Right from the start

BrianMcAulayParker University’s new president has launched his term with precision.

By Chiropractic Economics staff

We met with Parker University’s president, Brian J. McAulay, DC, PhD, early this year, before he was installed in his new position. When we asked him for comment on his plans for the school, he said that he was going to conduct a formal “100 days of listening” program to get a comprehensive feel for the institution and its people. Now, 100 days later, we caught up with McAulay to find out what he learned.

“The intent,” McAulay says, “was to create a formal process around my intent to listen. We put a lot of structure in place for students, staff, employees, and alums. We put a task force in charge of each group, so we could assess where Parker was historically, where it is now, and where it could go.”

So, at the outset, as McAulay was thinking about the profession and the need to unify around its core, he could see that Parker University was well-positioned to play a key role in this endeavor. But first he needed to know the outlook and desires of the Parker community.

“Some of the data was collected traditionally, via surveys,” McAulay says. “We did focus groups. And I’d literally go into the hallways and grab the first eight students who came by.” Sometimes he and other task force members would take people out for coffee — Parker has a Starbucks on campus now.

Going further, McAulay held an assembly to get more ideas and opinions, with some 600 to 700 attending. “We had telephone surveys and let people interact with us with their cell phones,” he says. “It was really helpful — I would recommend this approach to any one moving into a university presidency.”

Once he felt that his teams had collected enough data, it was time to analyze the results. Again he assigned groups for the purpose. The student senate worked with the data collected on students, and were tasked with giving recommendations for strategic growth.

The faculty senate was charged with interpreting the results of faculty input. The alumni and employee councils worked in a similar fashion.

All the data and recommendations will then be considered by the appointed Strategic Planning and Evaluation Committee (SPEC), which will prepare final recommendations. “I’ll take the information that’s been sifted by SPEC and present to the board our suggestions for the direction of the university,” McAulay says. “I’ve done it this way to maximize engagement and leave no stone unturned.”

Asked whether any of the findings have been surprising, McAulay says he’s actually been reassured by them: “We’re finding a lot of convergence among the groups. That’s a good thing — it would have been different if people had been in disagreement. We’re seeing a lot of respect for Dr. Parker and his vision for service and the university.”

One of James Parker’s tenets was that chiropractors should “develop a compassion to serve that is greater than the compulsion to survive.” In keeping with that philosophy, McAulay promoted the concept of “Parker Serves” — a day of service.

Going further, McAulay elected to forgo the formal investiture ceremony normally accorded to a new president, and hold the day of service instead. “We’ll close the university for a day and some will be volunteering, painting, cleaning, and working at the direction of the city hall.” He plans for this to be an annual event: “It’s something we’re doing together and a founder’s day event should reflect the spirit of the majority of stakeholders at Parker.”

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of these first 100 days for McAulay was not taking action during the listening phase. He had to overcome his own inherent impatience to get started.

On the other hand, some things were easier that he’d anticipated. For one, when asking about how people felt about Parker expanding to have multiple colleges on one campus, he found more than 80 percent in favor of the proposal.

Now with the short-term projects handled, McAulay is turning his attention to medium-term projects. These will focus on the student learning experience at Parker. This includes mastering the Parker philosophy, acquiring the wellness perspective, learning evidence-based medicine, and perfecting their business acumen.

Next, McAulay wants to ramp up Parker University’s public relations effectiveness. “We’ll be letting other healthcare business leaders in the community know what we’re doing, and I’ll be meeting with folks at the chamber, the mayor, city council representatives, and members of the media, too.”

While enrollment is on the upswing — Parker beat its targets for new students this year — more can be done. The Parker program for presenting the campus to prospective students is where McAulay will be looking first.

Big developments on the horizon include the building out of an MBA program designed for healthcare practitioners. “We already have more than 40 people interested in attending — 17 of them DCs,” McAulay says.

This year, McAulay was also named president of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC). In this role, he’ll be well-positioned to take on some of the long-term challenges facing not just Parker University but the chiropractic profession as a whole.

“The ACC needs to be a unifying body. We have to ask the question of how we serve more people — chiropractic currently only touches 8 percent of the U.S. population. There are people out there who are sick and need chiropractic,” McAulay says.

“This is an opportunity.”