For the last 6 months I’ve been serving as our interim dean. It is an amazing experience and creating opportunities for me to speak to our college in ways that I’ve never spoken before. The next few “thinking out loud” posts are from my emails to our faculty and staff. These were my way of thinking about equity and change.
August 27, 2020
Subject: Creating the World We Want to Live In
Good morning CHASS Colleagues,
As I near the end of my first month serving as your Interim Dean I am inspired and challenged. This first month I had short meetings with all of the Department Chairs. It was a moment to listen and learn what aspirations the Departments have for the future, their challenges, and needs necessary to achieving their goals. I am grateful for their wisdom. These conversations along with the many, many other meetings informed what I have come to think of as weekly themes for my steep learning curve as Interim Dean. The first week revealed our need to be more inclusive in all our decision-making processes. Often times things “just happen” and no one knows why or even sometimes what happened. We need to be more collaborative in our decision-making processes. Even if we cannot make the decision that an individual or group is hoping for, to know that they were an integral part of how that decision was achieved is a value of shared governance and a process that keeps us on a good path for being honest and responsible to each other.
The second week revealed an increased need to ensure we keep people in the loop. Was a decision made that didn’t work? And then what happened? Were processes followed? And then what happened? Did we say we were going to do something? Did we do it? Did we make a mistake that affects others and neglected to tell the people it impacted? “Closing the loop” is an extension of week one’s theme but with a clearer intention to be responsible to each other.
Week three was the hardest. It was filled with reminders that we are a land grant institution that has its history, processes, and procedures that can constrain our ability to be agile in meeting our needs and obligations. This, makes it hard to meet the challenges of the moment.
For the past few years I have been collaborating with Riverside/San Bernardino Counties Indian Health Inc. (RSBCIHI). As a community-engaged researcher, all of our processes were inclusive beginning with the design of the questions we asked and data collection, to data analysis and dissemination. I value this work more than anything. What I learned about RSBCIHI is that they are not a health system that was started by Indian Health Services (IHS). They are a system that was started by the consortium of tribes, on whose land UCR occupies. When the U.S. government decided they would not abide by their legal agreements with the tribes to provide health care, the tribes of the Southern California Indian Agency gathered and decided to pool their resources and create their own health services system. RSBCIHI celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. The tribes knew that they needed health care, that they were responsible for each other’s well-being, and that together they could meet the challenge in front of them. Importantly the tribes hold the collaborative power and decision-making for the direction and maintenance of RSBCIHI. They are a critical part of creating the world they want to live in. The tribes and their decision to share resources to create RSBCIHI represent one path with a clear vision and values.
As we face continuing challenges with the global pandemic, the economic crisis, a contentious upcoming election, and our solidarity with Black Lives Matter and institutional accountability, what are our values as we walk this path? How will our decisions today impact the direction of our college, campus, and university in the future? This is a moment of world-building and a moment of increased responsibility for each other. As we continue, I invite you to ponder these questions of how we create the world we want to live in and the things we need to do to be collaborative, creative, and agile. I invite you to consider what we can learn from RSBCIHI and how we might shift our institutional processes and individual actions to more acutely reflect on the values of the world we are reshaping.
In this next month, I will continue being open to new ideas and learning the responsibilities of the Interim Dean. Specific actions that we are taking in the Dean’s office include a rededication to engagement with our CHASS community and keeping people in the loop. We also have a few new initiatives that we are taking on, the most exciting of which is our Black Studies Initiative. We anticipate this initiative getting underway mid to late September with the guidance of a committee that will be developed in consultation with the Blackness Unbound Collective, Department Chairs, Students, and community. In addition, we will be developing detailed statements around interdisciplinary and community engaged research as CHASS value for merits and promotions and restarting CHASS’s faculty mentorship program.
As you reflect on all that has been shared, I look forward to hearing your innovative ideas on how we can meet our upcoming challenges and how to collaboratively create the world we want to live in.
With respect and gratitude,
CHASS, Interim Dean