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New Academic Leadership Program debuted at retreat

By Heidi Wicks

The Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) is committed to advancing academic leadership and nurturing academic leaders at Memorial.
An April 30 retreat for department and division heads kicked off the university's new Academic Leadership Development Program.

The full day retreat covered topics such as fostering a positive work environment, student relationships, dual career hiring and collective agreement administration.

Program background
Dr. David Wardlaw, provost and vice-president (academic) explained that in the fall of 2010, the Office of Faculty Relations conducted a review of academic leadership programs at Canadian universities from coast to coast.

"The universities of Toronto, Western, Ryerson and Carleton were identified as potential benchmarks that could be used in establishing a program for department and division heads at Memorial," he said.

Following the review, selected academic administrative leaders participated in a small focus group session to identify the key roles and responsibilities of department heads in order to gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges they met early in their career.

A survey was also conducted to determine the level of interest in a program at Memorial, and to generate a list of topics that should be considered in creating it. Unanimously, the group agreed that a leadership program at Memorial would be invaluable in fostering a successful transition from faculty members to administrative leaders of academic units.

Program format
The program consists of a variety of three principal components: an annual leadership retreat, a new Heads Council and individual participation in external professional development programs.

It is open to a total of 35 heads of academic units on the Grenfell and Marine Institute campuses and within departmentalized faculties on the St. John's campus.

Dr. Christine Campbell, head, Division of Science, Grenfell Campus, is in her second term as division head since September 2011. She appreciated the ability to talk with department heads from the St. John's campus, and felt the retreat gave her renewed focus for her role.

"It was very useful to discuss differences and similarities between administrative roles, and I enjoyed meeting the folks from the provost's office and faculty relations as well, and putting faces to names."

The Heads Council will provide a forum for meeting on a regular basis during the academic year.

For 2012-13, four meetings are being planned: two in the fall term and two in the winter. The purpose is to share best practices, exchange information, learn more about university operations and policies through presentations and education sessions, discuss emerging issues and changes in the world of higher education and provide input to the provost on existing or proposed university plans, priorities and strategies.

A steering committee consisting of five to six heads will plan the agendas. The role of the provost is to convene the council with the primary content of meetings being determined by the heads and to handle logistics and facilitate the operations.

The third component of the program is external leadership workshops and courses offered by other universities, higher education consortia, or leadership institutes such as the Centre for Higher Research and Development (CHERD) based at the University of Manitoba.

Participation in such programming would be undertaken on an individual basis.
Dr. Wardlaw is eagerly anticipating the full roll-out of the program.

"My hope is that this program will inspire and enable new department and division heads to be dynamic and innovative leaders who will embrace the full breadth of their roles. Judging from the earlier survey and from the retreat on April 30, our incoming group is ripe for the challenge and welcoming of the opportunity provided by the new program," he said.

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