Norfolk State Creates Program to Grow Its Own Leadership Cadre
Executive leadership training for underrepresented minorities is not exactly a new idea — the granddaddy of such programs, the American Council on Education’s Fellows Program, will be 40 years old this year, and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) has a leadership fellows program as well. But what is interesting, and apparently new, is the way the notion appears to be filtering down to individual campuses.
Indeed, the vision has taken hold at historically Black Norfolk State University in Virginia, where the president, Dr. Marie McDemmond, has created a team to found the Presidential Institute for Administrative Leadership Development.
Five fellows are chosen through a rigorous screening process — seven years in higher education; three years at Norfolk State; a letter of endorsement from a supervisor; three letters of recommendation; and an essay — to participate in the program, says Terricita Sass, executive director of institutional research and enrollment management for the university and one of the key architects of the program. The program just concluded its first year; the second year’s class has just been selected, she adds.
Candidates receive a year of training in areas that include budgets, fund raising, student affairs, enrollment management and administration. And they find themselves with a singularly high-profile mentor — McDemmond herself.
“You could call them ‘fireside chats,'” notes Sass. “Dr. McDemmond meets with the class once a month for lunch or dinner. We sit at her feet and she shares her vision with us.”
The aim is to “grow” a leadership cadre at home, Sass says. “This is definitely not designed to push people away from Norfolk State. But if in fact they do decide they want to be a provost or a vice president or even a president elsewhere, we’re encouraging them to target HBCUs,” she adds.
Michelle Marable, director of admissions at the university, has her sights on an even loftier goal. “I hope to be an assistant vice president for student affairs,” she says. “I love working with students, but I also knew that I needed more tools to help me along my leadership journey.”
She adds, “My experiences as a Presidential Institute fellow have been very rewarding and exciting.”
By chance the initial group of fellows was all female. As they learned and grew, “we really bonded as a group,” Marable says.
She’s convinced that she’s ready to rise to the next level in her leadership journey. Noting that the program has both empowered her and sharpened her skills, she adds, “Research shows that effective leaders exhibit common patterns of action. Leaders model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart. I plan to use these five practices and all that I have learned to become a more effective leader.”
— By Kendra Hamilton
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