2017 Faculty Leadership Development Academy graduates.

2017 Faculty Leadership Development Academy graduates.

Leadership academies build stronger connections across departments

August 14, 2017 | San Diego Community College District

It was supposed to be about developing the leaders of tomorrow. 

That was the intent when the San Diego Community College District in 2009 laid the groundwork for a series of leadership academies serving faculty, staff, and administrators. The academies, though, have been building more than leaders. They have helped hundreds of employees ranging from groundskeepers to academic department heads network with each other, build lasting working relationships, open silos, and expose staff members to how other departments operate and the challenges they face.

The result: The San Diego Community College District has become an even stronger family.

“The leadership academies provide an opportunity for people to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise have met, to understand what they do and the skill sets that they have, and how they are all working together to impact the District,” said Timothy Pawlak, professor and chair of the Business, Computers, and Information Technology Department at San Diego Continuing Education. Pawlak sits on the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate and has completed three academies.

“We’re all part of a large educational system, and it is important to break down barriers and facilitate dialogue. This program allows for people to look at the bigger picture while building their leadership capabilities.”

The leadership academy series, which includes the Management Leadership Development Academy, the Supervisory Leadership Development Academy, the Classified Leadership Development Academy, and the Faculty Leadership Development Academy, are a key element in the District’s expansive Professional Development Program, which is among the most extensive in the California Community Colleges system.

Leadership development has long been a priority of the District’s Board of Trustees, and Chancellor Constance M. Carroll spearheaded the program to meet the District’s Strategic Plan goal of establishing professional development opportunities and a wide variety of resources to anyone interested in building their leadership skills, taking on a committee assignment, or embarking on a management trajectory.

Nearly 500 people have graduated from a leadership academy.

“The Professional Development Program is designed to build the leadership skills and capabilities of the San Diego Community College District management, faculty, and staff, as part of a succession planning model,” Chancellor Carroll said. “A steadily growing
network of leadership academy graduates has demonstrated the success of this program, which has provided them with both techniques for working efficiently and effectively, as well as being able to relate to all levels of staff in a collegial and productive manner.”

Erin Milligan Hill, the District’s director of Employment and Professional Development, helped build the program from scratch, and began by reviewing with Human Resources team members succession planning and professional development programs at other community colleges around the country. The Leadership Academy Series took center stage. The Management Leadership Development Academy was the first. That was followed by the Supervisory Leadership Development Academy, the Classified Leadership Development Academy, and the Faculty Leadership Development Academy in spring 2016.

The 27 participants in the Classified Leadership Academy’s Class of 2016 included dispatchers with the SDCCD Police Department, a student services technician at San Diego Mesa College, an accounting technician at San Diego City College, a groundskeeper/gardener at Facilities Services, and a web designer at the District’s headquarters, among others.

“The academy gave me greater perspective and allowed me to see how my job and my responsibilities are having an impact on students throughout the District,” said Jessica Lee, who has been with the District for 17 years, the past five as a senior secretary and recently promoted to administrative assistant in Instructional Services. “It really emphasized connecting with our counterparts at the different colleges and Continuing Education.” 
Milligan Hill says such sentiments are common.

“One of the most beneficial things people say they get out of the program is the networking,” she said. “They learn what other people are doing. They attain a new respect and awareness about the challenges and opportunities their colleagues face, and it puts them on a level of energy and enthusiasm where they want to learn and contribute even more.” 

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