Written By Elaine Maimon
In September 2020, I announced that I would not seek renewal of my presidential contract after June 30, 2020.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
After 13 years as president, 24% of GovStU’s existence, I turned over a university prepared to confront the pandemic with a solid plan, a balanced budget, no layoffs, and no furloughs. The virtual farewell tribute will always warm my heart:
Starting on July 1, 2020, I entered a new season of my life. I never contemplated “retirement,” with its implications of withdrawal from activity. My plan was always to transfer energy from the day-to-day running of a university (and I had run three in my career) to do more for educational reform on the national level.
In this new season, I am focusing on a three-part strategy:
Consulting, writing, and speaking, assisting universities and colleges in improving education for the New Majority (first generation, students of color, adults, and military veterans)
Articles and books, continuing my scholarship in academic leadership and writing across the curriculum
Explaining higher education and its importance to the general public through media appearances and writing for the popular press.
I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment in achieving all those goals. As an Advisor for the American Council on Education (ACE), I assist universities and colleges in placing student learning at the center of strategic planning. The excellent ACE staff does an outstanding job of providing a framework for campuses signed up with the Learner Success Lab. For further information, please check out the ACE website.
This new season of life has also enabled me to engage in pro bono activities. My colleague Elizabeth Wardle and I had long lamented the missing role for university faculty members in higher education reform. We decided to develop a pilot institute at Miami University of Ohio, where Liz holds a named professorship and directs the Howe Center for Writing Excellence. The Institute has been highly successful in motivating faculty members to apply their research capabilities and teaching expertise to transformational change. Their culminating Showcase featured several projects with the capacity to improve education at Miami—and elsewhere. I’ve always said that we change higher education—and the world—one project at a time.
We are working on scaling the Institute nationally.
Throughout my years as an administrative leader, I never stopped being a scholar of academic leadership and writing across the curriculum. The new season has allowed increased productivity:
Co-authoring a major article in a professional journal:
Completing a chapter for Beyond Fitting In, a book scheduled for 2022 publication by the Modern Language Association.
Beginning work on the seventh edition of my widely used co-authored textbook: A Writer’s Resource (McGraw-Hill).
I’ve also made progress in communicating with the general public about higher education issues and the value of a four-year undergraduate degree.
News organizations have sought my views on topics ranging from “How to Pick a College During a Pandemic” to student debt and free college. My goal is always to connect with the public’s immediate interest and then to lead them to a more enlightened look at higher education.
Here is an example from a TV station in Nashville, Tenn:
Back in my hometown of Philadelphia, I am a regular contributor to The Philadelphia Citizen, a non-profit solutions-oriented publication. Its motto is “What happened? What does it mean? What can we do about it?” If we are lucky, philanthropically supported, issues-based journalism will be the future of a free press in a democratic society. I’m pleased to be a voice in Philadelphia’s forward-looking periodical. Here is an article I’m particularly proud of:
As I continue to work toward professional goals, I am ever more aware of the personal well being achieved in this new season. I hadn’t realized how much time and psychic energy had been spent on empty busy work imposed by a state bureaucracy. An enlightened rethinking of these rules and regulations is a public issue—one that I may address as a consultant and journalist. But from a personal perspective, I am experiencing a palpable sense of relief. I can organize each day around meaningful tasks.
I also can choose the people I deal with. What a gift! No more gritting my teeth and being civil to those who are self-serving, jealous, arrogant, and mean-spirited. They do not have entrance privileges to this new season. Today I can say honestly that I like and admire everyone I am working with.
Flexibility and spontaneity define the landscape. I’m writing this blog because I want to. The deadlines for my professional projects are few and manageable. We now live geographically close to family and to our Jersey shore condo. If it rains on Memorial Day weekend, we can schedule the beach trip for later. Most important, we can watch our grandchildren (ages 2, 7, and 16) develop at their own pace, unregulated by cross-country drives during vacation periods. No one has to plan anything special for our visits. We can simply relax in our son’s backyard, talk with our seven-year-old about The Simpsons, and watch the two-year-old twins play elaborate games with each other.
Mort and I are grateful for this happy new season of our lives.