the Mammal Chronicles: Random notes from the Rockies

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Random notes from the Rockies

People from my state university system like to find each other when we're in other places. Somehow even if we're not from the same campus, there's a sense of camaraderie. I feel it and I can't even explain to you exactly why it is. Perhaps it is that we are all from 4 year teaching institutions that are about (or are supposed to be about) access. Perhaps it is that we are all dealing with the same budget crunch. Or that despite campus to campus differences in size (from just a few thousand to tens of thousands of students) and internal politics, stuff more or less works the same. Or is supposed to. Whatever it is, we seek each other out as if we're all members of the same extended family.

So it wasn't surprising in a workshop the other day when during the break a gentleman from another campus made a point of finding me by my nametag (after seeing my name on a list) and introducing himself. He said, "Wherever I go, there's always someone from your campus. You must have a lot of money there!" To which I replied, "Oh no, not at all, haven't you heard our Provost is being called The Greyhound of Elimination?" I'm not sure what that moniker even means, but it's not good or complimentary, of that I'm sure. Later, looking at the list myself, I realized this guy was the Vice Provost of his campus. Oops. He probably knows my Provost.

Still later, during another break I'm chatting amiably with the man and as we walk back into our session I ask, "so what's your disciplinary background?" "Physics," says he. Oops yet again. Our provost is a physicist. These guys definitely know each other. Oh well. It's no secret on our campus that I'm leaving and that I'm not fond of the Provost.

In all, the conference has been great so far. I'm getting as invigorated about the subject as I'd hoped, and I've run into a number of people from the search committee for the job I may be taking, and they're all complimenting the heck out of me. I've been trying to attend workshops and sessions on assessment because I know it's something I need to know more about but what I've learned about assessment is the following:

  • Numbers, graphs and statistics still make no sense to me no matter how many workshops I go to
  • People who like numbers tend to be very dry presenters (Whereas the best, most entertaining presenters tend to be the professors who've been teaching for decades: they enjoy what they do, know how to do it from practice rather than analysis, and don't give a damn so they're pretty hilarious and inspiring at the same time).
  • Still, the powers that be tend to like numbers and graphs, so I'd better at least partner with someone who understands them when I do this
  • And I think that all these numbers people really need us truly qualitative people (not those qualitative folks who run supposedly qualitative data through a program -- that's *not* qualitative!). Sporksforall, I think our next AFS paper should be "Why Those Numbers People in Assessment Need Folklorists."

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