travel

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Seems like everybody has to do it, even with an economic downturn. Fly across the country to make a job contact or listen to a commercial. I'm sure the old hands will be able to justify it; justifying expenditures seems a pre-requisite for positions of power. But even so, is it really worth it? The posts to blogs are glowing, but get somebody alone in the hall and they tell you how much the event sucked.

My suggestion? Make staff pay a percentage of the entire cost, just like we pay part of tuition. If I go to Photoshop World in Atlanta, I'll take those skills with me if I leave this job; I should pay part of the ticket price. And I have to eat and sleep anyway- why shouldn't I pay part of that cost, too?

If we can't figure out how to use this stuff to improve business, learning, and community while modeling higher ed connectedness for a new millenium- we certainly aren't worth a jet flight and stay at Motel 6. Isn't that our job?

3 Comments

Cole said:

A lot of the travel I do is part of the job -- mostly meetings to further the mission of the organization/University (I suppose). When I do get a chance to go to events I do my best to attend stuff that matters to me and aligns with my professional needs/interests. I've been trying to go off the beaten path lately and find smaller, more focused events -- I'll gladly give up Educause for a Berkman event. The smaller things seem to get me moving in new ways -- thinking in new directions and inspiring me to rethink the way I am doing things.

Berkman challenged me to think about how faculty fellows should be a part of our organization ... none of the big conference have ever had that kind of effect. So much of the big events are built around social interaction -- meet old friends to talk through issues. The sessions are usually rehashes of stuff you can read about online. Too bad.

I think instead of people paying out pocket they should have to contribute to the event (by presenting or taking part in an un-conference session) in a meaningful way. This changes the whole dynamic from attending to being an active participant. Then if you come back and say the event was lame you were a part of that lameness. I also think people should challenge themselves to step outside the comfort zone. Berkman scared the hell out of me -- but the reason it changed me was b/c I had to step up, step out of my comfort zone, and engage with people who are really good at what they do. If you keep going back to NMC how do you make the move into new territory?

dave said:

I remember your enthusiasm for the Berkman event. I know it meant a lot to you. It could perhaps stand as an example of what the personal return should be for any such event?

Perhaps, too, looking at that model—what the event meant to you and what the potential ROI for Penn State could be—we should reexamine all of the travel we do. Is it worthwhile to the individual and to Penn State? Are the right people going? Would it make more sense to hire motivated people that can "thin slice"- get a big return for less involvement? Not everyone would have benefited from Berkman, and some might garner the same knowledge and insight from reading the right blog post at the right time. Should we hire people that need to fly to Santa Barbara to understand that twitter is a marketing tool?

I'm really not sure. It seems to me, though, that people have been flying off this same way in an unexamined and unquestioned matter-of-course for a long time, and perhaps there's a better way?

Cole said:

Perhaps there is a better way ... very true. So I am driving to DC today to attend a free unconference tomorrow related to educational blogging. What new will I learn? I'm not sure ... but I have a feeling I will leave with new colleagues and a new ideas. No matter what, I will be writing about it and I'll try as hard as I can to integrate the stories I learn there into what I do here. Do you think all of us think critically about where we spend our PD money, or do you think we just spend it? I have my answer. I would hope that people look at their own interests and those of the group and find things that enrich those.

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