Friday Focus: Guiding principles in uncertain times

June 28, 2019

Tori Tragis

UAF photo by JR Ancheta.
UAF photo by JR Ancheta.

— by Dan White, chancellor

In last month’s leadership column I focused on showing appreciation. Today we expect to receive a budget from the governor, and the Board of Regents will meet to acknowledge the budget and discuss its impacts. As I write this column, I don’t know what that budget looks like. However, what I do know is that we will move forward with our mission, and as we do, we will be well-served to keep in mind a set of principles that will aid our everyday work at the university no matter what the situation.

Many organizations have a set of principles, or dialog agreements. Although each organization uses slightly different wording, each uses some iteration of the same set of basic statements to guide their interactions. I often reference those adopted (PDF) by the First Alaskans Institute. In brief, and with some modification they are:

  1. In every chair a leader

  2. Speak with care for others

  3. Value each other's time

  4. Listen deeply

  5. Have a safe space for meaningful conversation

  6. Value humor

  7. Be present and engaged

  8. Take care of yourself

  9. Take care of each other

I won’t go through all of the agreements but wish to focus on a few that I think are especially relevant to our path ahead.

Speak with care for others. Everyone handles change differently. Each of us have a life outside of our work filled with what I call “life issues.” Since we cannot know what others’ universe of life issues are, speak with care. Life issues can be very challenging. Avoid adding to someone’s burden with remarks that, regardless of intent, might be more for them to carry. Additionally, in times of change we need everyone’s voice, and everyone to speak up. If we speak with care for others, we are much more likely to be the beneficiaries of their voice, and their voice is much more likely to express care for us.

Have space for meaningful conversation. I have often talked about the importance of a “rest” in a measure of music. A rest is a note not played. It is purposeful silence and can be far more impactful than a note in conveying meaning in the piece. In playing music, I often observe that 80% of the individual notes I play appear lost on 50% of the listeners, but a rest is lost on no one. Making space for meaningful conversation often means making space for purposeful silence. Rest in a conversation allows space for thoughtful and complete response. As we look forward to UAF’s future, make space for meaningful conversation and we will all benefit.

Value humor. Depending on the budget we receive from the state, there will likely be some level of anxiety. Don’t forget to laugh. Sharing a little humor is good for everyone around you. And it is good for you. If you haven’t heard the story about the gold miner who met Saint Peter at the gates of heaven, stop by my office and I will share it.

Take care of yourself and others. We are a respectful, diverse, inclusive and caring community, and where we are not, we seek to be. Taking care of each other’s physical and mental well-being is part and parcel to being an inclusive and caring campus. I encourage everyone at UAF to think about what you can do to take care of others. It is interesting to me that this is often the last dialog agreement. It is conveniently so because if you must ask “how can I take care of others,” you can look at the seven preceding agreements.

Thank you for all you do at, and for, UAF.

Friday Focus is a column written by a different member of UAF’s leadership team every week.