Before arriving at Illinois State, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Janet Krejci completed a one-year Fellowship where she visited more than 20 institutions across the U.S. to study higher education. She learned from many diverse and prestigious universities large and small. However, it was when she was recruited to Illinois State University that she found something very special in Redbird country.
During her first trip to Normal, Illinois State’s sense of mission was tangible to her. At every turn she found a community that was committed to excellence, each other, and student success. Also obvious was the effective shared governance structure present at all levels across the University. For Krejci, people at Illinois State can and do make a difference for the sake of students, colleagues, and their community.
The Civil Service Council recently sat down with her to get her take on the subject of shared governance. It’s the first part of a series of interviews the Council will conduct with the University’s leaders to answer questions that are important to civil service workers. To submit a story idea or question, email cscouncil@IllinoisState.edu.
What do you feel are some of the benefits of shared governance?
Between committee, faculty, and academic senate structures, members of the ISU community can voice their support, concerns, or questions through respectful and systematic dialogue designed to say, “Let’s make sure we create the best structure we can and make the best decisions for our faculty, staff, students and the entire university.”
Sometimes shared governance can take longer because processes exist to gain input and consultation from faculty, staff, and students. These processes ensure that those who are influenced by decisions will have their voices and their wisdom recognized and incorporated to provide better decision-making.
How do you think shared governance influences employee morale?
I believe people usually stay at an organization when they feel valued, where they can be the best they can be, and find a sense of belonging in the community. I think shared governance fosters all of those things. The Chronicle of Higher Education noted ISU as a “great place to work” and cited aspects of shared governance as a factor.
What do you think makes ISU unique in its shared governance structure?
I think we have one of the strongest shared governance structures that I have experienced. By and large, people are here for the greater good, and it’s not about ego or personal gain, they are here to make a difference together. They are here to do their best to make a difference here for each other, students, the University, and for the community.
There are attempts ongoing to create inclusive environments. There are so many ways to contribute and to be involved. It might be through the Civil Service Council, other academic senate processes, advisors to student groups, civic engagement, or ISU athletics. This is not a campus where people come, do their work in isolation, and leave. They come here to be a part of this community. And I think that that is a broader aspect of shared governance. If you’re part of this community in some way, you’re helping to shape it. That is evident across campus for faculty, staff, alumni, community members, and of course, students. We have a very strong, large group of students on the Academic Senate. Your roots are in healthcare. How has that background influenced your definition of shared governance?
Health care has a very strong history of shared governance. Nurses do a lot of the direct care, but years ago they traditionally did not have much of a voice in decision making. The industry evolved, and now we have Magnet hospitals, which is a designation given to facilities with the highest quality of nursing care. To achieve that designation, nurses must play a large part of a hospital’s decision-making processes at patient care and administrative levels.
In the ’80s, the hospital I was serving at wrote a book called Commitment to Excellence. It was all about shared governance, and that was my first foray into the subject. It answered, “How do we arrive at the best decision-making possible for our organization?” So, shared governance requires people with different roles within an organization to come together to make the best decisions.
How do characterize your own role in shared governance at the University?
I think it’s really clear here. We have had faculty committees documented in our documents since the early 1900s. We have codified roles and processes to ensure a climate of participation in decision-making. I am ex-officio in most of our structures, there for support and to serve as a consultant. For example, when the group would like to implement an idea, I might share some background or context that may or may not relate to the consequences of the policy.
For outsiders who don’t know ISU, what would you say to them about the work that is done here?
Our president says all the time, “The largest room we’ll ever be in is the room for improvement.”
It’s one thing to think you’re doing the best you can to make things work, but it’s another thing to constantly be open to doing things better. If it’s not working, what can we do to make it better?
Regardless of our success, people here want to make it better. It’s a pretty special place. I always tell prospective parents, students, and faculty, “Don’t take my word for it. Go on the Quad and talk to any student.”
What is your take on those who are critical of public universities?
You do hear some negativity about universities in today’s climate. Some of our external stakeholders are influenced by the sound bites from the media, that universities aren’t as efficient or influential as they could be. I say, “Come to ISU, and follow our faculty and staff, and you will see their passion, commitment, and tireless dedication to make this university great. They are in their offices, labs, field sites, performance halls, and on campus not just during the day but you can find them here in the evenings, weekends, working to make ISU great and its students successful. They connect with students and each other and form lifelong relationships, helping students long after they leave the University.”
We really have to reclaim the narrative on higher education, and demonstrate the kind of impact we have. When I looked out at 3,700 graduates last month, I thought to myself, “Imagine the impact they will have over the next 10 or 15 years. Who will they touch? What differences will they make? How will they make things better?” It is a great honor to be at a university dedicated to helping them be all they can be.