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Insight from a Dean: Never Stop Learning

By SmartBrief Editors

This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA.

Professional learning should never stop — even when leaders reach pinnacles of success. Dr. Jenni Murphy is the Dean of the College of Continuing Education at Sacramento State and has won many awards in her field. She shares some insight from her own professional learning journey in this exclusive Q&A.


Question: Tell us about your journey into and in the professional, continuing and online education field. 

Answer: I had been working in the hospitality and then computer gaming/entertainment sector for nearly 12 years when the dot com crash occurred.  I was laid off and stumbled into an opportunity at Sacramento State to become a program manager for non-credit business programs. It was the best stumble of my life because I found my path, my people, and my passion in the field of continuing and professional education.


Q: How has the research you did in your doctoral program informed your role as dean? How has it shaped or changed your current thinking? 

A: The role of dean has provided me with a different platform to advocate for adults and to shed light on the issues of educational attainment for working age adults.  My research focused on state level policy impacting the near completers, which is a sliver of the population, but that focus provided a solid starting point. There are over 35 million working age adults (35-64) in the United States with some college but no degree.  Since many are women, people of color, and single parents, its both an equity imperative and an economic imperative.


Q: What do institutions need to know about the intersection of education, workforce and economic development? What about employers? Other stakeholders?

A: This is a good question.  I think we all need to know more about each other’s work and challenges.  From my research and experience, the end goal is the same for all of us… we want thriving communities full of healthy and prosperous people, but how we get there and the vocabulary and measurements are different. For example, education is rewarded when people complete a degree, but workforce is rewarded when people get and stay in jobs and while education often leads to better jobs, people don’t get laid off during the semester schedule or with savings to pay rent while they go to school for three or four semesters.  We’ve got to understand our sectors, plan together, not in our verticals, and we simply must see that everyone benefits from increased educational attainment.


Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges for leaders in our field today? What new and exciting things do you see on the horizon? 

A: We usually say the biggest challenge is resources and to some extant that will always be true and sometimes we say the biggest challenge is that the world is changing and our institutions are not and this to some extent is true as well.  I think there’s a bit of a hidden challenge coming… our identity and behaviors as extended education professionals. We are quite accustomed to being advocates and working to be heard or to be the up and comers with innovative solutions…so what happens when we have arrived?  How do our behaviors change? Are we truly prepared to step into the roles of Presidents and Provosts or even remain deans and directors, but have a full seat at the table as extended education professionals? Are we really ready to stop playing the victim role? And if we are, do we have the staff and deep bench ready, willing, and able to take our place and to take on more?


Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

A: Surround yourself with people that are smarter and more talented than you.


Dr. Jenni Murphy, Ed.D., MBA, SPHR is Dean of the College of Continuing Education at Sacramento State. Dr. Murphy has over 20 years of professional experience in the areas of training, operations, human resources, project management, marketing and education. She has had a successful and rewarding career at Sacramento State for the past 17 years and enjoys the opportunity to blend professional and personal activities to give back to her community. She was the recipient of the 2018 American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Sacramento Chapter’s prestigious Chester A. Newland Academic Excellence Award for her leadership in the education of public administrators, was also one of seven “Women of Influence” honored by Sacramento State for outstanding leadership on campus and in the community and most recently received the 2019 Edward M. McAleer Jr. Excellence and Innovation Award from the California State University Commission on the Extended University.

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