As most of my energy the last two months has been consumed in taking over as Interim Director of our Language Learning Center, I thought I’d take this blog post to describe what that experience has been like, and the systems I’ve been using to stay on top of a lot of new information.
First, a little background.
The UNM LLC has always been a favorite spot of mine on campus, as well as my preferred teaching location, due to the classrooms with movable chairs, computers, and huddleboards. These are a result of remodeling undertaken by the previous director several years ago that transformed the LLC from a traditional computer lab to an amazing collaborative learning space. When I learned that the previous director was retiring, and would not be replaced due to budget cuts, I was concerned about the future of the LLC. Then in May, I learned that the other staff person (an amazing educational technology specialist with extensive technical knowledge) was leaving for a new job, leaving the LLC completely unstaffed. The dean’s temporary solution was to find a faculty director to hire an additional staff person, and I decided to apply for this position because I think the LLC is an important resource for language learning and has a lot of potential as a center. Needless to say though, it was a little unexpected, as I interviewed in mid June and became director July 1!
Since then, I’ve been through a huge learning process, figuring out budgets, technology, hiring staff, hiring student employees, maintenance of the space, figuring out old systems and setting up new ones. Luckily for me, I’ve had a lot of assistance, from the student workers who were able to start before the beginning of the semester, the dean’s office staff, the previous staff member, and other people I’ve randomly emailed hoping they would be the right person to answer my questions, or at least be able to direct me to someone who could.
Of course, there have also been challenges, from the HVAC duct falling out of the ceiling in one of the labs, to all of the technology struggling after not being used for a year, to budget concerns, to being understaffed as we wait for our student employees to process through the UNM bureaucracy.
So, what systems am I using?
First, when it was just me, I immediately set up a space in Notion to both track tasks Kanban style and take notes on questions and information I was receiving. This allowed me to condense all of this information into one space, and prioritize it. Immediate concern: getting keys and an alarm code to get into the lab. Important, but less pressing: Set up an advisory board. As I got more information, I could add it to the relevant questions and notes.
Once the student manager started, I relied on her (and excellent notes from the previous staff) to teach me the systems already in place in the LLC, and we worked to streamline them slightly, for example putting everything in Microsoft Teams (not my favorite app, but the one UNM uses and everyone has access to). Using the “Tasks” function, I was able to delegate tasks to her, but still track how they intersected with the work I needed to do.
On the first day of classes, the new staff hire started, although she has primarily been filling in as a lab attendant while we wait for the rest of the new hires to be approved. Luckily, she has been more than up to the challenge and learning fast.
While this experience has been absolutely overwhelming at times, it’s also exciting to think of the future potential, and opportunities to support language learning and multilingual endeavors at UNM. In addition to continuing the services the LLC currently offers, I’m looking forward to developing the LLC as a hub to market all of the exciting language programs and events at UNM, and applying for grants to engage in research on language learning and multilingualism.
So, that’s that current state of affairs around here! Have you ever started a new overwhelming project or set up a center? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences and tips!
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