On being evaluated

Last week was a huge evaluation week for me. I was honored to be a finalist in an internal search for Provost of the University of New Mexico and went through a grueling series of interviews. And, I am a Jazzercise instructor and we are periodically evaluated as a matter of quality control of our teaching. My interview for the Provost position was on Tuesday and my Jazzercise evaluation was on Wednesday. I have to say, I was struck with the contrast. It seems to me that in both assessments, the issue was knowledge, skills and values. How do you assess an individual’s knowledge about higher education and academics, her administrative skills, and her values? Well, it occurred over a review of a C.V., a letter of interest, a public forum and a series of interviews. I felt a little frustrated in trying to give them a full picture of my almost 25 years of service to the University as a teacher, scholar and administrator because I have learned so much over the years. I worried about being boring and wordy. I worried that my sense of humor would be misunderstood, even though it is what keeps me sane as a busy teacher and scholar. Laughing has to be a part of my day as a form of stress relief, but I am not sure it came off well. My values about higher education are deep and I very much want the University of New Mexico to advance in its national stature as a public high research activity university while serving the needs of the state. Would I come off as provincial? Would my litigation and negotiation skills be valued?
In contrast, the Jazzercise evaluation was very straightforward. There is exercise and physiology and set structure knowledge, there is movement technique, intensity and performance and presentation. A highly trained evaluator attends a class and gives you feedback, “outstanding”, “meets standards” and “does not meet standards”. Each skill or knowledge element is clearly defined, for example “demonstrates strong sense of musicality and rhythm” and “provides frequent and relevant physiology tips” are demonstrable and clear. Enthusiasm for the routines and the movement had to be demonstrable. I knew exactly where I stood after my Jazzercise evaluation.
As for the provost search, I enjoyed the day. It was a privilege to spend the day sharing my ideas about higher education (and you can be sure ideas from Best Practices were all over the interview.) And, it was exhilarating to think about the possibilities. We shall see how that evaluation went! I know what I need to do become a better Jazzercise instructor because of the formative feedback. The summative assessment for the Provost position will probably leave me wondering what I could have done better. And, even if I were offered the position, I probably will never know why.

2 Responses

  1. Perhaps you could lead us in a Jazzercise class in Seattle, and we could then reflect on such a model in our clinic classes 🙂 ?

    Seriously, though, what an interesting contrast! I actually had thought a few weeks ago during my Zumba class that if the law school administration was as enthusiastic about everyone staying engaged and getting the best experience out of working as my instructor was with respect to the Zumba class participants, stakeholders (professors, students, etc) might be more engaged in the law school enterprise…

  2. Good luck in pursuing the provost position. The possibilities are exciting. I recently talked with a colleague who has served at two law schools as Dean. I asked why he wanted the position. His response was wonderful: “I like being responsible.”

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