The System Connection - September 6, 2017

President's Column


I hope that everyone enjoyed the Labor Day weekend and has come back this week ready to make the fall semester their “best one yet.”

For me - now that we have the state budget settled for at least the near-term future…and with permanent chancellors in place at each of our primary campus locations…and a strategic plan recently adopted by the Board of Trustees to provide better focus for directed efforts we need to make at the system level – I’ve sort of been approaching this new academic year as a reset for myself too, establishing a more defined scope of work personally for accomplishing the things we need to do to advance SIU as a whole.

As part of my thinking about what that should be – and how best that gets done across a complex, non-routinized, intractable organization (read, SIU) - I’ve been spending some time diving back into the myriad knowledge base on leadership and organizations. The breadth of research in these related fields is daunting – but its depth, not always as much. While much of the scholarship in organizational leadership and development is very good, there is also much which is little better than anecdotal tradecraft.

An important mentor of mine into the professoriate was an individual by the name of Joe Murphy, most recently the Frank W. Mayborn Chair of Education and Associate Dean at Peabody College of Education of Vanderbilt University. Joe has authored, co-authored, or edited over 30 books in his prolific career, many of which broadly examine educational organizations and leadership, and the nature of change in those settings.

Around five years ago, in an attempt to glean key learnings from his impressive array of scholarship…and maybe to tap a little into the lucrative leadership trade book market…Joe distilled things down to a collection of organizational and leadership maxims which I often return to as touchstones for the continuous improvement of my own performance in this job that I have. The adages below are some of the favorites from Joe’s collection—which I’m re-appropriating for myself as we all begin anew, yet again. Maybe some will resonate for you as well:

Frame Challenges, Not Problems – Solving problems is a good thing for sure. But meeting challenges is better. The former is often deficit-oriented and tinged with faultfinding. The latter is future-oriented and tinged with a sense of possibility.

The Law of the Dip (to make clear, this is not a reference to me or any other administrator) – Great teachers in the domain of change help us see that things almost always trend downward before they begin to rise. This is the period in which high-magnitude mistakes (e.g., withdrawal, scapegoating) are especially apt to occur. Effective leaders understand the law of the dip and manage change accordingly.

Learn the Act of Triage – Given the complexity of modern organizations, it is easy to just keep adding material to the importance pile. Yet when everything is important, then nothing is important.

You Can’t Buy Back Trust – Trust is the central ingredient in making leaders effective. If people trust the leader, the door to organizational improvement is open. If they do not, it is shut. You should do all in your power to develop it and all you cannot to damage it. Leadership is a relational idea. Trust is at the heart of those relationships. Once it is lost, it is difficult to impossible to recover.

Nurture Understanding – Researchers over time have provided much guidance that should be honored by leaders. One essential lesson runs as follows: Learn to know what people are thinking about, not what they say.

No One Ever Wins an Argument – A little wisdom from Ayn Rand. It doesn’t work for parents either. Arguments are a colossal waste of everyone’s time—worse even because they often harden positions. Avoid them at all costs.

The Law of the Second Eyeball – The way you see it may not be the way it is. Step back; look again. Get another perspective.

Learn to Tell Stories – We live in a world where data are critical and evidence is king. But most of us don’t digest information this way. People are moved to action by stories of success. Get into the habit of making your points in this form.

Don’t Confuse Busyness with Productivity – Most people in leadership positions are exceptionally busy people. They see themselves coming and going, from the first sip of coffee in the morning and oftentimes well into the evening. Being busy is a good thing. It provides the avenues for possible gains. But being busy is never an end. And it sometimes gets in the way of productivity. To say “I had a long day and worked exceedingly hard” always needs to be followed with this codicil: “And I moved us x number of steps closer to our goal.”

And finally…

Keep Values Alive - Beliefs and values are critical components of organizations. Yet in many businesses they are museum pieces at best and mold-covered oddities at worst. Leaders must be the ones who ensure that important values are nourished. They need to be stewards of organizational beliefs. Others can help haul the freight here but they need to know what the load is that they are being asked to carry.


