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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Provost’s Leadership Development Series Trains Faculty to Take Action

By Amber Kennedy

In its second year, the Provost's Leadership Development Series aims to help aspiring leaders on campus connect the dots to understand how a university operates, and how their role can grow within it. The program will begin accepting applications in January 2022; a call for nominations will be issued at the end of the fall semester.

The series is ideal for teaching and research faculty who would like to seek leadership opportunities within their departments, across the wider campus and in professional organizations. Participants will learn the ins and outs of university leadership and work as teams to take on a funded project for the remainder of the academic year. To round out their experience, they can earn a "certificate of completion" by developing a personal leadership action plan - a strategic blueprint outlining specific goals and steps to attain them.

"This series invites faculty to gain a deeper understanding of the University's operations and begin to envision a career path in academic administration," said Austin Agho, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "All of Old Dominion University benefits when we help our faculty grow and bring their unique talents and perspectives to leadership roles on campus."

In its inaugural year, the Provost's Leadership Development Series had a cohort of 27 tenured faculty members. Nine completed personal leadership action plans: Brett Bebber, Jonna Bobzien, Michael C. Carhart, Jamie Colwell, Katherine Hammond, Holly A.H. Handley, Julie Z. Hao, Khan Iftekharuddin and Michele Weigle.

The participants learned about tenets of leadership but also delved into issues like money matters and legal considerations. The core sessions were planned and presented by academic affairs faculty Narketta Sparkman-Key, Annette Finley-Croswhite, Paul Currant and Kate Hawkins. Additional sessions were offered by Nina Gonser, associate vice president for academic affairs, and university counsel.

This year, the series will have more face-to-face opportunities to interact and learn together. Participants will attend core sessions on:

  • Seeing your world through new lenses;
  • Leadership and trust;
  • Leading for equity and excellence;
  • Leading in times of change

The experience will conclude with a capstone session called "Leading with Courage and Integrity."

In the 2020 program, Bobzien found the session on changing her "lens" to be especially valuable. "This session made me stop and really assess my current leadership methods to ensure I was incorporating aspects of environmental scanning, systems thinking and longer-term strategic thinking into my leadership style," she said.

When she became chair of the department of Communications Disorders and Special Education, Bobzien said she was provided a list of duties and responsibilities but no real guidance on how to be an effective leader. That changed after she completed the Provost's Leadership Development Series. "I believe this program gave me the skills I needed to really examine my role as a leader, and it provided me a better understanding of what a leader does," she said. "This knowledge helped me develop a tangible plan that I can follow to help me reach my end leadership goals."

While it's beneficial for faculty to gain extra leadership training, it also helps the University to "build the overall capacity pool for leadership," said Hawkins, vice provost for faculty affairs and strategic initiatives.

"If faculty know these things, they can think more strategically about themselves within the context of the organization," she said. "It gives them a sense of agency that they can make things happen."


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