By Layne Palmer
Advancing in academe is looking far more doable for two Ohio University faculty members who recently graduated from the Ohio Academic Leadership Academy (OALA), a program that offers support and guidance to faculty members interested in administrative roles.
The graduation ceremony, which took place at the Columbus office of the Inter-University Council of Ohio on April 30 and May 1, recognized two Ohio University professors in addition to five other professors from across the state who successfully completed the year-long mentorship program offered through the Inter-University Council of Ohio.
Nominated for the OALA by Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl and Ben Ogles, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Judith Grant said that the graduation ceremony brought together all of the participants with their mentors and gave her a great feeling of accomplishment.
“It was amazing to be a part of a larger mission in the state of Ohio that benefits higher education, she said.
Jeremy Webster, who was nominated by Krendl and Ogles in addition to his department chair, Joseph McLaughlin, also began the program this past fall and felt that the graduation ceremony provided a great opportunity to see what other members had researched and learned from their mentors. “I learned so much from the program and will miss my mentor at Shawnee State University, but we plan to stay in touch,” Webster explained.
The OALA program, which prepares participants to address issues such as tuition costs and government appropriations, involves weekly visits to a host institution - another Ohio college or university - where participants work one-on-one with a mentor.
Webster, an assistant professor of English, cites his mentorship with Tim Scheurer, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Shawnee State University, as a key benefit of the program.
“I've found my casual conversations with him about my career and general issues in higher education to be extremely useful,” Webster said. “He's able to give me a knowledgeable, objective perspective on questions I have about each.”
Grant, director of Women’s and Gender Studies and professor of political science, was paired with mentor Valerie Gray Hardcastle, dean of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences - the largest college at the University of Cincinnati. Describing her as a "professional and talented administrator," Grant says her mentor regularly included her in meetings and programs for an up-close look at administrative responsibilities.
“It is surprisingly helpful to watch meetings at another Ohio university and have no stake in the outcome,” Grant said. “It allowed me to watch the process of decision-making and leadership styles in a way that one simply cannot do when one is a stakeholder in the outcome of the meeting.”
In addition to host institution visits, the OALA requires participants to complete individual projects with support and guidance from their mentor. Webster researched the recruitment and retention of students from Appalachian Ohio at Shawnee State and Ohio University, and Grant focused her work on the central role of liberal arts at universities in general and in Ohio in particular.
Despite the fact that the program involves a significant commitment of both time and energy, Grant feels that the program’s benefits make the work well worth it, and recommends that faculty who are interested in the program contact their provost or dean to learn more.
“The program creates a terrific network of people in the state who have knowledge of the state system as a whole, rather than simply knowing their own particular campus," Grant said. “The field has become increasingly professionalized and specialized, so it is not as easy to simply learn on the job as administrators have done in earlier generations. Therefore, these kinds of programs that explicitly teach the kinds of skills one needs to be an effective administrator are invaluable.”