Between 1933 and 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the nation in a series of evening radio addresses called “fireside chats.” On June 24, Chancellor Reddy offered a fireside chat of his own – addressing a national audience of higher education leaders on topics of student success, university culture and what the future of higher education will look like.
Chancellor Reddy opened with a discussion of how UCCS adapted to remote learning during the spring semester’s COVID-19 outbreak. He spoke about both the barriers and opportunities presented by remote working and learning. He also touched on the economic circumstances into which the Class of 2020 graduated, which are similar to those of the 2008 recession, and the need for universities and communities to work hand-in-glove towards strong employment outcomes for students.
Reddy encouraged leaders to embrace strong communication, careful listening and a focus on creating a positive culture.
“Culture, for me, is the most relevant thing for any institution,” he said. “Peter Drucker has said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ You could have the greatest strategy, but if you don’t have the people behind you, with you, leading you – I think you’re going to fail. So I have always put culture and people first.”
Reddy also considered what the university experience might look like in five years, given the possibility of remote learning and work to continue into the future.
“COVID-19 has disrupted our nation and world like nothing ever has,” he said. “We’ve been forced into this situation. Now, how do we maximize it? I think this is going to be a cultural challenge for all of us. It means that we need to have good systems, processes and policies on the campus, and good training for supervisors and chairs, who need to know how to work with remote employees. I do think we’re going to continue to become more technologically-savvy. I think we can increase our diverse workforce through technology. We can serve our disabled populations, who can be a part of the university and workforce without ever having to leave their homes.”
As he concluded his remarks by answering questions from the audience, Reddy encouraged leaders to stay humble – checking their egos at the door, and intentionally empowering emerging leaders across student, faculty and staff bodies.
“This is about our students’ success, our faculty’s success and our staff’s success,” Reddy said. “This is not about your success as a leader. Their success is your success.”