What I've learned in my career

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

I'm writing this blog about things I've learned in my career. The purpose is to encourage my readers to reflect on their own careers and how they are being developed personally and professionally by the work they do. In any career, learning and reflection helps one grow. Such growth is a vital part of serving with distinction for the common good.

As I reflect on the many things I've learned as a higher education professional, one thing is clear. In this business, you need a passion for helping students learn. Designing courses and delivering them in challenging, interesting, and fun ways is an amazing honor. Developing an approach to teaching, learning, and advising that is participatory and inclusive recognizes the uniqueness of every student in every class. Acknowledging your passion for these opportunities is the essence of being an educator.

So in higher education, passion is a necessary part of good teaching but even the most passionate teacher will fall short without the ability to develop and pursue a research agenda and build a record of publication. Research, in its varied forms, enhances teaching and can significantly impact a discipline. Publishing one's research disseminates insights and influences scholars. Research demonstrates the "in-depth" commitment to learning that is central to a career in higher education. Significant teaching and research distinguishes one as an educational leader.

My job as the director of the Luther Diversity Center places me in a leadership position on campus. Being a leader requires the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to help others to successfully complete important projects. In my job, I work to ensure the success of our Diversity Center team. Together, our team continues to develop a solid base of knowledge in diversity issues in higher education. Our team serves as a campus resource for diversifying  curriculum, assessing campus climate, and connecting diversity to excellence in education. As educational leaders, our team embraces cultural competence and navigates Luther's political culture and social norms on behalf of students. In the broader community, our team builds strategic relationships and serves as an effective resource in sensitive situations. Leadership from our team's perspective involves a commitment to shared governance and consensus-building across different programs, departments and leaders.

I've examined my career in higher education and the importance of the Diversity Center team, in some detail. I want to conclude this blog with three insights for a successful career in higher education:

1.  Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory).  Look beyond hierarchies, egos and career ambitions. When we work as a team, we can achieve greatness and serve with distinction for the common good.

2. Diversity and inclusion is a powerful force in academe; it can divide us or unite us. Using our diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and viewpoints, we can achieve stronger and more effective solutions to the challenges we face in our community, our nation and the world. Yet to realize this promise, we must be willing to engage each other across our differences. Each day, our task is to acknowledge, understand and embrace the benefits of diversity.

3. Leaders must be mindful of and sensitive to those situations where we fall short of ensuring the basic dignity and fundamental rights of all people. When we fail in matters of justice, we do so because we rely on some form of privilege. We need to own our privileges enough to sacrifice them for justice.

This reflection began with what I learned by reflecting on my career and ends with what my career has taught me about building a just and inclusive campus, nation and world.

Soli Deo Gloria.


Sheila Radford-Hill

Sheila Radford-Hill

Sheila Radford-Hill is an educator, author and community activist who became the first executive director of the Luther Diversity Center in August 2003. Her responsibilities involve extending the benefits of diversity at the college and serving faculty and students as a resource for inclusion. She is a faculty associate who teaches Paideia II courses and a course in English, Africana studies, and women and gender studies.

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  • December 21 2014 at 1:08 pm
    Gereon Kopf
    thank you, Sheila, for your reflections and your service to our students!

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