What’s It Mean to be “The Dean on the Scene?”

Elf on the ShelfBy Bill Henk – Pardon the title, but I’m a little fixated right now.

My eight year-old daughter is straddling the naughty/nice lists this holiday season, and we’ve turned to the popular  The Elf on the Shelf  approach with the hope of seeing a positive change in her behavior.  Even a customized video pep talk in an email from Santa himself (courtesy of the wonderful Portable North Pole web site) didn’t do the trick this year.  Thankfully, our newly-acquired little girl elf, Cutie, seems to be helping.

But that’s not what this post is about.  It did lead me to the topic, though.

Twice this week I brought up the “elf” situation with audiences at special events I participated in.  At the first event, sponsored by the Future Milwaukee program, I was a panelist for an interesting discussion on early childhood education at Penfield Children’s Center.  At the second, I was the emcee for a ceremony honoring the 10th anniversary of our renowned Behavior Clinic — whose operation, coincidentally,  represents an extraordinary partnership we enjoy with Penfield.

Oddly, at both events an attendee made nearly the exact same comment to me.  “You’re everywhere,” they said, and went on to relate that if there is an education-related program, meeting, or event of note, they expect to see me there.  I took those remarks as high praise, although maybe they were thinking, “Good grief, I can’t go anywhere without running into this knucklehead!” 

Assuming instead that they were being kind and sincere, I’ll interpret their statements as suggesting I’m kind of “The Dean on the Scene.”

Now before we go ANY further, I want to be clear that my valued colleagues in our Education Deans of Greater Milwaukee (EDGM) group not only can be seen at most or many of these same events, but at other ones I don’t make as well.  (Oh, and trust me in case you’re suspicious, we don’t go for the free food and drink.  We’re there, because we care).

Anyway, those comments got me to thinking about just how many different events, meetings, and programs I attend in my role as a dean.  So, I decided to take stock of them as an end-of-the-year analysis and as material for this post.  In effect, I went back through my calendar for 2013, and it turns out that there were a lot of those commitments.  For that matter, if anyone is wondering what this particular education dean does professionally with his time away from campus, then they need only read on.

Taking Stock of the Scenes

My list includes various activities of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, especially those related to its  Milwaukee Succeeds initiative and its 300 community organizations.  I connect with the Greater Milwaukee Committee as a member of its Education Committee and as a supporter of its TeachTown initiative.  My dance card includes functions of the Milwaukee Public Schools, CESA#1 and the Department of Public Instruction, as well as those of  Schools That Can Milwaukee, and the Greater Milwaukee Catholic Education Consortium, not to mention those of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and its Office For Schools.  I’ve been known to make the scene for Teach For America and City Year events, and I’m something of a regular at our Marquette Law School’s Public Policy series and our Social Innovation programs.

In addition, I attend plenty of events related to individual public, private and charter schools and also work with philanthropic organizations and non-profits, as well as various Women’s Council and Rotary endeavors.  And I’ve enjoyed education events hosted by the Business Journal, the MMAC, Literacy Services of Wisconsin, and Partners Advancing Values in Education.  Lastly, over the past two years, I’ve attended a large number of community meetings related to the feasibility study we’re doing for a Cristo Rey high school in Milwaukee.

What It Means to Me and Mine

My hope is that no one interprets this post as a “hooray for me, look what I’ve accomplished’ self-congraulation.  Its intent was to give the reader a sense of what we education deans do when we’re not home minding the store, but rather engaging the community.   Fact is, it’s a big part of our jobs nowadays, and to be honest, I’m glad that it is.  Why?

Participating in these activities amounts to a gratifying mix of professional development and relationship building.  I feel honored to work with so many terrific community partners, many of whom have become good friends.  My thanks go out to all of these gifted and passionate individuals for enriching my life and those of countless others.

Christmas photo 2013Of course, being “The Pro on the Go” comes with a downside for my loved ones.  To my wife and daughter, I can be “The Mate Who’s Always Late,” and the “The Pop Whose Work Won’t Stop.” 

But we Henks all know that my efforts as the “Dean on the Scene” are aimed at accomplishing a greater good, and because we are a Marquette family through and through, on we go.  So, just think of us as “The Clan with a Plan!”

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