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Although the calendar tells us that January is the start of the year, September has always felt like the start of something new and exciting. (Heather Zwicker has written a fabulous post at Hook and Eye on this phenomenon-- New Year.) With the new year comes new year’s resolutions.

Last week, Melissa Anderson at The Glass Hammer proposed a fall resolution for her readers. The resolution consisted of action items related to reconnecting and networking outside of your comfort zone. We read it as more of a challenge or call to action and thought that it would be great to adapt it for our higher ed community over here at UVenus.

Anderson’s readership is predominantly in the corporate sector, and her networking challenges were in the areas of going outside of your industry and your professional associations in the corporate world. In creating a set of challenges related to higher education, we see going interdisciplinary, international, and outside of our institutions and into our local communities as relevant networking challenges that make sense for those of in higher education.

We have created challenges for the start of the new academic year. We challenge ourselves and our readers to connect and reconnect over the next three months. The deadline for meeting the challenge is December 10 and in December, we will publish a series of posts sharing the results and lessons learned. We may even dream up some badges to correspond to these challenges.

The Challenge:

1. Go Interdisciplinary. Meet someone outside of your department or unit. If you are a faculty member or graduate student, connect with someone in another academic department; if you are a staff or administrator, connect with someone in another unit. For instance, if you are in student affairs, connect with someone in academic affairs, enrollment management, or advancement. If you're a faculty member, reach out to one administrator or staff member involved in work you think is moving your institution forward. If you're a staff/administrator, reach out to a faculty member whose research or teaching really connects to the mission of your institution. Perhaps you can find a new hire at your school: reach out and meet for coffee -- and make sure that person is in a discipline or division different from your own.

2. Go International. This may be demanding for some of you. Have you been to an international conference in the last few years and connected with someone, only to let that connection lapse once you got home? Find that person's card or name in the program and reconnect; ask them how the work they presented on is going. If this option isn’t available, tap into the international offices at your institution: find out which universities your institution partners with, find out who is in charge of international initiatives at your school, ask to be connected to someone who is in a similar unit at one of these institutions. If you are in the student affairs area, find someone in a similar area at a university in another country. International is the future and you need to be there. If you need help, let us know.

3. Go outside your institution.

a. Go to a neighboring institution. Target a senior colleague at an institution near your school, perhaps someone you met at a recent conference or networking event. You could even ask your immediate supervisor to make an introduction on your behalf. We are often isolated within our institutions and/or disciplines and rarely connect with folks at other schools. You can learn a lot from how folks do things at other institutions and how your school is viewed by other institutions. If you have trouble identifying someone, let us know, we will help if we can. If you are able, we would recommend reaching out to someone at an institution type different from yours - if you are at a private, find someone at a public, if you are at a large school, find someone at a small school.

b. Go to your local community. If you are already involved in your local community, this will be easy and we recommend connecting with someone who is more senior than you are used to dealing with. This may be a local politician or someone in his or her office. The goal is to expand your network and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you are not involved at the moment, the local libraries and schools are great places to start. Your institution is usually looking for ways to improve public engagement and should have a designated position responsible for local public partnerships - connect with them for a lead. It will show that you are interested in public engagement and in making higher ed relevant to the larger community.

Ready, Set, Go!

The plan is to keep folks updated along the way with group posts in October and November. We want to hear from you as well. Sign up for the challenge here and keep us updated with your progress via email or Twitter and we’ll add your updates to the posts.

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