Continuous Improvement and Change Leadership at the Urban University
Higher education institutions throughout the nation employ various continuous improvement processes to operationalize change at all organization levels. Through our ongoing work with three public, urban research universities that serve a high population of low-income, minoritized, and non-traditional students, we have documented how the COVID-19 pandemic caused their continuous improvement models to shift. Given there is no formula for successful change leadership, especially in the context of a pandemic, institutional leaders leaned heavily on a "Prepare, Reflect, Prioritize, Act, Monitor" framework. Although these institutions' quick responses to finding solutions to the barriers created by COVID-19 were not intentionally designed, the driving force behind institutional change was their capacity to swiftly and efficiently pivot to address and support their campus and community needs.
The institutions' ability to use current efforts to address prompt needs spanned from leveraging data to developing a network of leaders across the campus; ultimately, their ecosystem allowed for an agile shift to provide immediate support. Some examples include: 1) democratizing data for faculty, staff, and external use which allows institutions to hold themselves accountable by constantly evaluating and adjusting support structures; 2) implementing a campus-wide student success campaign and receiving widespread participation from faculty and staff of all levels. By unifying all leaders across campus behind one central theme, this institution has demonstrated transformation by affirming their commitment to student success as central to their overall mission. These changes, among many others, exemplify the ways change leaders prepare, reflect, prioritize, act, and monitor when evaluating how to best navigate the many uncertainties of the past year.
This session will explore the various ways our campus partners have demonstrated a recommitment to student success through change leadership. Through mid- and executive-level leadership, these institutions have implemented initiatives to improve the student experience and shift their institutional cultures through an equity lens.