As I mentioned in my email a couple of weeks ago, please share any thoughts on the new version of The System Connection debuting today. You can more easily pick and choose what you want to read, and you’ll note the addition of another feature which I’ll throw in on occasion-ON THE ROAD-a first-person write-up of a stop or visit made in my capacity as SIU’s president. This week’s account highlights the impact our School of Medicine has in improving health and wellness in the city of Decatur.

Send ideas on any other things you’d like to see. I also post stuff – both work-related and personal – on my Facebook page (Randy J. Dunn) and I keep pushing myself to use Twitter a little bit more each year (@SIUPresident). This year is no different.

Randy Dunn

ON THE ROAD: Health and Wellness in Decatur

Health and Wellness in DecaturWith the intention of learning more about – and bringing greater attention to – numerous new School of Medicine relationships there, I traveled to Decatur last week to tour a number of facilities and meet with some of our key partners. My trip took me to Franklin School, a K-6 elementary attendance center; SIU’s family practice clinic; and Decatur Memorial Hospital, which houses multi-specialty clinics for us.

Franklin School operates two programs, an innovative project called Trauma Informed Learning Environments, and a nascent program to promote asthma education and treatment. Leadership for the trauma program has also come from Decatur Public Schools, the Macon-Piatt Regional Office of Education, and the Education Coalition of Macon County. Additionally, the program is offered at a second elementary school in Decatur. TILE has also provided important research opportunities for our medical school, through the Academy for Scholarship in Education and other related units.

At the Center for Family Medicine, the staff was still in celebration mode for its recently awarded designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). FQHCs, also known as Community Health Centers, are non-profit, community-directed health care providers located in medically underserved rural and urban communities which provide access to care regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. These federally qualified centers also have the ability to expand services, such as with care and outreach coordinators, financial counselors, and behavioral health providers to name just a few – and that growth is planned for the future at the Decatur clinic. The Macon County Department of Health is also partnering with the School of Medicine on educational initiatives there.

Our Decatur clinic typically hosts 15 medical residents in family practice and the residency director is Jessie Junker, M.D. – a true ambassador for SIU Medicine.

Finally, I sat down with the senior leadership staff of Decatur Memorial Hospital to explore how we could work together to improve access for patients throughout central Illinois. In addition to soon opening a multi-specialty clinic in our own available space at the Center for Family Medicine, the hospital is offering clinic space on its campus to house some specialty areas as well. By the time all is said and done, SIU will have services in such areas as pediatrics, dermatology, urology, neurology, geriatric psychiatry and others in one of the two Decatur locations. 

The Decatur trip came on the heels of a similar stop I made at SIU’s West Frankfort family medicine clinic earlier in August – and prior to a visit set for later this month to the School of Medicine’s new Office of Regional Programs location in Canton, Ill. Through these various efforts across central and southern Illinois – working alongside dedicated partners – SIU is helping to ensure that children and their families are safe and healthy throughout the footprint of central and southern Illinois.

(Above photo: SIU President Randy Dunn, left, recently met with Dr. Jessie Junker, director of the Decatur Family Medicine Residency Program for the SIU School of Medicine, and Julie Moore, mayor of Decatur, during a visit to Decatur that included tours of various facilities and meetings with key partners.)

DACA to be Rescinded

It was announced this week that President Donald Trump is ending the Deferred Acton for Childhood Arrivals program, which was instituted under President Barack Obama’s administration to protect eligible immigrant youths who came to the United States as children from being deported, in six months.

The program gives young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation and the opportunity to obtain a work permit and a Social Security number. The designation is good for two years and can be renewed.

Nationally, officials indicate that more than 787,000 DACA status grants have been awarded and nearly 800,000 renewals approved since the program began in 2012. During the spring 2017 semester, 57 DACA students were continuing their educations within the SIU system, including 20 at SIU Carbondale and 37 at SIU Edwardsville.

