University Foundation

University Foundation

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University Foundation


The presentation I choose to summarize is Greg Gissendanner’s presentation on the university foundation. Like most of the other presentations in class, Greg used the standard outline of presenting the unit’s history, mission, organizational structure, funding and financial concerns, and current issues.

History. Greg showed that while many foundations look fairly similar today, the history of foundation development took on many different forms at different institutions. Greg’s primary examples of Harvard and Rutgers compared stories of how each foundation got its start with early donations (in a foreign currency!) as well as donations of other types – those that we might call in-kind today. These donations of materials and labor were instrumental in getting these two institutions the boost they needed for their continuing growth.

Mission. Greg went on to define a “shared” mission statement of university foundations in general. This shared mission, securing gifts and grants, maximizing donor interest and commitment, and distribution of gifts to the university community, came from five specific mission statements which Greg then shared with the class. These individual mission statements while variable, all seemed to contain this shared definition within them even though they came from a variety of large public institutions. It would have been interesting to compare these with the mission of some smaller publics and also private institutions.

Organizational Structure. Greg used a nice technique to discuss the organization structures of university foundations. Instead of just showing several examples, he asked the class to take a look at two universities which he had outlined some basic characteristics such as enrollment, location, cost of tuition, age of institution and endowment. He then asked us how we thought each of their foundations would be organized. It was a good tactic to make us think about what factors might affect the organization of a foundation and why. He went on to give details and his own explanation of why the foundations were organized the way they were.

Funding and Financial Concerns. Next Greg discussed how the university foundation is typically funded. He explained that the foundation typically has five funding streams, endowment management fees, unrestricted gifts, gift fee, investment income fee, and a university services fee.

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He explained each one of these streams in some detail noting that the percentages allocated to each tend to vary from university to university but are similar in most cases. From this income the foundation then can allocate monies to the operating budget, salaries, and fund raising expenses.

Greg discussed the three major financial concerns of the foundation. These are building the endowment, the foundation spending policy, and financial and endowment reporting. As would be expected, building the endowment is a very high priority for the foundation (and the university as a whole) as programs can be built and maintained from the interest of the endowment and, logically, the larger the endowment, the more programs that can be supported through this funding source. The spending policy of the foundation is important because it guides how the endowment as well as other funds are spent – especially the rate that they are allowed to be depleted. Lastly, Greg reported that reporting of the foundation’s business is a high priority issue and one that is currently being looked at very closely. Time was devoted specifically to discuss this in light of Iowa State’s recent controversies on reporting what money is being donated for (sole purpose) and who the money comes from (protecting donor anonymity).

Current Issues. Greg also shared two other current foundation issues with the class. First, related to the financial issues he discussed, was that development be donor driven rather than need driven. He discussed how the foundation needs to balance this issue carefully because most donors have an intent to their gift, a priority that might not match the current priorities of the university. Second, Greg related that successful fund-raising programs cost more money than they raise. While I have a hard time believing this to be the case, I do see his point that fund raising is more than just dollars and cents but a lot of donor hand holding and attention that does cost the university extra time and money.

The reason I chose this presentation to summarize is because I find the foundation to be a very unique and controversial piece of the university. This is shown by the nature of where the foundation fits organizationally within the university. Iowa State is currently working on this touchy subject as it tries to get its foundation further away from the core of the university and treat it as a private entity working in close cooperation rather than actually a part of the university. As you will see in my answer to questions 3 & 4 of this exam, I find this to be just one of the many nuances in the organization of a university and am very interested in the leadership ramifications that these organizational issues present. Greg’s presentation (along with some of the others) helped solidify the concept of higher education as a loosely coupled system in my mind and the fact that anyone who takes a leadership role in this kind of system must be someone who can master many different leadership and management styles.
Question #3. Refer to the paper your wrote related to the leadership exercise. Over the course of the semester, has your thinking about leadership changed or stayed the same? What are the most important things you have learned in this course about leading a post secondary institution? Have you integrated these learning points in your practice? If so, how? If not, why not?

Looking back upon the leadership assignment from earlier in the semester, I think I can accurately say that what I wrote about my leadership traits has probably not changed all that much. I still see my strengths and weaknesses to be similar. I still see myself primarily as a servant-leader. What has changed dramatically however is my new understanding of the leadership environment where I put those traits to work developing my own leadership style.

The material I have been introduced to throughout this semester has definitely made an impact upon my thinking about leadership, especially leadership in a university setting. Having spent ¾ of my professional career outside of academia, I had some pretty set ways that I thought my leadership and management styles worked. The organizations where I had worked were very hierarchical in nature and while I thought I had evolved very good leadership skills, they really were adapted to that structured environment. I think I spent the first four years here at Iowa State frustrated that the organization (especially the academic side) did not match well with my learned leadership style.

While I knew what the problems were before taking this class (how to use my leadership knowledge in an academic and administrative setting), the last 4 months have given me tremendous insight into how I can use some of my leadership tools to work within the academic environment. I no longer feel the need to “change the system” of the loosely coupled university structure, a structure I found difficult up to this point. I now know that the system is not going to change for me but I must do what I can to match my leadership strengths with the academic environment. In fact I now find it a positive challenge to find out more about the detailed workings of the university (a challenge that sometimes has no answers) and to do what I can to make things work to their best (not the “perfect” because there is none) conclusion.

