Working here on the Kosrae campus has once again been a wonderful experience. Kosrae campus is a small but effective team who work together with students and learning at the center of the campus experience. Organizational size inevitably increases the distance between the top and bottom of an organization, and the college is no exception. The national campus is a physically large and sprawling complex. The campus population is the largest in the system and includes both students who are resident on campus and students who live off campus. The national campus is diverse with students from all four states and the many cultures therein.
Kosrae campus is, for all intents and purposes, monocultural. Where one can hear five or six languages being spoken on a walk across the national campus, here one will hear the students speaking only English or Kosraean. On the Kosrae campus the students all know each other personally and know each others' families.
Hiring faculty from abroad into the small island of Kosrae can be a challenge both for the campus and for the faculty member from abroad. The pool of applicants is small, and, quite frankly, the starting salary offer is noncompetitive in the current faculty market. Often the hiring committee is left with only a very few applicants to consider for interviewing, and some of those selected for interview will opt not to be interviewed. The result can be a decision driven as a nonchoice among the few - or one - remaining applicants.
Questions such as whether the faculty member will be a good fit for the college in terms of the learning styles of the students, in terms of the English as a second language challenges the students face, in terms of the culture of the institution are left on the table when one has only one or two applicants left to select among.
Companies such as Google, FaceBook, Apple, and Microsoft look for employees who will fit well into their corporate culture. These companies understand that they have a corporate culture and their hiring teams value compatibility.
Working here on the Kosrae campus reminds me that the state campuses almost have a stronger corporate identity, and certainly a state-by-state unique identity, that the diversity of the national campus softens and diffuses. Kosrae campus has a strong sense of community on the campus. The campus is collegial and decisions are made by consensus. The campus values group cohesion, there is a natural tendency here to be willing to set aside one's individual preference for a group preference. The campus also has a strong sense of shared custom and culture - the custom and culture of Kosrae.
A word cloud of college core values from a document summarizing work at a 2015 college summit
I have long thought that a short list of institutional values would benefit the hiring process. The college does have a statement of core values derived both from a college summit and Dartmouth's core values model, a list of 35 fairly generic statements organized into five broad categories - commitment, excellence, learner-centeredness, professionalism, teamwork. Nothing that would particularly set the college apart culturally from other institutions in terms of hiring.
Another word cloud of college core values from work at a 2015 college summit
Having served on my share of hiring committees and been the interviewer seeking to understand whether a candidate would be both qualified and a good fit, I have long pondered what values we might communicate in an interview to distinguish what is unique about the college. This summer on the Kosrae campus reinforced my sense that the college values should embody cohesion, consensus, culture, and community.
Cohesion: We value group cohesion.
Consensus: We value agreement by consensus.
Culture: We value traditional culture and the diversity brought by the cultures at the college
Community: We value connections with the community
Four is a number signifying completeness in the culture of Pohnpei, thus four values seems to me to be enough to capture what is perhaps unique about working and functioning at the college. As four words: cohesion, consensus, culture, and community, the list is perhaps memorable.
Kosrae campus exemplifies these values and is a warm and friendly place as a result. A great team, friendly students, and stunning views. A team that works together, gives way for consensus building, celebrates and participates in the culture of Kosrae, and is strongly connected to the community. My personal thanks to all of those both at the national campus and at the Kosrae campus who have made this summer such a positive experience for both the students and myself.