At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the top universities in the country, providing leadership training for faculty is as much a priority as educating students. For more than a decade, the university has sent faculty to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) as part of a unique initiative, UNC’s Ruel W. Tyson Jr. Academic Leadership Program (ALP).

Unique Academic Leadership Program Helps UNC Faculty, Staff Sharpen Skills

Among the participants: UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, who spent a week at CCL while serving as a dean before being named the university’s top administrator in 2008. Others are Terry Rhodes, chairman of the music department and opera director, scheduled for promotion in 2012; and Sudhanshu Handa, chairman of the department of public policy.

“It helped me delve into myself as a leader in a way I had not done before,” says Rhodes of her experience in CCL’s Leadership Development Program (LDP)®. “To be given that kind of guided expertise was really helpful.” In July 2012, she became senior associate dean for Fine Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences.

UNC’s ALP is an initiative of the university’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, which this year is celebrating 25 years of providing programs and activities to support the faculty. Since the ALP began 11 years ago, 100 tenured faculty members — professors and administrators — have participated.

“Many of the fellows use the word transformative,” when describing their week at CCL, says Kim Strom-Gottfried, a UNC professor in the School of Social Work who participated in the ALP in 2003 and now administers it. “Many of them get insights that they call on repeatedly.”

The Academic Leadership Program’s Structure

At least eight fellows are selected annually for the Academic Leadership Program, which begins with leadership training at CCL’s Greensboro campus, where the fellows attend sessions with others from corporate, government and military backgrounds. At UNC, the group meets weekly for a semester to discuss leadership issues and participates in two overnight retreats. After the formal program, many groups continue to meet regularly to encourage and support each other.

“This has been a successful partnership,” says Mona Edwards, a CCL vice president and chief of staff. “It helps grow and nurture academic leaders — many of whom don’t have leadership development opportunities like this. This collaboration helps us fulfill our mission of advancing leadership for the benefit of society.”

Rhodes described herself as a reluctant leader at first. After more than 20 years at UNC, she never imagined becoming chairman of the music department when she was encouraged to seek the position three years ago. A year later, in 2010, she went through training at CCL. “It gave me a lot of confidence,” she says.

Rhodes says she has sharpened her skills as a consultative leader and that the training reinforced the idea that there are various ways to solve a problem. “I try to hold onto that when I’m stuck in a difficult situation,” she says.

Handa completed CCL training in August 2011, a month after being named to lead the public policy department. “It really helped me think about how to be proactive rather than reactive,” he explains. “It allowed me to think about the act of leadership and the different ways I can be a good leader.”

According to research by the Washington, DC-based Education Advisory Board, a crisis of leadership exists at universities across the United States among deans, department chairs and faculty leaders. UNC’s recognition of the issue and its investment in training programs, Handa contends, is “very important and forward-thinking.”

It really helped me think about how to be proactive rather than reactive.

Sudhanshu Handa,
Chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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