Task Force on Institutional Change & Culture

Chair, Members, Advisory, Liaison

Nan Jenks-Jay, Co-chair
Dave Donahue
David Dorman
Barbara Doyle-Wilch
Andrea Lloyd
Mary Hurlie, Co-chair
Kristen Anderson
Beverly Keim
Tom Corbin, advisory
Drew Macan, advisory
Bob Huth, liaison

Charge to Task Force

  1. How can the College create the conditions in which creative and entrepreneurial thinking by all employees is cultivated and supported?
  2. How can we foster and encourage a culture in which successes in one area of the College are seen as successes for the entire community?

The Task Force will also:

  1. Assist other task forces in ensuring that the two important questions listed above are an integral part of their agendas and deliberations
  2. Work with the existing ad hoc Committee on Staff Diversity in assisting other task forces in their efforts to promote and support a diverse College community

Executive Summary
May 2005

Note: Each Task Force Report is a collection of background information, analyses, and recommendations that are submitted to the Planning Steering Committee and the President. Over the summer, the Steering Committee and the President will review and discuss all 15 sets of recommendations together in the context of the College's available resources.

The goal of our task force was to point Middlebury College on a trajectory towards becoming an institution that fosters and embraces creativity and innovation, a culture in which successes are celebrated by all.

Our work was informed both by the body of literature that exists on creativity and the workplace, and on extensive interviews with staff and faculty. The former provided the conceptual underpinnings for our work. Teresa Amabile's writing on creativity in the workplace and the model of a Learning Community were particularly relevant to Middlebury College. The latter provided enormous insight into what works and what does not work at Middlebury College at present.

We found that pockets of creativity exist at Middlebury College, but that they are the exception rather than the rule, and that there is a nearly universal perception that Middlebury is a risk-averse culture in which failures are punished, creativity is not rewarded, and administrative structures hamper innovation. Nonetheless, the raw material for creativity, innovation, and risk-taking clearly exist within the staff and faculty, and we therefore generated several concrete recommendations that will move Middlebury towards its goal of becoming an institution that fosters creativity and innovation.

The recommendations can be grouped into several broad categories. First, we recommend taking various steps to build, once again, trust in the institution. This includes recommendations for greater transparency and greater autonomy in decision-making. Second, we recommend that steps be taken to insure that excellent leadership is rewarded and supported, and that those in leadership positions be responsible for creating learning environments within their areas. Third, we recommend that actions be taken to build community: creation of a new, simple, easy to remember mission; revival of all-college celebrations; mechanisms to foster more direct interaction among departments. Fourth, we recommend that actions be taken to provide all members of the College community, faculty and staff, with more time for reflection, as time for thought and careful reflection is an indispensable component of creative action.

Finally, we conclude that changing the institutional culture is a process, not a task, and that as such an implementation process will have to be developed. In the near term, we propose the development of a Council on Fostering Creativity and Community to develop our recommendations into concrete action that will move us towards institutional transformation.