EdLEAD fellows begin projects

Steve Howell
Steve Howell

Steve Howell is thinking big.

Working with mentor Chad McEvoy, Howell plans to bolster the international alliance between NIU and the University of Tetova in Macedonia by brokering a second dual-degree program between the two schools.

”Tetova recently partnered and collaborated with the NIU College of Business for a joint degree, and we are interested in doing the same thing but within our Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education,” says Howell, an associate professor of Sport Management.

“We are tossing around a number of ideas, whether they’re exchange programs with our faculty and their faculty, or a joint program for students with college credit or experience,” he adds. “Our main focus is centered around establishing a joint program where Tetova students can possibly matriculate here and take courses, or we can send faculty over there, and the students will earn degrees that will say ‘NIU’ on them.”

One of six fellows in the College of Education’s inaugural EdLEAD cohort, Howell is making his diplomatic work the basis of his required hands-on leadership project for the 2018-19 academic year.

EdLEAD, the College of Education’s Leadership Education and Development Program, is designed to invest in the intentional development of leadership skills for faculty who aspire to take on such positions.

Cohort members Mary Beth Henning, Jim Ressler, Kelly Summers, Stephen Tonks, Paul Wright and Howell attended a series of professional development workshops through the spring and summer. That also included a retreat in June that offered a chance to reflect on big-picture issues and to discuss their ideas for leadership projects.

Top: Mary Beth Henning and Steve Howell.
Middle: Jim Ressler and Kelly Summers.
Bottom: Stephen Tonks and Paul Wright.

They’ve also identified leaders they admire and consider good mentors, interviewed those people about their management philosophies and shadowed them on the job and in meetings.

For Wright, a Presidential Engagement Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, EdLEAD understands that “becoming a good leader is not automatic.”

“We’ve had really good discussions,” Wright says. “We’ve carved out time to talk about leadership and administration and the real-life sort of situations and scenarios that come up. It’s been worthwhile and interesting professional development for leadership, which we don’t usually get at a university.”

His project, under the mentorship of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs David Walker, will generate a template for Engage Global. Wright recently led the college’s first Engage Global trip, which took faculty and three graduate students (as well as an undergraduate Political Science major) to Sri Lanka.

“The first step of my project was piloting this trip and calling it an Engage Global experience,” Wright says. “I gathered information that we’re going to use to analyze and refine the model, and then we’ll propose the next one – possibly in Belize – for this spring break or next spring break.
We can develop a proposal for the next one, and that’s a concrete product the college’s development team can take to donors.”

Other projects this fall:

  • Mary Beth Henning and Kelly Summers, “Project FIRST: Faculty Integration and Refocusing for Successful Transitions.” Mentor: William Pitney.
  • Jim Ressler, “Physical Education Student Recruitment through Leadership Development in Area High Schools.” Mentor: Laurie Elish-Piper.
  • Stephen Tonks, “Expanding International Student Engagement Initiatives.” Mentor: David Walker.

Summers, who teaches in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, has found EdLEAD helpful.

“My background is in K-12 educational leadership, and I can see myself going into higher education leadership at some point in the future as well,” Summers says. “It really helped me to understand the timing of when one should consider maybe making that jump from faculty into administration, the pros and cons of doing it earlier in your career versus later in your career and why you might want to do one or the other.”

Project FIRST centers on a personal topic for Summers, the only non-tenured member of the cohort.

Junior faculty members receive plentiful mentorship and support for the attainment of tenure, she says, but much of that support dissipates afterward. Project FIRST would offer similar guidance to post-tenure faculty about their professional opportunities, from writing grants and securing journal editorships to pursuing full professor status.

“We would put together a workshop for post-tenure faculty members to hear from those who are already successful,” she says. “We want people to hear what their options are, and if anyone is interesting having a mentor or being a mentor, we would partner those people together for more robust conversations.”

For her part, she already is feeling successful thanks to EdLEAD.

“It’s just made a better faculty member because you’re getting some insight of the inner workings of how decisions are made,” she says. “Without that insight, it’s easy for faculty to question or ridicule or second-guess why some decisions are made. Kind of looking behind the curtain is always helpful.”

Howell also has enjoyed his time so far.

He’s learned about everything from budgeting – “what’s the difference between certain types of accounts, what’s used for paying salaries, what’s used for paying travel, what’s used for buying equipment” – to negotiating, fundraising, recruiting and retaining students and “thinking outside the box.”

Paul Wright
Paul Wright

“It’s been a great experience. Just to talk about the different things that go into the day-to-day operations of a department, a college or a university, with people who are doing these things, is fantastic,” he says.

“The opportunity to sit down with the deans and Chad, and other major stakeholders at the university, is always a plus. Hearing their experiences – the highs, the lows, the positives, the negatives – has made me much more interested in administration,” he adds. “It’s been a very rewarding opportunity to learn about things that you don’t think about that they see on a daily basis.”

Wright sees in EdLEAD an avenue to build on a prior role.

“For a number of reasons, people might bubble up into leadership experiences with no training whatsoever. I speak from experience. I was interim chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education,” he says.

“From my unique perspective, everything we’ve covered in EdLEAD has been extremely relevant to the department chair role, and that training would’ve been nice,” he adds. “I’m not fascinated by, or in love with, budgeting, for example – but it’s a major part of the job, and you need to understand it before you get put in charge.”

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