Archive for Sunday, April 11, 2010

Director’s life reveals passion for continuing ed

April 11, 2010


One of Fred Pawlicki’s friends called him a “polymath,” which is just a fancy way of saying he’s a pretty smart guy who’s done a lot of different things.

These days, the longtime KU administrative pinch hitter is in charge of KU’s Continuing Education program. Pawlicki is fond of saying that the work-force development and adult education program is KU’s best-kept secret.

He may be right. When then-Provost David Shulenburger approached him about taking on the role of Continuing Education executive director, Pawlicki didn’t even realize the job was open.

As he had done twice before with open KU vacancies, he volunteered to take on the job on an interim basis. The next KU provost, Richard Lariviere, named Pawlicki the permanent executive director in 2007. He’s also served as the interim leader of the Lied Center from 2000 to 2001 and as interim director of the Spencer Museum of Art from 2004 to 2005.

His KU career began when he was hired as the first director of operations for the Lied Center in 1992. Dave Hiebert, a retired Lawrence physician, served on advisory boards for both the Lied Center and the Spencer Museum during Pawlicki’s time there.

He said Pawlicki’s skills as a manager and a leader provided a steady hand through leadership transitions that weren’t always easy. His wide experience in a range of areas helped endear him to the staff there.

“He has a ready smile and he has a talent to make people feel good about themselves,” Hiebert said. “That’s rare. I wish I had it.”

Pawlicki’s office is in a building that used to house a travel agency, at 1515 St. Andrews Drive.

On a brief tour of the facility, he proudly shows off the various departments of his agency, calling many of the 60 employees in the building by their first names.

There’s David, who oversees the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — a “fabulous program,” Pawlicki said, that lets senior citizens take courses on a wide variety of topics. On this day, there’s a small group learning about Judy Garland. Another group is joining them from a community college in Hutchinson, participating via video feed.

There’s Jean, who deals with distance education. Gina’s in a meeting but waves through the glass anyway. There’s Soma, who works on an aerospace engineering training program for working engineers that takes her and her team across the globe. And so on, down to the building’s lowest floor, where Glenn oversees the fire and rescue training for firefighters statewide, and where Joanna watches over the 1.5 million pieces of mail the operation sends out annually.

Overseeing all of them — and a police officer training academy in Hutchinson to boot — is Fred, a man who, it’s safe to say, hasn’t followed a traditional academic path.

The 64-year-old Pawlicki is a veteran of Vietnam, where he served as a Navy Seabee. The name comes from the shortened version of the Navy’s Construction Battalions (CBs) that build roads, bridges and various other construction projects.

From there, he became a union carpenter and eventually took a job as Topeka’s Kansas Expocentre’s director of operations.

Pawlicki still retains a love of the arts from his previous work. He’s a wildlife and outdoor photographer and a quilter, and the walls of his office are decorated with framed landscape photos.

When a waterfall display quit functioning in the Continuing Education building, Pawlicki decided to coordinate with KU’s School of the Arts to have an annual contest that will open up the space to an art student every year.

Pawlicki and his wife, Cathie, have no children, but, he’s quick to point out, they own one very loved Chihuahua.

“That’s Bertie over there,” he said, pointing to a framed picture of a small black dog on the wall, before turning to another picture. “And that’s Bertie over there.”

There is a third picture, too.

Pawlicki said that the sum of his life experiences — the business sense, the entrepreneurial spirit, his love for the arts — have combined to be a “really good fit” for his position.

“He’s showed me,” Hiebert said, “that he was really a good man for all seasons.”


Kookamooka 8 years, 1 month ago

I love this article. Packed with surprises about this interesting and able man. A navy seabee AND a quilter. Excellent.

gojotobo 8 years, 1 month ago

I had the opposite reaction: I hated this article! I started reading this article because I thought it would be an interesting story of a man's life and his passion. It turns out this man is just as boring as any other Joe on the street and has no passion. So why did LJ World write this article? Is LJ World in the business of wasting reader's time? Have advertisers complained about too many engaging articles? To increase the pain, I found this article on “The Latest” section pretending to be breaking news.

I'm compelled to respond to your comment because you said, “Packed with surprises about this interesting and able man.” What about this man is interesting? What in the article suggests he is able? A physician saying, “he's a man for all seasons?” What does that mean? Speaking of his previous boss, where are comments from his current boss? Does his current boss like him? The author was apparently interviewing on site and made the effort to get quotes from his previous boss, so why leave out comments from the current boss? The article even says he's undereducated for his position. Although, I give respect to the author for saying it so gracefully.

