higher education, and we have potential partnership expansion.

Community & Individual Needs

Frontline professionals are needed in a broad range of industries in southern Minnesota and Rochester. Further, the small businesses that support the larger businesses are looking for adaptable professionals that have high level application skills. Professional roles that require additional education and focused specialization are being sought by local employers. Everyone wants individuals that engage in their work professionally. A broad range of need and honestly, it is overwhelming to consider the shortage and how to fill the multi-skill level employee needs in our local region.

I believe valuing every individual and their role is essential to attracting and maintaining employees. Valuing individual contributions, valuing their strengths, valuing their future and valuing ways to support growth. Supporting people and their growth may mean they will choose to move up or out of your business – it will also translate into better service while they are with your business.

WSU Rochester Opportunities & Planning

WSU Rochester has been serving Rochester and delivering high quality professionals for over 100 years. We do immersion programming, some examples: teacher education happens in the schools, nursing and social work education happens in the community and healthcare facilities. As WSU engages with community members to address local needs to empower individuals to achieve their career goals, you can assume that immersion education will be central. The best way to stay connected with our community partners is to be industry relevant while helping individuals realize their career dreams.

Below is a list of the current and future plans for WSU Rochester. There are so many opportunities in Rochester and April is the perfect time to consider the nurturing growth for another season, and nurturing the growth of individuals to support our growing community.

To date, WSU provides pathways to baccalaureate degrees through:

  • Path to Purple
    • Teacher Education
    • Nursing
    • Public Health (using BroadField Science)
    • Computer Science
    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Human Resource Management
  • Specific Articulations
    • Art (will be replaced by transfer pathway)
    • Explore program pathways for Sports Management/Athletic Training/Exercise Science and Coaching and Physical Education
  • Transfer Pathways. Completion programs offered at RCTC and in Winona
    • Computer Science
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Accounting
    • Elementary Education
    • Art
  • Transfer Pathways. Completion programs currently offered only in Winona
    • Chemistry
    • Communication
    • Criminal Justice/Police
    • Economics
    • Kinesiology/Exercise Science, Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Psychology

Planned programs for the next two years

  • Accounting minor– hybrid projecting 15-25 students per semester
  • Entrepreneurship minor-primarily online projecting 25-30 per semester.
  • Child Advocacy Studies primarily online minorprojecting 30-35 students per semester
  • Early childhood licensure– hybrid projecting 15-22 students per semester
  • Leadership institutes (continuing ed or non-credit)
  • Exploring Data science completion

Graduate Programs offered through WSU Rochester

  • DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Masters in Nursing and certificates
  • Education Masters programs and certificates
  • Multicultural Education certificate
  • Drug and Alcohol Counseling certificate

Potential Future Graduate Programs

  • Master of Social Work projecting 30-40 students per semester
  • Masters in Accounting projecting 30-40 students per semester
  • Doctorate with specialties/emphases projecting 25-30 students per semester
  • 2017 fall Psych/MH Nurse Practitioner certificate projecting 18-22 students per semester


Why dance?

Why dance?

“I can do that” was my response when asked if I would be willing to dance for the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust, Youth Arts Education fund. I have been asked why, what is the connection to me and my work. For me, I appreciate those who are dedicated to art, culture and community betterment. Coming from a family that has members with art talents, musical abilities, and an eye for what works aesthetically, I have always appreciated art, theater, music and a wide range of cultural activity. To be honest, I appreciate…. (Not necessarily the skilled one in my family!).

Professionally, I think the connection to youth arts education is a perfect fit with WSU-Rochester. The nursing, education, and social work programs are all known for the immersion approach to education. Faculty and students are highly engaged with youth and non-profits across Rochester and the region.

  • Collaborating with partners at the Boys and Girls club to study how programming improves the health of children.
  • Engaging with teachers to launch and participate in an annual STEM camp at Riverside Elementary to inspire children.
  • Actively supporting the work of IMAA through service learning and internships.

These are all examples of how the high-end professionals at WSU-Rochester stimulate creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking through hands on learning. We have been doing this work for over 100 years. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to help my community raise funds to support youth arts education.

  • This is important.
  • This is our wheelhouse.
  • This is why I dance!