To qualify for DACA, or “DREAMers” status, a person must have come to the United States before the age of 16, lived continuously in the U.S. for at least five years, be attending or graduated from high school or college, earned a GED, or successfully been discharged from the Coast Guard or military. Applicants can also have no felony convictions, significant misdemeanors (including DUI) or three or more misdemeanors. In addition, DACA applicants must be younger than 31 and living in the U.S. as of June 15, 2012.

A group of state attorneys general from across the country announced they would sue the administration in federal court in a move to end the program. The president has delayed elimination of the program for six months in order to allow Congress the opportunity to enact legislation to address the situation. 

The big unknown is what happens when the program ends. Procedures and mechanisms are not currently in place for a large-scale deportation of DACA grantees. Trump has voiced support for those who are already DACA beneficiaries and legislators have already introduced bills that would offer many or all of those now covered under DACA legal status and/or a pathway to citizenship.

SIU has signed on to the national “Pomona College Letter” at both the campus and system levels – along with more than 600 colleges and universities from around the U.S. – to uphold the DACA program and in continued support of our undocumented immigrant students.

To be clear: current DACA students will continue to be welcome at all SIU campuses and locations. We will support these students – and all of our students – to the extent of our legal ability, and will protect their rights under all applicable statutes and regulations. Further, we will not take any steps related to DACA students that would cause them to be treated differently because of their immigration status.

Board of Trustees Sponsors Inaugural Diversity Lecture with Tim Wise

Tim WiseThe Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees’ First Annual Diversity Lecture and Excellence Awards will bring Tim Wise to SIUC’s John C. Guyon Auditorium, located in Morris Library, on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. This event will open with a public reception in the library’s first-floor rotunda. Wise will begin his lecture following the reception, at approximately 5:30 p.m. His books will be for sale and a signing will take place after the lecture.

Tim Wise is among the nation’s most prominent anti-racist essayists, educators and lecturers. He has spent the past 25 years speaking to audiences in all 50 states, on over 1000 college and high school campuses, at hundreds of professional and academic conferences, and to community groups across the country. Wise has also lectured internationally in Canada and Bermuda, and has trained corporate, government, entertainment, media, law enforcement, military and medical industry professionals on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions.

Wise is the author of several books, including his latest, Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America. Other books include Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority; his highly acclaimed memoir, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son; Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White; Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male; Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama; and Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity.

He has contributed chapters or essays to more than 25 additional books and his writings are taught in colleges and universities across the nation. His essays have appeared in Alternet, Salon, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, Black Commentator, BK Nation, Z Magazine and The Root, among other popular, professional and scholarly journals.

Wise appears regularly on CNN and MSNBC to discuss race issues and was prominently featured in a 2007 segment on ABC’s 20/20. He graduated from Tulane University in 1990 and received anti-racism training from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond in New Orleans.

Wise was selected for the inaugural lecture by the recently formed SIU System’s Diversity Advisory Council, made up of representatives from across SIU’s locations and staffed by Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese. Wise is affiliated with SpeakOut - The Institute for Democratic Education and Culture, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of education, racial and social justice, cultural literacy, leadership development and activism. Its network of speakers, artists and strategic partners provide experiential learning opportunities through lectures, workshops, film screenings, performances and curriculum development.

SIU Board of Trustees to Meet Sept. 14

BOT SealThe Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees will consider a number of items when meeting on Sept. 14 in Roller Hall at the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton. Highlights of the day’s agenda include:

