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A Willingness to Be Vulnerable: Is This the Key to Accomplishing Our Mission?

by Monica Joy Krol, Tk20 Product Manager

Recently I discovered Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. If you have not listened to it, please take some time to do so. I think you will agree that it may be just what you need to inspire the beginning of or a nice wrap-up to your arduous work day.

While the nature of this talk is based on personal vulnerability, I immediately wondered what vulnerability means in an organization or higher education institution involved in an accreditation review or self-study.

In planning for our Middle States accreditation at my previous institution, a courageous member of our self-study committee voiced a common but often unspoken concern. “What if we discover in our inquiry that we are not successful in a particular area/standard?” Our accreditation liaison answered, “You admit it.”

If the self-study process is indeed about institutional learning, why are we afraid about what we might discover? What does vulnerability mean to you as a staff or faculty member at the institution? Are we afraid that we’ll discover we have been inefficient and ineffective? If we as individuals and as an organization are willing to be vulnerable and discover, what might we learn? How would this impact our students?

The purpose of the self-study is beyond accreditation. It is about understanding ourselves, our students, and strengthening our ability to carry out our mission and vision. Most of us that work in education (or any occupation) began because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and in our communities. We seek to connect with others through teaching or through other contributions. We seek to facilitate and inspire a more meaningful human connection and experience.

Brown notes in her speech that “in order for connection, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” In her findings, she concluded that people often fit into two categories, “those who have a strong sense of worthiness…and those who do not.” Furthermore, she found that the underpinning of worthiness was a sense of courage, “the courage to be imperfect”, and the willingness “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

What if our willingness to be vulnerable as individuals and in an organization would advance our institution’s capacity to be great beyond our expectations? How could this shared understanding influence communication and collaboration of staff and faculty? What if when we find our areas for improvement we have the courage to say “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.” What if this really is the “birthplace of joy and creativity?” More importantly, how would this embedded culture of authenticity impact our students and community? Would we be willing to take risks and realize our true vision for students and for ourselves?

There is one final point that Brown made that inspires so much possibility. It is critical as we become willing to be vulnerable. “Practice gratitude and joy in moments of terror.”

About the Author

Photo of Monica Joy Krol from Tk20

Monica Joy Krol, Tk20 Product Manager

Monica Joy Krol joined the TK20 team in May 2013 in a dual role as Assessment and Accreditation Consultant and Customer Solutions Advocate. Previously she served as the Director of Institutional Research at Corning Community College in The State University of New York system. In this position, she guided faculty and staff in the collection, review, and analysis of program and institutional data, and actively engaged in Strategic Planning and Middle States accreditation efforts. She began her journey in higher education and assessment as a graduate assistant during Nazareth College’s TEAC Self-Study, has served as an Assessment Coordinator at Dominican University’s School of Education, and has supported various institutions nationally in assessment and accreditation solutions. She earned her Bachelor’s from The State University of New York at Brockport, and her Master’s in Education from Nazareth College. A true data and assessment geek, she is also an avid runner, artist, puppeteer, and life-long learner.