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Shared governance 101

Transparency, empowering voices and decentralization are how we’re creating governance of, by and for Roadrunners.

By Cory Phare

February 21, 2017

Chances are you’ve heard about “shared governance” here at MSU Denver. But what does that actually mean?

According to a report by the American Council on Education (ACE), the definition is “...governance by distributed decision-making, based on expertise and function.” MSU Denver has been taking part in an ACE live case-study this year to determine institutional best-practices.

In other words, individuals are specialists in their own functional area. Teams align their varied expertise together for a coordinated common goal. And by keeping everyone informed, we build advocacy, trust and effectiveness.

“Everyone should be informed and aware, but decision-making should be done by those with expertise,” said Zsuzsa Balogh, Ph.D., professor and project manager for shared governance implementation.

“For example, as a faculty member, I’m not going to make the determination of where the President’s Office goes next,” she added. “Transparency is crucial to make this happen, however. Nobody can make a decision in their area apart from the campus community.”

In 2014, Dr. Jordan created a task force to study formal shared governance implementation at MSU Denver.

“As we were moving into our 50th anniversary, it was apparent that we’d grown from our smaller college origins,” said Cathy Lucas, chief of staff and associate to the president for marketing and communications. “We needed a governance practice that reflected the complex university we’ve become.”

The task force submitted a final report to the Board of Trustees in June 2015, which contained 22 specific goals for the University to apply a shared governance model. The model is now being undertaken by an implementation team headed by Lucas and Vicki Golich, Ph.D., provost/vice president of Academic and Student Affairs, and managed by Balogh.

The four interconnected areas tying everything together are trust, voice, decentralization and communication, according to Golich.

“Isolated policy development isn’t sustainable,” she said. “We need to have the people who are going to implement it involved in the process.”

That’s why you’ll start to see more efforts like the President’s Cabinet welcoming community input by hosting open meetings.

And the key to all of this? Transparency.

“People aren’t always going to agree; tensions are natural and can help to spur progress,” said Lucas. “But when we’re all in alignment and have a voice, we move forward together.”

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