Basically, this article gives us a partial story of a guy's unaccomplished resume. We see his life has peaked in his current position of managing a department with 60 people! (By the way, congratulations on knowing “most” of the first names of your 60-person staff.) So where's the accomplishment? What accomplishments were done at Leid, Spencer, or KU Continuing Education? What has he contributed to KU or Lawrence? Based on this article, I can conclude his only accomplishments have been successfully collecting big paychecks from KU.

At least there are some interesting hobbies in the article, right? Landscape photography and quilting! Those sound like good hobbies to lie about when you don't have any hobbies. They're just boring enough people won't ask you questions about them, but they're common enough to be believable. So I guess this guy won't be telling us any interesting stories about about motocross accidents or hiking in Brazil.

I guess I learned something from the article after all: I need to do something with me life or I'll end up like this guy.

gojotobo 8 years, 1 month ago

I just logged on and saw this is the cover story on! This is the best story can find at attract readers?

4chewnut 8 years, 1 month ago

What a PR piece for Fred. He has done nothing other than learn the first names of his employees. He takes his dog to work with him while they work. Notice the reporter didn't talk to them. And the job wasn't open. Previous Dean was fired and ran off a lot of good staff.

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

They removed the qualifications so it's not even a Dean job anymore, just a Director job.

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

The reporter should have talked to some of the people who have worked for him.

gojotobo 8 years, 1 month ago

This is a great point!

Let's make a list of people the author went out his way to interview: 1.)Fred Pawlicki – KU employee 2.)Dave Hiebert – retired physician and a boss from several jobs ago 3.)“a friend” - I'm assuming this is Hiebert too, but it could also be someone who wanted to remain anonymous (presumably for using the word “polymath”).

Now lets make a list of people the author made of point of NOT including comments from: 1.)past employees 2.)past coworkers 3.)past bosses – except a board member 4.)current employees 5.)current coworkers 6.)current boss 7.)KU Continuing Education customers 8.)ANYONE at KU! 9.)ANYONE in the Lawrence community

Based on this story's comments, it looks as if Fred Pawlicki isn't an admired person at KU. If the author made a point of not including any comments from people above, I'm wondering if that was a request of Fred himself!

Kookamooka also asked a good question below about the significance of the story at this time. I think that's the real story worth investigating. Based on the above evidence, I think it's safe to conclude he either wrote or hired an ljworld writer to publish this story about himself. Kookamooka has a good suggestion about the possibility of running for an elected position. Based on his unpopularity and being unsuccessful with programs, I'm thinking his job is on the line and he's grasping at straws.

He doesn't seem to be able to keep a job for long. Maybe he's being asked to “volunteer” for an interim retirement position.

CreatureComforts 8 years, 1 month ago

“a friend” - I'm assuming this is Hiebert too, but it could also be someone who wanted to remain anonymous (presumably for using the word “polymath”).


Anyways, I'm curious what your hatred of this guy is? You clearly signed up to LJWorld just to attack this guy...did he really tick you off THAT much?

gojotobo 8 years, 1 month ago

Yes, I had to sign up on here because I want to engage with others to see if they see this article the way I do: self promoting an individual with no accomplishments. Sustaining the status quo isn't something to brag about. I guess my irritation comes from the fact that he's making a lot of money (presumably as a director maybe $100K, $120K, or more) and not improving anything or adding value to Kansas. So maybe my frustration should be directed toward the Provost instead of this guy. It's the Provost who's wasting the money keeping this guy around when someone more growth oriented could be hired.

My first comment was inspired by being tired of the boring ljworld articles, but now I realize they are letting people pointlessly promote themselves. Which I want to ask again, why is this guy promoting himself?

lawrencebuilder 8 years, 1 month ago

What is Continuing Education? And why is it in an abandoned travel agency building? Sounds creepy.

Kookamooka 8 years, 1 month ago

Wow. Sounds like there is more of a story underneath the story. Hmmmmm. It also makes me wonder what the significance of this story is at this time? Could he be gearing up to run for an office?

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

I know that Continuing Education has lost some talented and respected staff

CreatureComforts 8 years, 1 month ago

Wow, a lot of harsh comments for a guy that runs a department. I agree that if he has been there for so long, I hope he knows ALL of the employees by name, but maybe that's just a goof by the writer? Perhaps maybe he KNOWS all of their names, but just doesn't need to CALL them by their names every time he sees them? I dunno...

Sure, it may not be front page worthy, but what's the need for all the criticism? The guy is just doing his seems to be a department that trains people for the real world? That's greatly missing at KU (and most major universities), so that's a good thing.

