Sensing frustration from leaders at its satellite campuses, a Christian university based in Jackson, Mississippi reaches out to make things better —only to receive an Oscar-winning show of thanks in return.
Need: Imagine realizing that your practice of emailing policies and directives to your organization’s field offices isn’t working, and that it’s actually distancing you from valued colleagues in other cities. Lee Skinkle, Assistant Vice President for Academics at Belhaven University recalls that moment of truth: “A nationally-recognized third-party employee-engagement survey verified what we were starting to hear in-house about the misunderstandings and disjointedness between leadership in Jackson and our six outlying campuses. We knew we had work to do.”
Response: “Our goal was for each branch campus administrative team to feel connected, involved and valued to collectively carry out our mission of quality Christian higher education,” says Belhaven President Dr. Roger Parrott. So, last fall, the administration brought 90 branch campus leadership staff to Jackson to explore with each other, in person, the kinds of questions you can’t ask from a distance. “To see colleagues collaborate face to face with a new sense of commitment to the university and to each other was fantastic,” says Skinkle. But the best was yet to come.
Result: Branch campus staff were so overwhelmed by President Parrott’s initiative to reach out that they created an Academy Awards-style ceremony to thank main campus leadership. Creative, humorous videos highlighted individuals and departments whose pro-active hospitality sparked clearer communication, greater unity and ongoing cooperation. Says Skinkle, “Facing our organizational weaknesses has helped free us to create new and better ways to work together.” In the category of “Reciprocating Christ-like Love to Forge Greater Team Unity and Organizational Effectiveness,” the award goes to . . . Belhaven University.
P.S. Since 1996, Belhaven’s enrollment has tripled. The University has added seven major buildings, a variety of new undergraduate academic majors and graduate programs, plus campuses in Orlando, Houston, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, plus online programs and a Worldview Curriculum and integrated study of the great movements and ideas in history, literature, the fine arts, Bible, philosophy, and theology.