The administrative operations of a large university can be daunting and even off-putting for faculty members. The Provost’s Leadership Academy (PLA) is designed to help faculty understand the Washington State University system and how they can help shape it as leaders, mentors and role models in their colleges and on their campuses.
Thirty faculty members from across the WSU system gathered at Ross Point Camp and Conference Center in October to embark on their PLA journeys. The participants were nominated by department chairs, deans, or chancellors based on their contributions to their unit, college, campus, or WSU and on their inclination toward mentoring and management.
Anna Plemons, clinical assistant professor of English at WSU Tri-Cities, says the retreat was a chance to gain perspective and get to know colleagues in a relaxing setting.
“One thing that I particularly appreciate about the program structure is the recognition that one of the most powerful resources aspiring leaders can have, are fellow travelers on what can often be a lonely road,” Plemons says. “The PLA retreat provided a welcome opportunity for me to connect, in deep and meaningful ways, with folks across campuses whose names and faces I recognize, and whose work I respect, but with whom I had never had the opportunity to have a substantive conversation.”
Alberto Sa Vinhas travelled from WSU Vancouver, where he is an associate professor in the Department of Marketing and International Business, to attend the retreat.
“Having the opportunity to meet and network with a diverse set of leaders-in-training across campuses, hierarchical levels and career tracks helped develop new relationships and a sense of community,” Sa Vinhas says. “I was able to learn from others, and develop a better understanding of WSU’s structure, policies and different perspectives across campuses.”
The program will continue through the academic year with five sessions, as well as online modules that cover leadership topics. Participants are encouraged to develop an understanding of values-based leadership, improve conflict resolution skills, and build professional networks. They also each take on a project that contributes to the success of their respective department, college, campus, and/or the University as a whole.
The PLA cohort will continue building on the relationships developed at the kickoff retreat, which Plemons says will be an invaluable part of the program.
“In the end, even when it doesn’t feel like it, the management and growth of an institution is deeply relational, essentially human work,” Plemons says. “ I believe, and my experiences at the PLA retreat confirm, that the health of an institution is improved when its emerging leaders are given the opportunity to stand in a circle and be reminded that the tending of a university is, and will continue to be, a human work that makes use of, but is always more than, the writing of memos and manuals.”