Please consider donating to the Gangeness/Ray team, for more information go to: and vote (donate) for team Gangeness/Ray at

Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust, Youth arts education: Research shows arts exposure and integration across the curriculum stimulates the creativity, collaboration and critical thinking skills needed to succeed in the 21st century and beyond. Students are engaged and empowered through an excellent arts education. Over the years, funds raised by the Trust, through its Dancing for the Arts event, have resulted in grants for nonprofit organizations providing unique arts education opportunities not found in the public school system. To date, hundreds of thousands of youth have been impacted.


Creating the right conditions for success…. and failure

Creating the right conditions for success…. and failure

Over the past several years I have been taking mental note of how academic programs are launched by institutions successfully. There are the basics that most folks are aware: student interest, faculty expertise and ability to deliver the program. Under appreciated elements to success are contextual, community, industry, and institution reputation with the potential student market. Appreciating both the basics and the higher level engagement and communication needs are important for setting up new programs for success.

Gauging student interest may be determined by surveying prospective students or current students that may matriculate into the program. Formal and informal engagement approaches may also be helpful. Whether in person or engaging with prospective students that are gathered in physical/virtual classrooms, all feedback and approaches should be encouraged. Be sure to ask for feedback from prospective students in addition to current students as the future students are the ones you have yet to bring on board.

The program has a higher probability of success if there is a market or group that has a need that the new program will address. Engage the community and industry partners early, they should be central to the consideration and development of new programming. Communication should authentic, two way, with the goal of achieving a shared-agenda. Success includes community collaboration, context, and communication. Failure is just the opposite. Below is my summary.

Success Failure
Homework done:

–    Engage with community stakeholders inside and outside (community) of institution (college or university).

–    Ask for recommendations without a solution in hand.

–    Seek prospective student feedback through surveying, formal and informal discussions.

Homework not done:

–    Do not engage with community stakeholders.

–    Come with a solution for “their” problem.

–    Do not survey or seek prospective student feedback.

–    You are the expert – community should feel blessed to have you offering a solution.

Plan ahead:

–    Develop a collaborative curriculum and timeline for launch/ marketing.

–    Achieve approvals of curriculum and transfer agreements 6-8 months prior to launch.

–    Market program with stakeholders and public. Include collaborative partner endorsements.

Fast turnaround, no or limited plan:

–    Plan in a vacuum – without community input.

–    Launch program weeks after approval without marketing or partner endorsement.

Community Engagement is Key

–    These are the folks who are experts in the field, will hire your alums, recruit students for you (and may pay their tuition), and are central to program success.

–    Engage Authentically – be a part of their world and participate in activities that are important to their community and industry.

–    People Matter.

Internal Focus

–    Address the administration, faculty and staff desires. Areas that seem fun and are trendy to invest institutional resources.

–    Inauthentic or no engagement. Show up when something is convenient or honoring you or institution. Do not engage with community and industry interests/activities.

–    Program and agenda above people.

Maintain Communication Lines

–    Stay connected with the community and industry experts to obtain feedback. Then do something about it!

–    Students, faculty and staff communicate about what is working and what needs work to administration. Programs update based on the discussions.

Limit Communication

–    Deliver program. Do not seek feedback or change based on industry needs.

–    Make promises and do not follow through.


A more compassionate career

A More Compassionate Career

“I am a people person”, a frequent response to why do you want to become a nurse, teacher, social worker, and other professions that interact with people. This comment makes me wonder, what career is devoid of people? Does anyone seek that path? I think not, people are drawn to people. We seek connection and compassion in our friends, family and, on occasion, a stranger.

I live in a city where people come for a variety of reasons, but mostly seeking quality healthcare. In this community careers tend to have a compassionate foundation. If you take a close look, you will notice that businesses around the city hire professionals to provide a high level of compassionate service in every industry. If you interact with people, you are expected to interact with customers with kindness and compassion. An expectation and norm of compassion to others is a lovely and unique characteristic of Rochester.

I have given the characteristic of compassion and how it is taught a lot of consideration and believe compassion is an essential trait to a long and satisfying career. Reflecting on a more compassionate career is a natural fit for me as I have taught nursing students and administered nursing and health programs throughout my career. Compassion is an expectation in healthcare careers, but what about the other careers? Actually, the most effective sales, business, service, hospitality, and other professionals are those that demonstrate authenticity, which includes compassion. Valuing professional characteristics, including authenticity and compassion, is key to teaching students and launching individuals into successful careers.

Indeed, we should all be considering how to achieve a more compassionate career, and life.

Photo credit to Renee Rongen 🙂