Long before retiring (rearranging my priorities is probably more accurate) from a forty-two year career in higher education – most of which was spent in student affairs and serving as a vice president during more than half of that time – I knew that I wanted to continue to be active professionally. So early in my retirement I continued to participate in accreditation visits, and as I write this I continue to serve on the editorial board of NASPA’s Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.
A few years prior to retiring I learned of NASPA’s Executive Interim Placement program. It sounded very interesting and like something that would be enjoyable. So, I submitted my application. As I write this, I’m about to complete my second placement and I can honestly say that both, while different, have been personally and professionally challenging and rewarding.
I served a number of institutions during my career so perhaps that helped me quickly adjust to going to these new places and the situations both of these placements presented. In both situations, everyone with whom I worked was extremely welcoming and supportive. And while one never knows quite what to expect until one is engaged in these positions, it was quickly apparent that I wasn’t there to be a “place holder” but rather someone who was given real responsibility for the programs and services that were in my area of responsibility.
In these positions I’ve prepared budgets, participated in the development of strategic plans and marketing plans, served on committees that prepared and submitted multi-million dollar grant applications, hired staff, and just about everything else one would expect of someone who was in the position “permanently” rather than as an Interim. Neither of these positions was at the vice president level which was never a concern for me. However, based on my experience, my advice was often sought on a wide range of issues and I was pleased to be able to give it.
I’ve focused on the professional aspect of these positions but of course there’s also a personal aspect to them. In both of my situations, my wife remained home and we’d arrange to visit each other periodically. In my placements I lived in apartments and had to get acquainted with new communities. Some aspects of my life were put on hold or rescheduled like doctors’ appointments. Then there are the day to day things that you don’t give much thought to at home but which have to be figured out like getting the car serviced, finding a church, a good restaurant, a place to get a haircut, etc.. However, with all of those things and more I found my new colleagues to be extremely helpful. And to this day I remain in touch with some of them and expect that I always will.
So if you’re someone who wants to remain active professionally during “retirement” and are open to living somewhere you might not have lived before, I would highly recommend the Interim Executive Placement program. I’m confident that my work was appreciated by the two institutions which I had the pleasure to serve for a while and I know that I gained a great deal from each one, too.