As an institution of higher education, The University of Akron's utmost purpose is to facilitate student success; this occurs through multiple avenues. One avenue is to assure that the faculty, administrators, and contract professional are well prepared to provide essential services, offer relevant teaching, support students through advisement and assure that the learning opportunities enable students to meet their goals. The Academic Leadership Forum (ALF) was developed five years ago with the primary goal to assist participants in maximizing their leadership and management skills so that they could more effectively engage in strategic goal-centered activities. The underlying assumption for ALF is that the best investment for successful outcomes that a University can make is in its people. The Academic Leadership Forum provides an opportunity for faculty and administrators to get to know other leaders on campus while sharpening their skills and considering issues which they may not face on a daily basis. The specific goals of ALF are:
Ultimately the goal is to foster leadership development by building on conceptual knowledge, enabling skill development, and encouraging reflective practice. The significance for The University of Akron is that we build capacity for shared leadership. Further, during this time of rapid change and challenges associated with complex issues, The University of Akron has increased agility for planning and strategizing to realize our mission and addressing our central purpose of enabling student success.
Dr. Cynthia Flynn Capers, then Dean of the College of Nursing, and Dr. Stephen Hallam, then Dean of the College of Business Administration, had both participated in the Leadership program at Harvard University. Both gained from their experience in the intensive summer program and felt UA would benefit from a program to develop the talent we have at The University of Akron. Cynthia and Steve met in 2002 and worked on a proposal which they presented to the Council of Deans-the proposal was for an Academic Leadership Forum. Originally the focus was on leadership for deans, but this idea was broadened to include university wide needs. There was interest among the deans to support the concept, but with a change in leadership at the Provost level, the idea did not move forward at that time.
In 2004, Provost Stroble asked the Council of Deans to revisit the topic. Deans Auburn, Baker, Barnett, Capers, Nelson, Silverman, and Mugler worked during academic year 2004-05 to develop a program which would be implemented in the 2005-06 academic year. During that year of preparation, Dr. Walter Gmelch, author of College Deans: Leading from Within, and Leadership Skills for Department Chairs, was brought to campus in March for a campus-wide program on academic leadership. During his time on campus, the deans had an opportunity to meet with him and ask questions about best practices in developing a campus leadership program.
Dr. Stroble indicated her commitment to developing campus leadership and it is through the Provost's Office that the Academic Leadership Forum has been funded. In Spring 2004 the deans invited nominations and applications for the inaugural class. Applications were reviewed and recommendations made to the Provost who also reviewed the files. Once the class was selected Good to Great was distributed for summer reading. The Deans developed the topics and the programs ranging from Communication and Trust and Inclusive Excellence to Budgets, Governmental Relations, and Strategic Planning.
The best investment a University can make is in its people. The Academic Leadership Forum provides an opportunity for faculty and administrators to get to know other leaders on campus while sharpening their skills and considering issues which they may not face on a daily basis.