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“What I am Working on Today” Blog

Out of the Conference, Into a Retreat

August 14, 2012

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

I enjoy so many things about the start of a new school year, especially the AEJMC conference. This year it was in Chicago, and I drove there and back, roughly a total of 14 hours on the road. The conference is a chance to visit with old friends, make new ones, and learn about the evolution of our discipline.

What I don’t enjoy is going from that environment headlong into an all-day retreat, which is what I am working on today.

Our retreat is scheduled Aug. 16. We planned the event for several months, finding a room in a beautiful spot on campus, Reiman Gardens, one of the largest public gardens in Iowa and named after Greenlee School alumnus Roy Reiman, founder of a Reiman Publications. The garden is best known for its butterfly atrium, symbolizing the metamorphosis that educators must go through at the end of summer. Only we enter as butterflies and end the semester as caterpillars.

In fact, without commenting further, check out this movie about butterflies and “communal roosting” at Reiman Gardens, an apt metaphor for a retreat.

As a professor, I disliked daylong retreats, which were anything but refreshing. They exhausted me because ours at Oklahoma State University and Ohio University were more like eight-hour faculty meetings. The key to a retreat, besides a good lunch (which we cater), is a four-hour agenda that includes as many personnel as possible.

New administrators believe that they should be the star of the retreat, explaining everything that happened over the summer and outlining new challenges and benchmarks. Administrators at retreats are best seen and not heard too much. They should be part emcee and part facilitator, appointing faculty, staff and guests to lead sessions.

Our retreat will begin with a welcome and announcements. We’ll introduce new faculty and staff and share data about upcoming events and recruitment efforts. Immediately after, leaders of our Advisory Council will show a PowerPoint presentation on alumni efforts to promote the School. Then we will invite new faculty leaders to discuss their visions for curricula and the undergraduate and graduate programs. Before lunch, another professor will describe her experience as an extern at a Des Moines television station.

After lunch, we will have an assessment workshop, updates about a proposed undergraduate degree in public relations, and end with a faculty vote for an additional member of our Promotion and Tenure Committee, as a vacancy there just occurred.

That will be the only piece of official business.

My next post will be dealing with the aftermath of retreats. Something unexpected always happens. Stay tuned.

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