University of Calgary

Academic leadership development

UToday HomeFebruary 8, 2013

Gayla Rogers is helping deans, associate deans and department heads build a strong leadership foundation. Photo by Riley BrandtGayla Rogers is helping deans, associate deans and department heads build a strong leadership foundation. Photo by Riley BrandtSuccessful academics who step into leadership roles sometimes find themselves unprepared for the complexities, intricacies and challenges of the job. To give deans, associate deans and department heads a stronger foundation, the university has started a series of seminars, under the guidance of Gayla Rogers.

Rogers is a former dean who returned from a sabbatical into the role of provost fellow. She tapped into her 12 years of experience as dean of social work to help build the Academic Leadership Development Program, which was initiated in 2012 by Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic).

According to Marshall, “talent attraction, development and retention, and leadership, are two of the key priorities in the academic plan.”

“To deliver on our Eyes High goals, we need great leaders — and these sessions are one way to develop the talent and support our leaders on campus,” says Marshall.

Before starting the seminars, Rogers researched professional development programs at other universities and drew from a major study on the topic. She then interviewed 22 deans, associate deans and department heads at the university to better understand their needs, interests and perspectives.

So far, there have been four two-hour sessions for deans and two three-hour sessions held for associate deans and department heads. Topics include academic research and planning, budgeting and university financing, and tips for new leaders. Several more sessions by invitation are planned for this year.

“We have had very big turnouts,” says Rogers. “It’s not just the content that’s getting positive reviews, but also the sharing of experiences and the chance to build a collegial network.”

Jackie Sieppert, dean of social work, has attended every session.

“I’ve taken away a couple of things. The first is that being an administrator at a university is a very complicated job and there’s a lot to learn in times of great change,” says Sieppert, who became a dean two and a half years ago, and has been a faculty member for 20 years.

Sieppert says he appreciates the discussions as well as learning from colleagues.

Guy Gendron agrees. The dean of the Schulich School of Engineering has attended two sessions.

“Sometimes, you are struggling with something and you might find a solution there, so you save time because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” says Gendron. “Such exchanges help build relationships of trust and respect with your peers. Having 10 or 12 deans around the table is always a great opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other.”