Works and Days


"community college"

North Seattle College, Haley Tilt, Winter Shadow 2016

A photo of Julie and Haley in Julie's office in North Seattle.

Julie and Haley at Julie's office.

Two days ago I arrived at Julie Kirgis’s home overlooking the Puget Sound. Julie is the Dean of Arts and Humanities up at North Seattle College, but she also has a strong background in sociology research. Since I hope to go into education administration or research (I don’t know which yet), hanging out with Julie for a few days seemed like an awesome opportunity.

That first evening, Julie and I made a quiche together in a pie pan whose generous depth resulted in a soupy final product. Tom, Julie’s husband (and a Reedie), recommended that we flip the quiche upside-down in a saucepan and drain off some fluid. Since that made the crust soggy, I suggested we put it back in the oven. After three hours the quiche looked like we’d run it through a centrifuge, so much had it separated into its component parts. The quiche attempt.This was the most significant hiccup of the entire shadow, but it was the same improvisation and collaboration that marked the rest of the experience. This willingness to make the best out of the resources at hand also makes Julie such a great dean. 

Coming away from it all, I want to emulate the way Julie goes above and beyond to inspire a sense of community among her faculty and a sense of trust between them and herself. Of all the administrators “on the dark side” (according to the faculty), Julie’s faculty really seem to believe that she has their best interests at heart—because she does, and she lets them know it. I got to see Julie lead large meetings, meet with all of the North Seattle deans in the “cone of silence,” and support her faculty one-on-one. On one occasion, a faculty member wanted to come in just to vent that she was planning to overload her own class by three students. She wanted to do it because she knows that these students really need the class, but for her this meant extra grading and no extra pay. Julie was the listening ear who acknowledged that no, that’s not fair. But at the same time, as an administrator, Julie balances the budget and makes sure that her division isn’t running classes they can’t afford (classes without enough butts in seats). That means she’s also responsible for cutting classes and trying to get classes as full as possible. She’s often responsible for making unpleasant decisions that mean fewer jobs for teachers and cancelled classes for students. The fact that her faculty still trusts her and comes to her with their frustrations is remarkable.