Academic Leadership Academy prepares leaders, sets international partnership

UNIVERSITY PARK — The Center for the Study of Higher Education in the College of Education hosted the fourth Academic Leadership Academy (ALA) on June 23 to 27 at the Nittany Lion Inn. Bob Hendrickson, professor of education and senior scientist with the Center is the academy director.

The goal of the ALA is to provide practical administrative knowledge and skills to academic administrators, including department heads, program directors, academic deans, vice presidents and provosts. Another goal of the academy is to establish a network of academic administrators to facilitate problem solving, communication and professional development.

The curriculum covers a range of practical subjects and consists of both a summer on-site session and six virtual sessions throughout the following academic year.

The conference hosted 60 participants, one of whom was Chris Wonders, the director of sponsored programs and public service for Shippensburg University. He came because his supervisor suggested that he would benefit from the ALA as someone who recently joined higher education administration.

“The academy had everything from communication strategy to financial planning and budgeting,” said Wonders. “We had really good, in-depth discussions about demographics and economic trends, and how those impact higher ed.”

Wonders added it was nice to see a wide variety of institutions represented, from private to medical to large research institutions.

Steve Vander Avond, the associate provost for outreach and adult degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, attended because a colleague who participated in the academy last year highly recommended the academy.

Vander Avond said that he knows the issues that he faces in higher education are not unique to him, so he wanted to come here to learn from others.

“I came because of the rapidly changing landscape in education,” said Vander Avond. “I’m convinced we need leaders who are willing to take risks and implement change while preserving and respecting the history of the university.”

Both Wonders and Vander Avond said that the conference was excellent, and the networking connections they developed are an added benefit.

“I predict that the most value will occur after the conference,” said Wonders. “Now when I have a problem, I can reach out to others who attended and get advice or ask questions. I think most everyone here feels comfortable reaching out to one another.”

The ALA also included participants from India as part of the Obama-Singh Knowledge Initiative of the 21st Century grant that Penn State received along with partners, Rutgers University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.

Abhishek Bokey, the founder and president of Akemi Education Society located in Pune, India, made the trip to Penn State for the conference in order to become a better leader and to learn more about the culture of American education.

“The issues and problems that we face in India are the same in the U.S.,” said Bokey. “We have similar struggles, and we need to learn how to best manage through strategy and day-to-day administration.”

India plans to train 30,000 Indian higher education leaders in the next five years, and the academy, which will be offered in India in the future, is a key element of this plan.

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Last Updated July 01, 2013