Institutional Transformation

Elliot Gruner

Spring 2022

As I survey the good prompts above and think about the work done and the trove of materials we have looked at together, I celebrate how much we’ve shared and the compelling ideas explored. At the same time, I lament that all this energy, all the good efforts have had such little impact beyond our classrooms, progress toward mitigating the collective chaos we’ve experienced as an institution. In short, the way we’ve faced challenges at PSU has not evolved well. We don’t see progress consistent with our efforts. This is disheartening and somewhat deflating.

Our progress, where we have been successful, has been more serendipitous, opportunistic, work-arounds, and happy accident than scholarly, informed, systemic, or logical. In short, we have found things becoming increasingly political. Yes, politics have been in all things for as long as there has been an organization, but the way almost every move has occurred, been centralized, or otherwise been accomplished with that look over the shoulder . . . that has been what has been so wearing. Another way of putting this is that everything seems contingent.

In looking at the churn of the AU stuff, day-to-day work, I’m not sure our plight has improved much there, either. One feature of that failure to thrive is constant change, the rate and character of reorganizations, the unreliability of processes, the number of colleagues walking, and perhaps most corrosive of all, a persistent lack of trust. I’m going to borrow a point that Robin made at an unrelated meeting to underscore the key aspect of that lack of trust: a demonstrated lack of confidence in our ability to do our work.

Collectively, among colleagues, I find that confidence and that trust. In this group, much often. And I’ve done work with colleagues who have, as here in the CoLab, found a warm fire of an idea or purpose and greedily huddled around that, found solace and solidarity to sustain our hearts and souls.

What I most want to say in this message, perhaps buried in the  helpful pile of ideas in the many smart reflections collected from other colleagues, is that we have much to be thankful for in our shared work, particularly this work that hasn’t been so much triangulated into our troubles and challenges, our exhaustion and our fears. And I am looking for a kind of rebirth from this, a renaissance of sorts, where we get our voices back, we recognize the agency we have and can achieve, and we share again in rebuilding and making new some things we have lost in the fire that has burned over all of us in the last few years.


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Cluster Learning at Plymouth State: A Community-Based Approach to Pedagogy Copyright © 2019 by Elliot Gruner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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