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Feature

Aerial view of UMD with Lake Superior in the background

The heart of UMD, looking southeast toward Duluth.

Transformational Leadership Program heads north

UMD staff members become strategic process-improvement team leaders

By Stephanie Vine

Brief, Oct. 18, 2006

During the first week of October, 23 UMD employees began a transformational journey...a journey that redefines how the University approaches change...a journey that focuses on the needs of those we serve...a journey that employs proven techniques for turning opportunities into realities. The journey is the Transformational Leadership Program (TLP), and from a service and process perspective, it will take the participants and the University to new heights, both now and well into the future.

The TLP curriculum is based on the world-renowned leadership development and process improvement methodology embraced by 3M, a corporate sponsor of University research and process improvement initiatives. Matt Larson from the U's Office of Service and Continuous Improvement (OSCI) worked directly with 3M to customize the training for the University.

The TLP at UMD is the second group to employ this approach to addressing challenges. The first group of 22 employees learned and applied this approach to performance excellence in early 2006 on the Twin Cities campus. TLP directly supports the University's strategic positioning task forces, says OSCI director Scott Martens. Preparing leaders to implement the University's goals and meet its aspirations is part of creating an exceptional faculty and staff.

UMD Transformational Leadership Program participants, 2006-07

* Sue Bosell, Business Office
* Kathy Chalupsky, Facilities Management
* Jeni Eltink, First-Year Experience
* Chris Haidos, Admissions
* Pat Keenan, Kirby Student Center
* Kathy Morris, Health Services
* Vince Repesh, Advisement Coordination Center
* Kay Smith, Disability Services and Resources
* Julie Westlund, Career Services
* Sharon Witherspoon, Financial Aid/Registrar

College offices
* Amanda Evans, CEHSP Technology
* Casey LaCore, CEHSP
* Jennifer Niemi, CEHSP Student Affairs
* Mary Keenan, CLA Student Affairs
* Janny Walker, CSE Student Affairs
* Tracey Bolen, LSBE Student Affairs
* Stacey Crawford, SFA Student Affairs

Information Technology Systems and Services
* Rick Brill
* Jason Davis
* Sarah Paro
* Wendy Zolnowsky

Knowledge Management Center
* Lisa Reeves
* Paul Treuer

The TLP approach to performance excellence introduces a perspective that helps us examine "how we do what we do" at the University from the perspective of those served. It enables faculty and staff members to effectively execute University and campus strategic priorities in innovative ways, says Larson. A portfolio of strategic projects supported by leadership and led by strong team leaders can create dramatic levels of improvements.

Larson and OSCI director Scott Martens are teaching participants how to clarify strategic objectives, identify various opportunities for improvement, measure the effectiveness of current services and programs, analyze what can be done better, implement new solutions and standardize improvements over the long term. TLP not only helps drive the success of particular strategic objectives, according to Martens, but it also develops a new skill set, language and energy that is critical in driving cultural change at the University--a university committed to continuous improvement and excellence.

Bruce Gildseth, vice chancellor of academic support and student life and a champion for UMD retention-based initiatives, kicked off the first day of training. Participants are embarking on an exciting journey, he said, one that will ultimately benefit both students and UMD as a whole.

Gildseth worked vigorously over the summer to recruit experts in the fields of student affairs, advising and supportive services to attend training and focus on improving service in the areas of academic and personal support, academic planning and university culture, all of which impact student retention and student success. Meanwhile, the Successful Student Work Team--a project team chaired by Knowledge Management Center director Paul Treuer--helped to identify retention-based TLP projects. In addition to recommending specific initiatives, the project team defined an overlying, institutional approach to address retention and graduation rate issues.

Bruce Gildseth
UMD vice chancellor Bruce Gildseth

"Many committees, groups, and task forces have done a wonderful job in analyzing problem areas and making recommendations," said Larson. "The TLP performance excellence approach provides a very flexible framework that enables teams to transform improvement opportunities into reality in a relatively short period of time."

The TLP program has multiple benefits, according to Scott Martens. Not only does it teach participants how to apply proven process improvement techniques to higher education, but it also provides a forum for employees to network and build relationships with other individuals from across campus.

Cross-functional input will be vital to the success of the retention-based projects. UMD TLP coordinator Stephanie Vine will assist Larson and Martens in coordinating the efforts of the ten individuals working on retention-based initiatives and will help provide mentoring and coaching support to all of the participants.

Projects in action

The 23 TLP-based projects currently under way at UMD (see box, above right) include information technology systems and services, finance and operations, first-year experience, facilities management, admissions, student affairs (in all collegiate units), financial aid/registrar and health services.


Stephanie Vine, Health Services associate administrator, is a 2005-06 TLP graduate and coordinator of the UMD TLP program. She is also a member of the Successful Student Work Team.