An interview with Chad Dull, Vice President of Academics: "I'm a huge believer in community and technical colleges"
Over the summer, the Minnesota State College Southeast community was delighted to welcome Chad Dull as the new Vice President of Academics. He began his new job on August 20, 2019, and we caught up with him in early September to get his perspective on his new position at MSC Southeast.
Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to Minnesota State College Southeast.
I've been an educator for most of my career. I started out in K-12, and then moved into the technical college system in Wisconsin, first as an instructor, then as a grant coordinator, eventually 11 years as a dean. I've always had my eye across the river to MSC Southeast; I thought there was a lot of potential there to make a collective impact in the communities that it serves.
When I first visited the college, I found that there's a real feeling among the people at Southeast of "all hands on deck, all in it for the students." It's great to be here!
What do you mean when you talk about collective impact?
I'm a huge believer in community and technical colleges. I think they're the best game in town for the people who need the biggest difference made. In communities the size of Winona and Red Wing and the surrounding towns, you have opportunities for partnership. The college is deeply embedded in those communities or it should be, so you start to work with industries in town, with non-profits. And that work has a collective impact on your communities.
Another thing about our kind of college is that the students tend to be local and stay local, with some obvious exceptions -- the musical instrument repair students will probably go back to where they're from. I think that whole idea of being able to change the places that you live for your friends and neighbors is really powerful.
What is your role as VP of Academics?
I'm interested in access, support, and innovation. I think the academic leader is supposed to be facilitating and supporting the idea of "what's next" -- what's next in how we meet the educational needs of our community? At the same time, you're really teacher in chief. How do we make sure that what we are doing is excellent? How do we make sure we have the resources to allow our faculty to excel?
There's a false barrier among the departments in higher education between what Academics does, what Student Services does, even what Finance and Operations does. You can't be separated that way in this day and age. I'm grateful that my office is located within the Student Services department (at least on the Winona campus) so it's embedded in that culture of service, because you just have to work together. And because we're small enough, not only is it likely, it's almost required.
But what about all the paperwork and administrative duties?
As a college, we're the last great vehicle for social mobility. That's what our students come to us for. They might come to us to learn a particular trade or skill, but for the most part, they're really here to change their circumstances in life.
There are things that a college has to do to make sure that we're credible, and solid, and meet the needs of the folks that are holding us accountable, including our students. So whenever I'm working on things that don't sound like a ton of fun -- like accreditation, quality checks, scheduling, curriculum -- my focus is always on how we are helping these people we care so much about change their reality. And I find meaning that way; it's important work.
Look for Chad Dull's blog posts on LinkedIn and podcasts on Soundcloud and follow the hashtag #MSCSoutheastCares on Facebook and Twitter.