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Vol 38  No 17
July 20, 2006


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Shortening the learning curve

Practical training for academic leadership

By Jeff Green

Memorial University plans to make a series of recent workshops, which focused on offering academic leaders practical training for administrative jobs, a regular event.

On May 30 and 31, the university hosted an Academic Leadership Development program retreat. The workshops were geared towards members of the academic community who have recently taken on new administrative roles as deans, directors and department heads. The event drew 22 participants from around the university, including several experienced academic leaders who offered their perspectives to those taking on new academic leadership roles. Facilitators also covered a range of topics including legal and management issues to human rights.

“People who become academic administrators step into these positions from the regular academic ranks. They have no training or education in administrative matters,” said Dr. Jack Strawbridge, one of the organizers and director of the Office of Faculty Relations at Memorial. He presented a session on managing within the collective agreement covering faculty and librarians. “Therefore they need some preparation and guidance,” he added.

The Department of Human Resources took the lead in organizing the retreat. Lynn Best, learning and development officer, and Robert Barker, manager of organizational development, helped develop the agenda for the workshops and schedule presenters. They worked closely with Dr. Strawbridge, Dr. Eddy Campbell, vice-president (academic) and Roxanne Millan, director of academic support services in Dr. Campbell’s office.

Presenters included Memorial President Axel Meisen, Sheila Devine, director of the Office of Student Recruitment, and Karen Hollett, associate director of Faculty Relations and legal counsel for Memorial.

Dr. Campbell said moving from an academic to administrative position can be a significant challenge ­ something he knows all too well.

Before taking up his current post here at Memorial, he was an associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

“We need to learn and train for our roles in administration,” he said. “Most of us have not had prior experience or formal training in administration or leadership. We need to become familiar with the policies, procedures and practices developed at Memorial for the governance and administration of the university. And, we [also] need to get to know each other and develop common understandings of goals and objectives.”

Mr. Barker says Human Resources would like to make the training an annual event and include special sessions throughout the year.

He said the feedback from the workshops has been very positive.

“Everyone involved is very pleased with the success and quality of the event,” he said. “Our success with this program demonstrates the value participants, facilitators, senior executive and the Human Resources department and the Office of Faculty Relations place on on-going learning as an important priority for the university.”

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