Ispent the summer trying to catch up on my reading, and several arti- cles on innovation caught my attention. I was particularly interested in these articles given that innovation is one of NASPA’s four guiding principles. Writing in the May 2011 The Harvard Business Review, Geoff Tuff suggested ways to measure the success (heat level) of an
innovation with management tools that identify opportunities in finance,
process, product offering, and delivery.
His article, titled “How Hot is Your Next Innovation?”, made me wonder whether the student
affairs profession could be more thoughtful and intentional about being innovative. Do we
measure the success of our innovations? Do we have a systematic way of listening to a creative
idea and taking action? Do we articulate, welcome, and award innovation in our divisions? Do
we introduce concepts associated with innovation to our students? Do we make time for creative
thought on our respective campuses?
From my vantage point, it is becoming more apparent our association and profession must
sharpen the focus on innovation and recognize how taking action on a novel concept can lead
to great success. Many innovative college and university programs have been created through
student affairs and have emanated from our association. Yet our current climate seems to
demand more innovation from our leaders, especially in the context of change, global outreach,
and budget and space constraints. One of the nine innovation principles of the highly successful
company Google is “creativity loves constraints.” Creativity abounds, and sometimes it thrives
best, in settings where limitations require us to think “out of the box.” What area in higher
education is better suited to find innovative solutions than student affairs?
As we move forward with NASPA’s strategic plan, Advancing Leadership Shaping Change,
innovation is critical in advancing the four goals designed to reach our vision: NASPA is the
leading voice for student affairs worldwide. I envision our leaders pushing for different ways to
achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in the organization and to gain greater leverage with
our peers in higher education. I see our leaders placing increased emphasis on problem solving,
creativity, and risk taking. I expect our leaders to have the courage to transform our profession
for the better and to deliberately question the status quo. Our membership would benefit by
asking for innovative ways of delivering programs, conducting research, and optimizing the
creative minds that surround us.
On our campuses, innovation must play a role in teaching and programming. Students must
be prepared to face opportunities and challenges with an open mind, new ideas, a willingness to
embrace change, and a thirst to solve problems. Students should become comfortable with the
notion of innovation before they graduate. Our students must learn to ask the right questions
and explore the answers by seeking a diverse set of possible responses, with a bias against such
statements as “because we have always done it this way.” We must enable these creative opportunities through cocurricular activities and student leadership roles.
Are you ready to consider being more innovative in your thinking and student affairs activities? Greater attention to innovation is critical to bring worthwhile ideas to practice, prepare
students to feel confident in their creative endeavors, create exceptional student experiences,
generate more revenue, and make a difference in our students’ lives. In looking for the competitive edge for student affairs, we might begin to see that innovation is both necessary and timely.
Administrators in Higher Education
Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy
Nancy E. Grund
James E. Scott Academy
James Conneely, Chair
Berenecea Johnson Eanes
Harry Le Grande
Wm. Gregory Sawyer
Renee Barnett Terry
four times a year for senior student
affairs officers in higher education.
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Patricia Telles Irvin