Appendix B
Episode 034 -

The State of Professional Development in Higher Education

Appendix B Episode 34, text is present that reads, "The State of Professional Development in Higher Ed"

Have you ever asked yourself, “What do I particularly love about my job, and what would I like to learn next?” 
We hope you can answer that question, and that you feel supported by your managers whenever you express an interest in professional development opportunities. Today we talk about our own experiences with professional development, and about the various challenges folks face regardless of what school they represent.


Carl Gratiot:
So Kristin, I want to talk a little bit about professional development opportunities on campus. First question, do you think that folks have enough time and or resources and or support for professional development?

Kristin Van Dorn:
Wow, okay, so time, resources, support, and or, okay. Time, probably not. I think that at this moment, most offices feel overwhelmed, overtaxed, and they’re making hard choices about budgeting. And so they probably don’t have enough staff in order to feel like they have the bandwidth to take advantage of professional development opportunities.

Resources, if they are trying to save staff members or resources for paid campaigns. I don’t think that a lot of that money is going towards professional development and support. I think clearing the runway for staff members to get the kind of professional development they need is something that is, it’s a weird place for universities because I think universities being educational institutions to start with they feel like they’re already providing that.

But are they providing the kinds of professional development opportunities that are going to advance their staff’s skill set and their knowledge base so that it can really make a difference in terms of turning around enrollment or meeting goals?

I think that remains to be seen. I think staff members have a lot of opportunity to take professional development when it comes to things that the university is prioritizing, but not necessarily the skill set and the knowledge base that they need to be better professionals in terms of digital strategy.

And it also kind of begs the question, who decides what sorts of professional development is the most valuable, because you have things like online courses, access to Lynda learning, which has become LinkedIn Learning, paying for a workshop or paying for someone to go to a conference, and how do they justify the cost of travel and lodging and the ticket to the conference? Does that change if they are speaking at the conference? How do you make those choices?

And I know, both of us worked previously at institutions, so what was that like for you at your institution? I know you were at a much larger institution than I was, but I’m curious who you think the decision-makers ultimately are there and how that can change to benefit people based on what they’re most interested in and what they feel is most valuable.

I think, you know, so I jumped around a large institution and worked in several different roles. So it depended on where I was at the time. I found that generally leadership preferred to select the professional development opportunities they thought were right for me.

So whether or not I felt that it aligned with how I was trying to grow professionally or what I personally thought the university needed, that begs another question.

But in terms of budget and support, I think it really entirely depended upon the year and the manager and the bandwidth that the team had for allowing different team members time off to pursue different opportunities. What about you?

It was a little bit different because I was a team of one. So most of the professional development opportunities I had involved me watching something, setting aside time in my day to watch some sort of course or a webinar or some sort of live discussion where you could interact with people. But I know having gone to some conferences now, specifically higher ed conferences, I did find it very meaningful and valuable to talk to folks in real life, to build community, to feel like you’re part of that community, to learn from people in real life where you can interact and ask questions.

And it would have been all on me to have to make the case for anything more than that. And sometimes there’s just no money left for that. So I guess it would have been more difficult for me to actually get the budget to go and travel to any conference that would have involved flying in a plane or taking a train or renting a car, et cetera, so it’s very tricky and it has to be more of a priority for everybody and not just people in the marketing office I think for anything to happen on a consistent basis.

Yeah, and then the other thing that I think is tricky, I think for a lot of directors and vice presidents, is that higher education staff members are currently dissatisfied with working with their institutions, either the pay or the flexibility compared to other sectors in the economy.

And I think they’re worried that if they spend the money to send someone to a national conference where they could be picking up new skills, but also a brand new network, that they could be vulnerable to losing that staff member, especially if that staff member happens to be a really talented professional that would easily network and find new opportunities elsewhere.

So we’ll keep them in their bubble. We’ll teach them a little bit. We’ll let them learn via a little hamster spout with a little water coming down, but not too much because we don’t want them leaving. That seems like the right path forward, LOL.


I don’t know. I mean that’s a very dim look at things and honestly when people get professional development experiences and the opportunity to move up and advance in their expertise, I think that they feel a lot more satisfied with their day-to-day job.

I think managers are aware of that too and they want to provide that. It’s just that they’re you know working against other competing interests too.

Yeah, and to your point, the other issue with a lot of higher ed is that there isn’t a clear career path or a way to progress up the ladder, if you will, for a lot of folks, they might already be in the director role where there’s like nothing for them to progress to next. So if they continue to learn, what other choice do they have but to look outside of their institution for jobs that might continue to challenge them intellectually and encourage them to want to better themselves over time.

So then you run up against a wall and you’re like, well, I’m building these skills, but am I getting an increase in my pay? If not, like, what do I do? So you have that issue as well.

Absolutely, I think that as people get more sophisticated in their expertise, they may run out of the joy of doing their same position. And once that happens, if there’s no clear logical next step for where to go from there within their organization, it behooves them to look outside.

Yeah. And then they can, you know, if they do find something that would be better for them, you, you have some leverage for your current higher ups that you can potentially increase your salary or benefits or some sort of other access to resources, what have you.

But, you know, I bring this up because Kristin, we’re trying to ask the higher ed marketing community about a survey that we just launched today called the Higher Ed Marketers Professional Development Survey, and we would love people to take 10 minutes of their time and fill it out because I think it’s gonna be invaluable to see what sort of support, to learn what sort of insights about what it’s like on their campus, what access to PD do they have, what sort of support do they have. So yeah, let’s talk about that for a second.

Yeah, I think the goal of the survey is just to get a really good idea about if people are getting the opportunities they want and if they have the resources available to take advantage of those opportunities and to see what it looks like across the field and see how that plays out in different types of teams. We want to be able to promote that because we think that transparency across the industry will help people understand if they’re lagging or if they’re leading.

And for all institutions to know kind of where they fall in terms of budget, in terms of support, in terms of how their staff members feel about what they’re getting at their particular role. And I think that it could really be helpful in gauging how they plan their future with their staff members that they have now.

Totally, and I think one really important thing to say about the survey is that all of the results will be reported anonymously. You don’t have to have your name or email attached to anything, but if you do include your email at the end, we’ll send you the results direct just so you have that in your inbox. But if not, we’re gonna be sharing everything publicly via our Bravery Media channels when all of the insights and data comes back and it should be out, I think we said for about a month.

So keep an eye out for that. We’ll link to it in the description of this episode of the podcast. We’ll also share it on all the Bravery channels.

Yeah, we really appreciate any of you and all of you that consider taking this survey, that spend some time, and give us your thoughts and feedback. This is going to be really valuable, I think, to the field.

So we’re looking forward to reporting on what you tell us so that we can make changes across the board and support one another in our professional growth.