Your vision for the academic year and for a positive campus must be centered on your community and serve them as it takes shape.

Creating a positive campus for the new academic year


Your vision for the academic year must be centered on your community and serve them as it takes shape

Key points:

  • Campus leaders must articulate their vision for a welcoming campus and positive student experience
  • Two principles are key to that successful experience
  • See related article: Faculty elitism is hurting your institution

A new school year is a fresh opportunity. Faculty, staff, and students arrive back on campus full of enthusiasm. You can harness or squander that energy. A new academic year is a key time to reimagine and re-explain your mission to your faculty, staff, and students.

You can–and must–shape the path of your community in the year ahead. If you don’t, it will find direction all on its own. Don’t allow chance and external factors to mold the year ahead. Be proactive rather than reactive. Your engagement at the outset of a new school year is an investment that will pay dividends throughout the academic year and beyond, as it provides a foundation upon which you can build in subsequent years.

There are two essential principles to guide you as you seek to create an inspiring campus community and workplace environment in a new academic year.

1. Cast your vision

Staff and students come to the school year with their own preconceptions, previous experiences, stresses, worries, and ideas for the year ahead. Your job is to identify and articulate a unified vision for your campus community. Make this comprehensive, yet concise. It should have implications for your entire campus, yet be accessible and digestible. Your vision for the year should be able to be distilled into a simple phrase that regularly appears in communications, including welcome back letters, social media, and leadership meetings. This motto becomes a grounding message throughout the year that recenters and re-energizes your community. Your message should also be expanded in mediums that allow more discussion, such as newsletters and staff communication. Select a theme that lends itself to immediacy and depth.

2. Empower your community

It is not enough for you to identify a theme and objective for the year. You must help your community join your vision. Enable members of your community at all levels—students, faculty, support staff, board members, alumni—to identify how their role contributes to your mission. Mobilize supervisors to be ambassadors of your mission who equip their teams to see their part of your vision. Take ownership of your vision and inspire others to do the same.

A long-term strategy

Once you have outlined your mission, made it relevant to your current context and challenges, and helped the members of your community identify the ways they contribute to your work, how do you sustain your momentum? Messaging for the academic year is not a once-and-done item that you can check off. It must be an ongoing endeavor. To foster inspiration throughout the academic year, ensure that you illustrate how your vision is playing out through regular communication and specific illustrations. Two key methods to show your vision in action are new initiatives and personal stories.

Highlight new initiatives

What has changed this academic year? Inform your community about new ways your mission is being realized on your campus and in your community. How do these programs put your vision into practice? Show how emerging initiatives connect your legacy to your future. For optimum impact, continue to show the development and progress of these new programs throughout the academic year.

Share stories

Profile members of your community and how they are making a difference. How do individual student experiences illustrate the culture of your campus and the impact of your programs? Who are the unsung heroes on your campus who demonstrate commitment to your mission? The values of your campus can seem abstract and inaccessible. Living, breathing people show what those traits look like and why they matter. Pair high-quality photographs with quotes from the individuals in their own words. Integrate a variety of lengths, from bite-sized social media posts to more in-depth interviews.

A community vision

Finally, in order to create a culture of inspiration, you must not only share your message, you must listen. Seek out stakeholders at all levels of your institution to gauge morale and explain what is—and isn’t—working on your campus. Integrate their perspectives and feedback into your strategy and messaging as you refine your approach. To be successful, your vision for the academic year must be centered on your community and serve them as it takes shape.

Related: Don’t lead alone: A leadership coach is the secret ingredient

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