Trusteeship as Sensemaking: Preparing College Trustees for Leadership
By combining the use of surveys and interviews provided a rich understanding of how Martin Methodist College trustees experienced their roles and the potential for improvement. This study viewed the work of Martin trustees through the lens of sensemaking and identified the shared importance of both technical knowledge (fiduciary responsibilities) and the value of meaningful relationships within the context of leadership. The findings revealed a lack of an intentional, methodological approach to onboarding or ongoing support of trustees. This lack of formalized support created a scenario by which some members felt disconnected and underprepared, leading to division and disenchantment. Second, trustees valued the formation of meaningful relationships with the campus community and saw those relationships as critical in understanding their responsibilities. The recommendations are based on this shared interest in traditional support opportunities (onboarding, retreats, etc.) and a desire for new ways to more naturally connect with and understand the community (e.g., faculty and students). This combined approach supports trustees as they are called upon to make sense of complex, novel, and essential duties by providing the systems, frameworks, and responsibilities and a substantive, ongoing means to build relationships within the community. This study offers an opportunity to consider ways to evolve traditional trustee support programs by fundamentally understanding the work of trustees as that of sensemaking. Additionally, the use of multigenerational, multidisciplinary learning groups provides a novel approach to ongoing support that includes opportunities for both traditional technical learning (fiduciary responsibilities) and relationship-centered learning.