Re: Pro Scouter degree fields?
Ed Henderson (biged@SCOUTER.COM)
Sun, 21 Dec 1997 17:40:23 -0600
Re: Pro Scouter degree fields?
Randy Storms asked a question about the best degrees of professional Scouters.
I agree with all of the excellent comments that have been made, especially
those of former professionals Mike Walton & Mark Ray.
The question really amounts to WHAT MAKES A GOOD D.E.?
I have seen very successful District Executives with unlikely degrees in
Art, English Literature, etc. I have also seen some District Executives
with the "perfect resume" fall flat on their face when placed in the wrong
A previous involvement in Scouting as a youth is no perfect barometer
either, not even being an Eagle Scout. I can recall a number of Eagle
Scout Lodge Chiefs who served on camp staff more summers than anyone can
remember while putting themselves through school become professionals upon
graduation. Within a year some of these same people who have so loved the
movement as a youth and as a veteran camp staff member leave our
organization for good disaffected and disillusioned with Scouting.
Volunteers, especially young 22 year old college graduates who have grown
up in Scouting often find the environment of operating as a District
Executive far removed from their idealized concept of what the job must
entail. Rarely if ever is it teaching Merit Badges, running competitions
at Camporees, working with youth, etc. Some can't cross the bridge and do
the things a successful DE must perform.
In this regard I think that a Eagle Scout High School graduate who
contemplates a career with the BSA would do well to look at the American
Humanics Program. Missouri Valley College, which is a very small out of
the way school, was the first college to have the American Humanics program
which was founded by Kansas City Mayor and former SE Roe H. Bartle (the
same fellow who was national head of Alpha Phi Omega and founded the Tribe
of Mic-o-sey). This college's graduates have produced hundreds of Scout
Executives, Field Directors, and Regional Staff Members who have done
remarkably well. Even one of our Chief Scout Executives came from that
Attending a college that has forged a strong relationship with area
councils also allows the student to work as an intern and get a feel, even
before graduation, what operating as a DE must be like.
A program like the American Humanics can help a young collegian link his
youthful passion of the movement with the practical and necessary skills
that make councils operate. In this way the reality of what a successful
DE must do as they head off to NEI-1 is not such a shock.
What I think has been left out of the discussion thus far is the other half
of the equation. It is not just about whom the councils will pick to be a
DE and what the new young college graduate brings to the table. The
candidate should spent a great deal of effort investigating and selecting
the right council to interview with.
Lets face it, councils come in all shapes and sizes and even though all
Scout Executives go to the same courses and move through the ranks in
fairly much the same manner their leadership styles vary greatly.
Professional Scouting at the upper levels is a very closed corporate
structure that would never allow a former Senator & Eagle Scout Sam Nunn to
become the Scout Executive or his home council in Central Georgia.
Even with the effort to produced a homogenous set of Scout Executives from
the same mold sometimes some come along who do bring with them some
individuality in how they operate a council.
A new DE might thrive in one place and be buried in another. The
"corporate climate" of any council bears investigating before an interview
is set up. At some councils the structure is indeed very corporate. The
DE's look like models for the front cover of GQ or Esquire, the desks are
so clean jets could land on them, computers are rarely seen anywhere but
the registrar and bookkeeper's desk, and a background as a volunteer or an
Eagle Scout not near as important as having won the Top Salesman of the
Year Award in Junior Achievement or having served as ROTC head in High
School. A person with a degree in Marketing under the tutelage of a SE and
Field Director similarly motivated would thrive in this kind of environment
and would perform quite well on critical achievements of money & membership
even if none of them had ever spent a day as a scout. So long as they
recruited the right volunteers to handle program you would have the right
combination for a Quality District. (Unfortunately the danger here is that
sometimes you can leave out the volunteers and program part and still
achieve "Quality District" on paper doing what is necessary to move up
while, in fact, having a very weak district.)
Some SE's run a very congenial council and spend time on team building, TQM
(Total Quality Management), etc. Some spend staff meetings as ass chewing
sessions which bear little resemblance to anything contained in the Scout
Laws. Unfortunately both can be effective but both can also fail.
