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What could happen if there was a Culture Shift

I have been having many discussions lately with long-time friends who are leaving the higher education profession for a completely different job sector. The crazy thing is, these people have been in the higher education profession for 15, 20, even 25+ years.

So, what is making them leave after all these years? Why, after having endured so much and navigating the rough, and at times unbearable, terrain to become Vice Presidents, are they throwing in the towel now?

These are the people I have relied on throughout my career for strength and advice and sisterhood. The people whose trajectory was to become College or University Presidents and who I just knew would walk with me for years on this higher education journey.

The focus of our conversation this week has been based on this question: “What would we tell our younger self?”

We all really struggled to answer this because we got stuck remembering why we wanted to be a higher education professional in the first place. It just looked fun. Many of us were student leaders and we just loved making a difference and all the programming we did. We agreed the administrators we admired and looked up to served as our soul inspiration and the reason we pursued this line of work.

The lens back then was so different than the lens we view the profession through today. We are losing a lot of talent because navigating the terrain of nepotism, bullying, unsafe working environments, pay, and being forced to subscribe to the dominant culture framework of leadership has become a nightmare for many. We ended up focusing more on the terrain that we have faced/seen as women of color over the years.

The conversations about the changes we have seen over the years are very painful but needed. I admire the strength of my sister-friends, and I see their mass exodus as a conversation starter.

What would we gain if we investigated why people are leaving? What would happen if we paused and asked questions about someone’s absence instead of rushing to fill the position and moving on without reflection? Could we change the culture?

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