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RI PowerPlayer: Jamie Scurry

Monday, February 04, 2013


Every Monday, GoLocalProv.com shines the spotlight on someone who is making an impact on Rhode Island. This week, we sat down with Jamie Scurry. She is Dean of the School of Continuing Studies at Roger Williams University - the school's Providence and online campus.

1) First, congratulations helping to lead RWU's Providence campus in a new direction. What are your top three priorities for 2013?

Thank you. I have to first say I am thrilled to be at Roger Williams University (RWU). The University has amazing students, dedicated faculty and staff, and an outstanding leadership team. I feel fortunate and honored to be leading Continuing Studies. The School of Continuing Studies is an amazing; it is the best kept secret in higher education. My top three priorities for 2013 are:

· One, to provide adult students with an authentic pathway to a college degree —a degree that has meaning to the individual and in the marketplace. I believe that higher education, regardless of one’s age, should be a transformational experience that ensures the application of acquired knowledge solves complex problems across disciplines/fields.

· Two, to understand and harness the trends in education, the workplace and technology, so we can make informed decisions that will drive learning, increase student engagement, and provide flexible, integrated, and customized delivery options for students and organizations looking to build and/or increase the skills and knowledge of their employees.

· Three, to be a part of the solutions to the challenges and problems facing our state and region. I believe that the “sum of which” can meet society needs and contribute to the public good. Roger Williams University School of Continuing Studies does not need to be all things to all people: we have to be exceptional at what we do, collaborate, engage with our communities, and bring value to all of our endeavors.

2) We've heard so much talk about how Roger Williams as a University has changed and improved over the past couple of decades - how are you working to move the University forward in Providence and online?

I am out meeting with key stakeholders to understand their needs, experiences with SCS, and how SCS can work collaboratively on shared interests, goals, and purposes. I continue to build my knowledge, understanding trends broadly and that are seemingly unrelated to higher education, as well as trends specific to postsecondary education. I am current on best practices in adult education and andragogy. I am bringing all my energies to bear to grow the SCS. To that end, I am implementing a strategic plan that will move the School the Continuing Studies to be a best practice school, that provides exceptional customer service, a high quality academic experience, employs effective and innovative practices, and positively and effectively engages with the community.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I am up out the door to take my children—Celia and Elijah—to school by 6:40am. I am into the office by 7:30am (if the traffic on the Washington Bridge cooperates!) I hit the ground running as soon as I open my office door. My day is then filled with discussion with prospective partners—currently I am working on four MOUs with prospective partners that will open up educational opportunities for adult learners seeking to earn their degree and get credit for the professional work and training that they have completed. I spend a fair amount of time meeting with and listening to students who need assistance navigating challenges and/or talking with prospective students who have many questions about enrolling in SCS. I also spend time most days working with other Deans, program directors, advisors, and/or adjunct. For example, Dean Manzi, School of Justice Studies and I are working together on non-credit offerings in networking and security. I have also spent time recently with Luke Driver of the PCTA and Michael VanLeesten, OIC, to discuss ways we can partner to provide an authentic pathway for parents and families of PCTA students into the SCS.

We have also just hired 4 full time, 2 part-time, and one interim staff member, so lately a lot of my day is staff development, building our team, and driving home our core values/culture: student service, excellence, and engagement. I meet with Carolyn Dias, the Director of Services for SCS to strategize, evaluate, and create effective and efficient systems and process. We discuss where we’ve been, where we are, where we are going and changes/adjustments that need to be made. I spend a great deal of time analyzing, assessing, and developing the tools we need to be successful. We are in a process of transformation and we are working to become much more data and results driven. As does any other administrator I have my fair share of paperwork and tasks that need to be completed. I also make sure that I read two/three articles that inform my work. I usually head home around 7:30/8:00pm at night. On the drive home I assess my effectiveness, my team’s effectiveness, and what we did well and what we could have done better. I think about our work plans and what needs to be done tomorrow.

4) What are the challenges?

Change is not easy for some people. It is hard. It is messy. It makes people uncomfortable. My job is to create and share the vision for SCS , the conditions and tools to achieve the vision, and build the trust, unity, and organization culture that inspire and help people to get through the hard decisions and the rigorous implementation of our strategic plan. During our implementation, we sometimes have to turn our attention from the transformation efforts (building buy in, getting ahead of the change, harnessing trends, etc.) to focus on immediate core routine tasks so you can be transformational.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you. 

When I try really hard I can move at less than the speed of sound

Quick Hitters

Role Model: Frank Newman, Former president of URI and Education Commission of the States 

Favorite Restaurant: Broadway Bistro

Best Beach: The next one I visit.

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: Madam Secretary

Advice for the Next Jamie Scurry: Develop thick skin quickly


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