The second wave of members in the Faculty Learning Community on Academic Leadership convened on Jan. 22 as part of a continuing effort to groom faculty members at Cal Poly Pomona for leadership roles.
The program aims to strengthen the leadership pipeline by mentoring faculty members interested in exploring different opportunities, including becoming department chairs, and leading major committees at the department, college and university levels.
“Faculty members are extremely busy with their multiple responsibilities in the areas of teaching and advising, scholarship and service, and they have little time to devote to exploring their career goals,” said Shanthi Srinivas, associate vice president for Academic Planning, Policy, & Faculty Affairs. “This is an opportunity for them to think about their own leadership development, to acquire leadership skills and to explore leadership opportunities on campus.”
The members of the 2015 Faculty Learning Community on Academic Leadership are Erika DeJonghe, associate professor of psychology and sociology; Berit Givens, professor of mathematics and statistics; Kimberley Miller, assistant professor of agricultural science; Victor Okhuysen, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering; Jascha Polet, professor of geological sciences; Seema Shah-Fairbank, assistant professor of civil engineering; Olukemi Sawyerr, professor of management and human resources; and Jennifer Switkes, professor of mathematics and statistics.
The eight new members will meet in 10 two-hour sessions throughout the year. Topics for the sessions will include the university and its place in higher education, the rewards and challenges of academic leadership, and departmental leadership issues.
Srinivas indicates that the decline in the number of tenure-track faculty, the demanding nature of academic leadership and a lack of structured programs on campus to develop leadership skills may be contributing to the limited number of faculty seeking leadership positions.
“This program aims to create a supportive community for faculty to crystallize their career goals and strengthen their leadership skills,” she added.
Srinivas and Laurie Roades, an associate dean in the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, are the leaders of the program and also moderate the sessions.
The initial Faculty Learning Community on Academic Leadership was funded by the Chancellor’s Office through a competitive proposal process and concluded its work for 2014 on Dec. 5.
Neha Singh, an associate professor in the Collins College of Hospitality Management, is a member of that first class.
Her experience epitomizes the university’s “learn-by-doing” approach when she applied for a job opening that required leadership qualities. Midway through the program, Singh was offered the position of director of graduate studies at the Collins College. What she learned in the program paid immediate dividends.
“There is a big need for this program. Otherwise, you get these positions by luck, or by force or by fluke. You acquire skill sets for what it takes to be a leader. This is more strategic,” Singh said. “I’ve seen the fruit of this while I was going through the process.”
Another member of last year’s learning community is Shelton E. Murinda, professor of animal and veterinary sciences.
“When I started in this program, my interest was not deep but after appreciating the broader aspects of university leadership, I got more engaged,” said Murinda. “From my colleagues and peers in the program, I gathered thoughtful comments, inspiration and learned from the experiences they shared with me. We established a bond that will enable us to support each other.”
The program is open to faculty members who want to embrace the leadership needs on campus. Tenure-line faculty and lecturers also are eligible to apply. Srinivas encourages more applications because of a burgeoning leadership gap.
“With extensive hiring and retirements, it is likely that within two years, approximately 25 percent of our faculty at Cal Poly Pomona will have served less than five years,” Srinivas said. “While this may contribute to academic vibrancy, it may also create a leadership vacuum, at the department chair level and beyond.”