The Best of Times and the Worst of Times: 5 Tips for CE Units Working with Internal PartnersMaureen MacDonald | Dean of the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
With apologies to Charles Dickens, the opening sentence from A Tale of Two Cities can be an apt description for the experience of continuing education (CE) units working with faculty partners. The ability to work effectively with partners across the university is significantly important for many CE units but we don’t always manage these relationships in ways that are mutually beneficial.
Here are five tips that may help the outcomes to be more “best of times” than “worst of times.”
1. Know Their Business
Nothing builds confidence and willingness to engage than demonstrating that you understand your prospective partner and the issues that are important to them. Knowing their strengths, the challenges they face, where they need to increase enrollment and/or what things they would like to do but don’t have the resources to pursue positions a CE unit to provide timely and necessary collaboration.
Just as a human resources or IT or marketing department can be more effective if they understand the line business, so too can a CE unit effectively engage if they understand the core business of a faculty.
2. Solve Their Problems
Linked to the notion of understanding their business is that of solving their problems. We all have problems that need solving and a partner that is in a position to provide possible solutions makes for a valuable colleague. Some faculties are looking to extend their reach in the community, some are seeking new markets, some have recruitment challenges. When a CE unit can align their strengths to solve a problem a faculty is facing, the CE unit becomes a valuable partner.
3. Have Some Success Stories
Recruiters will tell you that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. Accordingly, in order to woo a potential faculty partner you need to have your past successes clearly articulated.
How have you worked with other faculties? How did you add value? What were the outcomes? What would you do differently? Having the answers to these questions demonstrates your credibility and minimizes the risk the faculty partner may be worried about.
4. Have Clear Channels for Communication
Defining a partnership as the best of times or the worst of times can often be traced back to the effectiveness of the communication channels. Be clear about who will be the primary contacts for a joint undertaking. Typically, there is one key contact within each partner unit but it should be clear as to who has the primary responsibility (and authority) to engage with external partners, at what point deans or other senior administrators are asked to participate and the mechanisms that will be used to ensure communication is clear and timely.
5. Be Prepared to Share
The reasons a faculty may elect to partner with a CE unit are varied. Undoubtedly, however, the faculty is hoping to get something out of the arrangement—more students, different students, new curriculum, new instructors, different delivery methods and sometimes even money!
These arrangements can’t be solely about building the CE brand or padding the CE coffers. If you know your faculty partner, then you know what they need to incentivize their participation. As a good partner you need to be able to share—sometimes it is staff resources at the beginning of a partnership, sometimes it could be financial returns at the conclusion or on an ongoing basis. Be realistic about your investment in the relationship and your expected outcomes. If your communication channels are clear this should be well understood by all of the players.
Relationships with faculty partners can sometimes feel a bit like those chronicled in A Tale of Two Cities. However, if a CE unit takes the effort to know the faculty and understand their problems, articulate the CE success stories, communicate clearly and share resources, then the partnership should be well positioned for success.
Author Perspective: Administrator