For a prior master’s class in our program, I was required to interview an educational leader in a position I aspired to. At that time, I saw myself as planning to enter college athletics administration. So, I decided to aim high and interview someone well-known. Deloss Dodds, soon-to-retire Athletics Director at the University of Texas at Austin, runs a sports program that makes many NFL teams jealous, so I decided I would try to interview him. So, I did what any foolish, naive young person would: I called the main UT Athletics line and asked for Mr. Dodds, expecting to get shot straight down on my request.
To my surprise, a very kind young lady in the Athletics said she thought he’d be happy to talk to me, and we tried to figure out a time for me to come down. When scheduling a time for an in-person interview proved to be nearly-impossible before my assignment was due, she said “uh, do you want to just do it over the phone?” Wow, did I feel stupid. Of course that would make more sense.
I ended up having a great conversation with Mr. Dodds, and am very glad now that I took that leap of faith since he’s retiring soon. One of the many things we discussed was the importance getting ideas outside one’s own organization. Mr. Dodds said he required his staff to go through leadership development and get off campus as much as possible to learn from other programs. Although UT hasn’t been their usual dominant selves in Football and Basketball as of late, their program is among the most impressive in the country from top to bottom. 99% of Athletics Directors have big time envy of UT’s situation. Therefore, it seems silly that UT would need to spend time seeking the advice of others. However, as Mr. Dodds explained, it’s been essential to their success and innovation.
All of this is to say,” insular” and “innovative” are antonyms. If more schools at all levels acted with this mindset, they would absolutely more efficient and better serving their students. I peruse a wide variety of bloggers, publications, and social networking posts by prominent figures in a variety of roles regularly, and I often wonder why more educational leaders do not.