Staff members participate in inaugural Leadership Development Program
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 16:09
Seventeen Wellesley College staff members took part on Wednesday Sept. 12 in the first of eight workshops that comprise the College’s inaugural Leadership Development Program. The pilot program, which drew participants from a wide range of departments within the College, aims to provide opportunities for emerging leaders to achieve personal growth and collaborate cross-functionally on Wellesley-related projects.
The Leadership Development Program will run for the duration of the academic year. Throughout the first half of the year, the program aims to familiarize participants with their own leadership style in the context of their workplace situation. Participants will also hone their management skills in this first phase of the program. During the second term, participants will work together on projects that will benefit the institution moving forward.
“I’m really grateful that the college is investing in me and my peers,” said Jennifer Stephan, dean to the Class of 2015. “I hope that by end of the program, I’ll have taken some key steps to advance my administrative career and be put in better position to be a leader.”
The first half of the program will focus on developing participants’ skills in negotiating, listening, addressing conflict, receiving feedback and implementing change, explained Associate Director of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, Carolyn Slaboden. Along with a senior leadership team that consists of President Kim Bottomly, senior staff, and the President’s cabinet members, as well as the consulting firm Breakthrough Collaboration, Slaboden worked to tailor the Leadership Training Program to the College’s needs.
Participants expressed their excitement at the opportunity to benefit from the guidance of the senior leadership team, acquire new skill sets, and gain access to resources that will assist them on their career paths.
“I’ve been working in Admissions at the College for four years now,” said Assistant Director of Admissions Lauren Dennis ’02. “Coming from a field where I had no knowledge of the admissions process, I had no idea how to counsel high school students, parents and guidance counselors. Now that I’m finally at the point where it comes more naturally, I’m looking for other ways to develop.”
The program will also provide an opportunity for participants to work with members of other divisions of the College.
“There aren’t any built-in opportunities yet to tackle problems as a cross-campus team,” explained Director of the Wellesley Fund Laura Christian, a participant in the program.
“By the end of this program, [participants] will have developed a special bond with each other and can reach out to each other as a resource,” Slaboden said.
Slaboden herself is a 2005 alumna of a similar program called the Vogt Fellowship, which is open to staff from other colleges in the Boston Consortium.
“These are invaluable lessons and skills that they are going to learn,” she said.
Wednesday’s kick-off training session began with a surprise visit from President Bottomly, who spoke about her own leadership journey as well as the how the culture of the College has impacted her leadership experience. Afterward, the group learned about skills imperative to strong leadership such as emotional intelligence, one’s ability to empathize with others. According to Christian, participants also learned the importance of self-awareness, passion, enthusiasm and controlling personal emotions when acting in a leadership position.
The group also took the Myers-Briggs questionnaire to determine their personality type and reflected upon their strengths, weaknesses and goals in a journal exercise.
Because participants did not receive a detailed schedule of activities for the workshops planned for this year, many were unsure of what to expect from the program before this preliminary session.
“I was surprised by how talented the people in the program are. It was surprising to learn about how leadership can take lots of different forms, and to learn about adapting your own personal strengths,” said Dennis. “I appreciated the fact that it was very open, very organic.”
Participants are also looking forward to the second half of the year, when they will be asked to work together across departments on a hands-on learning project to be determined by the senior leadership.
“I’d like to do something that’s outside my comfort zone, which is academic advising and developing programs to support students academically,” said Stephan. “It will be interesting to see what they’ll pose for us.”
Overall, participants agreed that the first workshop was eye-opening and effective.
“To take a day to stop and focus on yourself is important,” said Christian. “The longer you work, the more there will be conferences like this. This lived up to what I was hoping it to be.”
The cohort was selected from a large pool of applicants based on their dedication to their own professional growth, as well as their efforts toward serving the College as a whole. The participants include staff from the departments of Administration and Planning, Admissions, the Alumnae Association, Resources and offices of the Dean of Students, President and Provost. Participants could either nominate themselves or be nominated by a boss or colleague.
Slaboden hopes that the program will receive positive feedback from this year’s pilot cohort so that it can continue next year. In addition, she hopes that the program will serve as a springboard for future leadership training opportunities to develop at different levels of organization.
“People flow in and out of leadership a lot. You don’t have to be head of a department to be a leader,” she said. “As you develop into a leadership role, you understand that your role as staff is critical to the success of students and faculty, and we are a really important piece of the students’ success by being able to support the academic mission at all areas of the College.”