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On October 14, 2015, senior leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), NC Central University (NCCU) and General Administration (GA) gathered for the University Leadership Education and Development (ULEAD)’s annual conference on leadership in higher education. The panels addressed “Academia and the Educational Enterprise,” “The Business of Higher Education” and “Managing the Public and Political Perceptions of Our Universities”; Provost James W. Dean provided “A View from the Executive Suite”; and a cohort of current ULEAD participants held a working session. (See the agenda here.)

Professor Stephen Leonard, chair of the Faculty Assembly, and Rick Wernoski, executive vice dean and chief operating officer at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, moderated the first and second panels respectively. They provided a set of discussion prompts to the panelists and moderated questions from the audience. Panelists discussed the changing expectations for higher education, the financial challenges of accessibility while ensuring educational quality and the value of higher education.

The first panel focused on the challenge of communicating the more intangible values of higher education to nonacademic audiences, the impact of rapidly changing technologies on teaching and learning, and the needs for universities to anticipate future changes in the nature of higher education.

The second panel addressed the business of balancing budgets and priorities in a system with finite resources, the potential and drawbacks of shared service models and the effect of changing student demographics on the need for on-campus support programs and services.

Whether from the academic or financial side, all panelists shared a commitment to preserving accessibility. That accessibility enables North Carolina’s citizens to have a choice about their futures. As UNC-CH’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said, a college education allows people to go beyond work that feeds their bodies—that meets their basic human needs—to choose work that feeds their souls.

Members of the ULEAD cohort posed a wide-ranging set of challenging questions, from the relationship between teaching and research for faculty to the need for diversity of students and employees to strategies to improve transparency and accountability within the university and across management levels. The panelists’ responses were open and thoughtful, recognizing that the ULEAD participants are the next generation of university leadership.

Professor Eliana Perrin, associate vice chancellor for research at UNC-CH, stressed the need for employees to take control and communicate “up” to supervisors and let them know what is needed and why. In the same vein, Tau Kadhi, NCCU’s associate provost, emphasized tailoring communications to audiences, providing more detail “down the chain” and more succinct summaries to superiors.

Current ULEAD participant and Employee Forum delegate Ben Triplett (Division 9) shared his reasons for undertaking ULEAD, despite the challenging workload: “I believe it is incredibly important to make learning a life-long pursuit, and ULEAD seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop skills I can utilize every day. … I also wanted to be in the program because I knew it would push me out of my comfort zone.  I have found that some of my most rewarding experiences have resulted from forcing myself to do things I find difficult or uncomfortable.”

The annual conference, which changes every year to reflect campus needs and participant feedback, is a midpoint milestone in ULEAD, a leadership development program coordinated between UNC-Chapel Hill, NCCU and GA since 2010. Open to staff and faculty by application, ULEAD participants “gain the practical insight, knowledge, skills, and confidence needed for leadership effectiveness, through classroom sessions, active assessments of leadership characteristics, and participation in an intensive, practical project that addresses a major campus issue.” Each cohort is limited to twenty participants. The program lasts a semester and requires a significant time commitment, as well as nomination and a letter of recommendation from the applicant’s direct supervisor.

To learn more about ULEAD, see UNC-Chapel Hill’s HR website for the program. Applications for next year’s cohort are due in March 2016.

Members of the Employee Forum are invited to attend the ULEAD cohort’s final presentations on Nov. 12, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., at the Friday Center. Please contact the program director, William Frey (, for more information. The program is available here.

Written and submitted by Clare Counihan, Employee Forum delegate.

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