  • FY18 Operating Budget – For the first time since Fiscal Year 2015, now that the State of Illinois has a budget, the SIU trustees will adopt an FYI8 Operating Budget for the SIU System. Over the past two fiscal years, during the statewide fiscal impasse, SIU has worked from a series of “Continuing Resolution” spending plans tied to the FY15 levels.
  • Updated Debt Policy – The debt policy provides guidance to the system treasurer on the roles and responsibilities for handling debt issuance, sets forth procedures governing long-term borrowing, and ensures that sufficient controls exist over management of the debt system. The agencies which rate SIU’s debt have revised their various debt-ratio calculations and these changes are incorporated in the new policy as well.
  • SIU Dental Associates Inc. – The SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton is working to establish a clinic practice plan for dentistry, similar to the School of Medicine’s practice plan, which was recently rebranded from SIU HealthCare to SIU Medicine. This agenda item envisions a new, non-profit corporate arm for this purpose – SIU Dental Associates Inc. – which by this action will be designated with official University-Related Organization status from the Board of Trustees. Other UROs across the System include the SIU and SIUE Foundations, the SIU Research Park on the Carbondale campus, and University Park at SIUE.
  • SIUE salary increase – The Edwardsville campus will present a proposal for consideration that would provide a pay increase to non-represented employees as well as to certain represented employee groups where a salary increase is benchmarked to the non-represented salary adjustment. For the SIUE unions which have open labor agreements, compensation levels will, of course, be part of the ongoing contract negotiations taking place.

The complete BOT agenda and additional information is available at

Faces of SIU

Lynn Gill Lynn Gill is one of those people it’s hard to be unhappy around. Her sense of humor and genuine concern for others likely help explain why many of the students she’s encountered in her work at SIUC make it a point to stay in touch with her.

“I cherish these relationships,” Lynn, senior lecturer and director of the didactic program in dietetics, said. “Like many SIU faculty and staff, the students are what I enjoy most. It is an incredible honor to be part of their formative years.”

A Schaumburg native, Lynn is quick to note that her family has “a long legacy with this wonderful university.”

She completed her master’s degree in nutrition at SIU and three of her four siblings earned diplomas at the university as well. This Saluki family tradition led the family patriarch to dub himself the “official Party Pop of Carbondale,” according to Lynn.

Lynn and husband, Jeff, met as students at SIU 24 years ago. True to form, she initially relates the “official” version of the story, claiming that first encounter happened at a symphony in Shryock Auditorium. With a giggle, she concedes they really got acquainted at Fred’s Dance Barn, where Jeff worked while attending college. But, the ensuing courtship definitely revolved around campus, she said.

After graduation, the two remained in Southern Illinois, marrying and raising their family here. Lynn, a registered dietitian, went to work for SIU. Jeff served as a Carbondale police officer until his recent retirement and follow-up career in insurance sales.

The Gills have two sons whose teenage years, and thus much of their parents’ energies, were devoted largely to their band, Mr. Swampfox. The musical group recently disbanded due to the members’ college commitments and the Gill’s oldest son, Nathan, is working at Plaza Records while setting up a recording studio. Younger son, Brandon, is a senior at Carterville High School and plans to continue the Saluki family tradition by enrolling at SIU in fall 2018 to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

Lynn’s other interests are a dichotomy, which isn’t surprising considering she describes herself as a “closet introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body.” She said she enjoys “hedonist interests” like shopping and travelling the wine trails but you’re just as likely to find her reading about the neurobiology of emotions and behavior.

“Reading the ‘Principles of Neurobiology’” while at Blue Sky (Winery)” – that’s about as good as a day off gets in her book.

The girl who once aspired to be “the Flying Nun” has invested her life assisting people in achieving their health objectives and preparing others to do the same. As a dietitian at the Student Health Services’ Wellness Center, Lynn helped students lead healthier lives through nutrition and lifestyle planning for 21 years. Three years ago, she moved to her current faculty position in the animal science, food and nutrition department at the College of Agriculture.

“My career goal always has been to add value to students’ lives and empower them to be the best version of themselves,” she said. “If I’ve touched any of their lives, then my time at SIU was well spent.”

We appreciate your commitment to our students and our university, Lynn.

Other Voices in HIED

Dallas News:
Texas community colleges moving fast to offer bachelor’s degrees for future nurses, pre-K teachers.

Op Ed: The Tenure Track is Too Rigid to Help Diversity.

PBS NewsHour:
After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople.

The Washington Post:
Universities fear what Trump policy shift could mean for immigrant ‘dreamers.’