Now, instead of feeling inferior about my qualifications on the academic side of the organization, I know what things to work on so I can become a “leader” more in the sense of a peer relationship. I now have a much better understanding of loosely coupled systems, and maybe even more importantly, why the university operates that way and also why this system won’t change very much during my academic career. I have come to a place of acceptance of an institution I knew little about and can now mold my strengths to it rather than the frustration (which would have been lifelong) that I can change the institution (or indeed any part of it) to match my strengths.

I feel extremely lucky to be in a position to put this new implementation of leadership style to work right away in a situation I really like and can thrive in. Having a leadership role both in my office and within the Professional and Scientific Council I have put this new knowledge and understanding to work right away. For example, before this semester began, I sometimes had the mindset of the faculty as an adversary, especially during this time of severe budget constraints and an “us (faculty) versus them (P&S staff)” environment that seemed prevalent when looking at budget cuts. Because I was used to a certain way of an organization operating (that of a typical state government hierarchy similar to what can be found on the administrative side of the university) I wanted to see the academic side similarly constrained. Now I have a much better understanding of the system as a whole, not just my own niche, and can see why things are the way they are and how they came to be the way they are. This more balanced approach to working within the university structure is a direct result of ideas discussed this semester. Putting these ideas into a new, internal framework has allowed me to see all areas of the university, including faculty, staff, and students, in a more unified, if loosely unified, perspective. I now also have an enhanced understanding of the rigors of senior administrators who really must possess many leadership traits and know when to use each one for maximum benefit.

Question #4. Identify the three most important things you have learned in this course. Why are these things this important to you? Have you integrated these learnings in your practice? If so, how? If not, why not? What didn't you learn in this course that you plan to pursue in other courses or on your own? Why are these issues of importance to you?

Most Important Thing #1 - Loosely Coupled Systems.

After the readings and discussions concerning loosely coupled systems my perception of the university changed and things really seemed to fit. It was one of those “light bulb clicks on” moments where things that were frustrating and made little if any sense to me were suddenly more clearly defined and understood. One of those areas was how to be a leader in such an environment as I described in question #3 above. My perception of the university went from “why does it have to be this way – how in the world can I make it fit my understanding of how it should be” to “oh – now I see why it is this way and here are the things I can do to maximize my involvement.”

This understanding was extremely important to me because my position involves coordination of many technological areas of the university, both academic and administrative. Up to that point cooperation and coordination seemed to be something that would be non-existent in certain areas and this seemed to be my own failure to make things happen. So besides the leadership ramifications described above, I finally saw a system wide explanation of why things work the way they do and now have a much better appreciation on how to make things work where possible. I have taken in this new knowledge and applied it not only to my work situation but also in the more political situations of the P&S Council. This new perspective opened up new vistas to where I have a thirst for more detailed workings of the university including the faculty senate and departmental meetings (as an adjunct faculty member).

Most Important Thing #2 - Academic versus Administrative Organization.

Part of the class discussions that started with loosely coupled systems, chaordic leadership, and the differences of the tightness of structure in different areas of the university led me to a keen interest in the differences of academic and administrative organization within the university. I think I was drawn to this topic because my particular work situation allows me to live in both of these worlds and gives me a first hand look at the similarities and difference of each. In fact, I think this may have been where my frustrations with the internal structure of ISU started from because I was used to the more hierarchical structure of the administrative side and did not have a deep understanding of the chaordic structure of the academic side.

Again, through our readings and class discussions, a more true picture developed for me concerning why things work the way they do and what I could do to incorporate what I needed from the system. I have implemented this knowledge so that instead of frustration I now have an appreciation for how the academic side of the university works and indeed have become much more positively involved in it with my home department, Landscape Architecture. I feel I have a much more balanced view of the university and my role and potential roles within it.

Most Important Thing #3 - An Overall Picture of Different University Functions.

The third most important thing I’ve taken from our class this semester is a much better and well-rounded view of just what this whole thing we call the university is. I knew of most of the units we discussed in class but only had a vague preconception of what each of the areas did and was responsible for. Through our in-depth discussions, readings, role-playing, and presentations I have a much better idea of what these units do, especially those in student affairs and related areas. In fact, it seems like our class was made up of mostly those looking to work in some sort of student affairs environment.

This was helpful to me because while having a fairly good feel for academic affairs, I did not know very much at all about the role of student affairs. Learning about these various areas of the university will help me in understanding the bigger picture of the university and how any role I should be part of will affect or be affected by these areas. Just the knowledge of what these areas do has already made me more aware of how the current technology programs I work with can benefit by including them in our planning and communication efforts.

Right now it seems there was nothing I didn’t learn in this class, as it was very inclusive. I know that is not the case however because of all the other classes in the curriculum that I have yet to take! In the area of organization and administration that we did cover I will be taking more time to investigate a couple things a bit further because my interest was sparked. These include governance including academic, professional and scientific, and merit; senior administration including specific duties of presidential cabinet level positions; faculty roles and others. These issues are especially important to me as I investigate future career paths within the university and what is available to someone with my experience. While my first priority right now continues to be the path to a chief information officer position, I am also interested in a senior level administration position (other than CIO), or possibly becoming a faculty member. The fun of the Higher Ed program right now is learning much more about how the university operates with almost an insiders point of view toward future possibilities while also being able to implement these new ideas to my current position. I really enjoy the fact that what I am learning now will help me in the future but that I can apply it right now as well.
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