July 26, 2012 by Dr. G
Abbreviated from the PKAL press release:
Project Kaleidoscope and The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announce 40 faculty leaders from thirty-three colleges and universities accepted to attend the 2012 PKAL Summer Leadership Institutes for early and mid-career STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) faculty at the Baca Campus of Colorado College in Crestone, Colorado.
“STEM faculty attend PKAL’s Summer Leadership Institutes to learn what it takes to lead major reform efforts in their departments and programs. They also come to network with other STEM faculty who are working to improve undergraduate STEM learning and success,” said PKAL Executive Director Susan Elrod.
PKAL’s five-day intensive institutes provide faculty participants with the theory and practice required to act as agents of change in their home institutions or professional societies. Through plenary seminars, experiential leadership exercises, group discussions, and personal reflection time, participants:
- Engage in discussion about national, regional, and local challenges and opportunities for developing more effective and inclusive STEM programs;
- Learn about strategies for institutional change and the importance of understanding the institutional context and culture;
- Practice the art of successful communication and negotiation;
- Better understand personal leadership strengths and how to “lead from the middle” as a faculty member, program director, or department chair;
- Leave the Institute with a leadership growth plan, created with guidance from experienced leader-mentors, that outlines the vision, goals, and strategies that will serve as an action agenda for their campus change efforts;
- Join a network of colleagues from around the country who share similar goals regarding the creation of effective learning environments for all STEM learners.
OK, so what was I doing at the PKAL Summer Institute July 17-22? I wasn’t a participant, I was asked to be a mentor to a group of three faculty from institutions in Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida. I’ll admit, going into this Institute, I was a little nervous about how effective I would be as a mentor to other faculty. But now I’ll admit that I think I learned as much from my mentees as they did from me!
At first, I couldn’t figure out why we were at a location five hours away from Denver, Colorado, with no internet access and one-and-a-half hours away from the closest traffic signal. But now I get it – being in an inspiring space and “unplugged” from the world allowed for the necessary reflection and time needed to think about who we are as STEM leaders, and who we want to be. Fortunately, we had one afternoon free that allowed some of us to get to Great Sand Dunes National Park (my inner geologist could not have been happier! That’s me by the park sign!). This Institute was probably one of the most exhausting ones I have ever been involved with, but also one of the most rewarding. I was able to make my own list of what else I can do to be a better STEM leader on campus that will benefit my students, whether they are science or non-science majors, and benefit geology undergraduate researchers at a national level (watch out, world!).