This piece is the last blog post I will write for Inside Higher Ed that Scott Jaschik will edit. As was announced earlier this month, Scott’s last day at IHE is today.
I’ve been working with (and for) Scott for 14 years. He has been a near-daily constant in my professional life. I can honestly say that Scott is the best higher ed boss I’ve ever had.
If you know Scott—and everyone knows Scott—then I’m sure you can add to a list of things we’ve learned from him. A list of what I’ve learned from Scott, and what I think that every higher ed leader can learn from Scott, would include:
- Be Patient With Your People
It has taken me years to find my blogging voice. Scott recruited me to IHE when I was midcareer (so I had something to say) but a newbie blogger (so I didn’t know how to say it). Over the years, Scott has been patient as my writing (slowly) improved.
For university jobs, we put too little emphasis on long-term growth and too much focus on talent. Professional development budgets are uneven and almost always too small. We need to make the sort of long-term investments in our people that Scott was willing to make in me. We should also be ready to hire people early in their careers and stick with them as they develop their abilities.
- Encourage Your People to Grow and Change
The focus of my writing for IHE has changed over the years. In the early years, I mainly wrote about educational technology. As my work began specializing in online education, my writing shifted to exploring university/company partnerships and organizational leadership issues. Along the way, Scott was supportive as I began to write book reviews from the lens of what books can teach us about universities. And Scott encouraged me to do more interviews (my “3 Questions” series) with nonfaculty educators.
If you invest in people for the long term, you also need to make room for them to grow and change. Interests will evolve, and careers need to accommodate growth. Universities often don’t know how to encourage career growth for alternative academics. There is no clear professional path. Too often, nonfaculty educators must move institutions to advance their careers.
Scott enabled me to stay with IHE as he encouraged and supported me in changing what I wrote about over the years. Every higher ed leader should be creating that sort of running room for the people at their schools.
- Be Available
Scott has been consistently available, accessible and present. When I email Scott, I always get a (fast) answer.
Being this available to the people who work at a university is a hard thing for university leaders to pull off. University leaders are super busy. Their days are made up of endless meetings and other responsibilities.
I don’t know how Scott could be so present and accessible, given everything else his job entailed. But he prioritized being available to the people who worked for him. Maybe just making availability a leadership priority is what it takes.
- Put Values First
Scott and his partner, IHE co-founder Doug Lederman, are both old-school. Old-school in the sense that journalism is a civic responsibility, with ethics at the heart of the news operation. This orientation to running IHE means keeping the organization’s editorial content and business concerns separate.
Every decision I ever saw Scott (and Doug) make about what goes in IHE has been based on journalistic, not business, concerns. The questions are always about if a story or opinion piece is accurate, fair and well supported.
IHE has always been the news and opinion source accessible to everyone in higher education. It is where those with the least power and the least money can get the same information and analysis as the most senior (and privileged) people in our industry.
In our digital age of social media and advertising-driven content, running an old-school, digital-first news operation must not be easy. Writing for IHE has always felt like being part of a way of thinking about news and opinion that has roots in journalism’s past. Scott, Doug and all the people they work with at IHE have been trying to bring these old-school journalism values into a digital-first future.
Like the news, the future of higher education will also be primarily digital. How can universities stay true to their values as everything about higher education changes? A values-based approach seems to have worked pretty well for IHE.
- Take Risks
Scott and Doug took a considerable risk when they started IHE. Who in their right mind leaves established and secure positions to bring something entirely new into the world?
We tend to take IHE for granted. IHE has been part of our professional academic lives for so long that it is difficult to remember what things were like pre-IHE. A freely accessible source of professionally reported news and expert opinion covering the breadth of higher education was unavailable before IHE.
Starting IHE was a risk. How many big risks do established colleges and universities take? If we want to do something big—as big as what Scott and Doug have done — we must take some big swings.
- Prioritize Relationships, Reputation and Trust
Scott’s most important asset has always been his reputation. That reputation has been built on decades of building trust with those in our higher ed ecosystem. Trust requires candor, transparency, modesty, listening, expertise, consistency, empathy and compassion.
What I’ve learned from Scott is that what matters most in our higher ed world is our long-term relationships. Meeting short-term goals is never worthwhile if they come at the expense of long-term relationships. One’s reputation in higher education is built over decades. There are no shortcuts. The only game that matters in higher ed is the long game.
- Have Good Partners
As wonderful as Scott is, he has not done it alone. While Scott has been my day-to-day boss at IHE, it has always been both Scott and Doug Lederman that I work for. Many people have helped raise IHE, but IHE is Scott and Doug’s baby.
Even the best higher ed leaders can’t do it alone. We all need partners.
- Go Out on Top
Finally, Scott is showing all of us in higher ed how to say goodbye. For Scott, IHE is not a business but a legacy. Scott leaves IHE at a time of strength and stability. The fact that Doug is staying is vital. If IHE were not in good shape and in good hands, Scott would have never decided that now was the time to retire.
Too many higher ed leaders stay too long. They don’t take the time to cultivate other interests and passions beyond their academic leadership roles. They don’t know how to be useful and valuable outside their jobs. The time to leave is when things are at their best.
Thank you to Scott for giving me the professional opportunities you have provided. Thank you to Scott for the mentorship, guidance and friendship over the years. You will be missed.