For the real savvy DE candidate who feels more comfortable in a Scout
Uniform than a three piece suit, who loves the program, and who's desk is
rarely spotless there are a few councils out there with maverick Scout
Executives where this individual would thrive. These are the councils with
the professionals that are not so stuck on the second word of their job
title as District EXECUTIVES. These are the rare few councils where the DE
is encouraged to build personal relationships with the volunteers, where
the council is on the cutting edge of new ideas & programs, they were the
councils three years ago that had the first "Official Council Websites"
even as Jere Ratcliffe was sending out cryptic memos designed to throw a
cold bucket of water on the notion. These are the councils that through
sheer energy and emotion have had the explosive growth of money and
membership but have not lost sight of what Scouting is. Here the Scout
Executive might be found on an O.A. weekend pealing potatoes in the dining
hall or the District Executive might be in a tent at the camporee site.
My suggestion to anyone thinking about entering the professional ranks is
to investigate the council you are considering at least as well as they
will be looking you over. Is the council some hell hole that has seen an
exodus of DE's leaving the profession, where the last SE bombed so bad that
they had to shuttle him to a desk job in Texas just to rescue him from the
volunteers who where going to lynch him or is it an exciting dynamic place
where people love to work, where the DE's have fantastic three year
performances and are eagerly snapped up by other quality "can do" councils
as Senior DE's or Field Directors. Has the council distinguished itself by
creating a second to none summer camp and year round program that sustains
strong membership growth? Does the Scout Executive feel the greatest
loyalty to a strong Executive Board that is dynamic and makes things
happen? Are volunteers dropping like flies from burn out or because a
petty professional is blackballing them? Are the Woodbadge Courses
cancelled because Scouting is so dead that they can't even find 32 people
to take the course? Or is it a council that has to look at adding a second
Woodbadge Troop because the first one is filled up, a council where the
camp is in constant use, where there are legitimate and effective volunteer
ran committees in areas like Relationships, Camping, Property, and Training?
It is hard to tell sometimes from the outside which councils are the great
ones but I have found some tell tale signs.
* How many DE's have left the profession vs. how many moved further up and
advanced in their careers. Make contact with the ones that left? Why did
* Has the council had consistent money & membership growth over the past
decade? Is it truly a healthy council?
* Is their summer camp a three week mess with dilapidated buildings and
with the home units fleeing everywhere else to camp or it is a mecca that
attracts troops from around the region and recognized for its quality and
* Has the professional staff embraced technology? Do they have a web site
for their council & camp or is it a place where the SE and DE's still don't
know how to turn one on while sending cease and desist letters to volunteer
Webmasters that attempt to create any kind of Scouting web site?
* Does the council have the guts and savvy to build a great council
operated Scout Shop & well stocked Summer Camp Trading Posts with a
selection of the best merchandise from a variety of vendors and reasonable
retail prices or do they just decide not to deal with it at all and allow
supply division to come in and do all of their Scout Shop thinking for
them. A strong vital council scout shop & effective camp trading posts can
generate significant revenue to run council programs.
* Do the volunteers seem excited and enthused? Do they like and want to
keep their professionals or are they counting the calender months before
they are up for transfer?
* Has the Scout Executive become a visible and strong force in the home
community readily recognized by the movers & shakers of a city, well
regarded by the United Way crowd and effective at PR so Scouting is a very
visible and strong influence on the local media and among civic leaders?
Or it he an anonymous button down suit that is rarely seen except at fund
There are indeed a wide range of Boy Scout Councils in America today. The
same person with the same skills and credentials can flourish and excel at
one and be destroyed at another. For the collegian selecting an
appropriate college and major, programs like the American Humanics program
can do much to prepare them for the reality of the job but my contention is
that the person looking to enter the professional ranks needs to pick and
choose the council he is wanting to work in just as carefully as the
council picks there professionals.
Everyone on the Scouts-L list knows all to well that all councils are not
equal. In the end, common sense & "Be Prepared" may be the best skill any
new DE can poses when entering the Scouting Professional field. Heck
Scouts-L & other similar internet groups is a wonderful place for a
prospective DE to do some background work before going for an interview.
With the entire volume of discussions on Scouts-L going back to 1990 a
person need only go to /Archives/Scouts-L/default.asp and
type in the name of the city or council he is interested in knowing about.
There before them is the total volume of discussion, good & bad, for the
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** Speaking only for myself **
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City