2cool4school82 8 years, 1 month ago

I have several friends who worked for Continuing Education. Based on all of their comments, Fred Pawlicki is not competent as a director and the second worst director Continuing Education has ever had! The financials and other measurements speak for themselves to support this, but here are some highlights:

Water features: -The building's interior waterfall didn't “quit functioning.” It was turned off by Fred several years ago. -There has never been an art contest and no student has ever been allowed to use the area for art. -Fred also had the beautiful fountain in the front of the building turned off and backfilled with natural grass.

Leadership: -Fred regularly harasses the staff of all departments. -Fred's yelling, fist slamming, and other adolescent activity isn't appropriate for a director. -Fred frequently yells at people to do things, but offers no guidance or leadership. -Fred appears to yell because he doesn't know what to do or how to handle the situation. -Fred frequently shows panic.

Business: -Fred has lost sight of the mission of Continuing Education and, as others on here are seeing in this article, he is about self promotion. -Fred wastes cash by entering into exclusive contract agreements for services that cost 10x as much as the industry average. -Fred continuously over spends on marketing campaigns and always considers them successful even though there is no program in place to measure the results. -Fred's incompetent business skills with budget development and management have led to consistent erosion of Continuing Education's short-term assets.

These are things I've learned over the years from my friends. None of my friends would be unprofessional enough to post these things or talk about them in public and have no personal issues with Fred. I'm posting these comments so readers don't accidentally get the idea Fred Pawlicki is a competent leader.

lawrencebuilder 8 years, 1 month ago

I was talking with friends today and found out KU Continuing Education is a place for firefighters and police. It's a training facility. Yeah, I agree, that's great to have a training place like that in town. Now I can tell the cops where to go to learn how to use their radar detectors! Haha. But seriously, it's great KU has Continuing Education where the focus is training for blue-collar careers that are the heartbeat of this community.

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

Actually those programs are funded by the State and through things like speeding tickets. They're just housed at Continuing Education.

crestway 8 years, 1 month ago

I have had several Continuing Ed courses through the Osher program, and I have enjoyed every one of them. I am enrolled in 3 of them now. I find nothing to critisise about the Department.

4chewnut 8 years, 1 month ago

The point is that Fred himself has done nothing to benefit what was once one of the most engaged and creative CE units in the country. Passion? Really? For his art, his dog and his paycheck, maybe.

gojotobo 8 years, 1 month ago

After complaining publicly about this story, someone just gave me an update. According to the Kansas City Star's public salary database, Fred Pawlicki's salary is $151,000.07.

Anyone else think this is a waste of money? Seems KU should have a better leader for $150,000.

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

How does this compare with the big time directors, like parking and University Relations?

Steve Bunch 8 years, 1 month ago

Well, the know-nothings have had their day. Before Pawlicki took the reins, his predecessor was failing to meet the provost's directive of becoming self-supporting. Under Pawlicki, in three years time the unit has become self supporting and has returned more than one million dollars of general use funding to the provost's office. In addition, the bonds on the building, which CE purchased in the late '90s were paid off early. Counting all CE locations, there are about 150 employees, not 60. There is programming for the whole spectrum: fire and law enforcement, attorneys, engineers, architects, physicians, nurses, senior citizens, school children. Regarding the fountains, the one in front had a worn out pump and an underground leak that was wasting thousands of gallons of water and would have cost tens of thousands to replace. The indoor water feature was reportedly a source of mildew and other irritants to some of the staff. If people don't like Pawlicki as a person, fine, but he has turned CE around from five disastrous years under its previous leadership.

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

How are the finances looking lately, Alph? How many people have quit under his directorship?

Steve Bunch 8 years, 1 month ago

As far as I know, finances are stable, in the black. Can't tell you how many have quit--there have been retirements, people leaving for other opportunities--but nothing like the exodus of good staff under his predecessor. Is everybody happy? Probably not. Is everybody ever happy under any administration? I was so struck by the inaccuracies and untruths of so many of these posts that I thought some response was needed, although I know these news blogs are seldom a place for rational and informed conversation.

Luxor 8 years, 1 month ago

Other than your own sweeping responses, do you have any direct answers to the inaccuracies and untruths posted here?

Word is that a handful of Continuing Education's programs foot the bills for a huge number of support staff who serve no real purpose.

Steve Bunch 8 years, 1 month ago

I think I responded in my original post to a number of inaccuracies. It's impossible to respond to others without specifics. When you say "word is," I don't know what to say because I haven't heard that "word." When someone accuses the director of entering contracts that are ten times market value, I have no knowledge to confirm or refute because the accuser has not laid out any specifics (although knowing KU's and the state's purchasing regimen, I find the allegation dubious). In any case, I've had my say. People believe what they want to believe and many thrive on gossip, which I try to avoid.

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