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Overview of UMD undergraduate commencement 2007 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

More than 1,000 UMD students attended undergraduate commencement at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center last May. The TLP cohort this year is focusing on ways to improve retention and graduation rates at UMD.

Improving student persistence

Transformational Leadership Program returns to UMD

By Stephanie Vine

Brief, Oct. 17, 2007

What factors cause students to persist? What influences them to stay in college and graduate? And what can University faculty and staff do to help?

UMD's second cohort of the Transformational Leadership Program (TLP) has set out to answer those questions. Comprised of 15 talented University employees from 14 different Duluth campus units, the new group kicked off its first week of training Oct. 2.

This year, 11 of the cohort's 15 projects are specifically aligned with and in direct support of the UMD Strategy Map for Improving Retention and Graduation Rates. The retention framework, developed by the UMD Student Success Work Team in 2006, identified numerous strategic priorities that influence student persistence.

By focusing on processes that are aligned with campus strategies and priorities, UMD will be better able to accommodate students' learning and support needs and positively impact student persistence and success.

UMD TLP Cohort 2

* Susan Hudec, Tweed Museum of Art
* Susana Pelayo-Woodward, Multicultural Learning & Resource Center
* Alex Jokela, Knowledge Management Center
* Sonja Olsen, Career Services
* Rebecca Thelen, Advisement Coordination Center
* Liz Benson Johnson, Library
* Mary Cameron, Human Resources
* Megan Perry Spears, First Year Experience
* Kuoa Vang, Multicultural Learning & Resource Center
* Joel Youngbloom, Systems Operation & Control Unit
* Jody O'Connor, Financial Aid
* Claudia Plaunt Martin, Tutoring Center
* Mary Jean Menzel, Continuing Education
* Nancy Diener, Disability Services & Resources
* Joie Acheson, Kirby Student Center

Chancellor Kathryn Martin attended the kickoff day of the first week of training and inspired the Cohort 2 participants.

"Any innovative ideas for improvement that positively impact the student experience at UMD and thus result in improved graduation rates will be considered and supported by UMD administration," she said.

Vice chancellor for academic support and student life Randy Hyman echoed those sentiments.

"The TLP program develops a new way of thinking in higher education," said Hyman. "By examining issues critically and holistically, UMD will be in a much better position to successfully meet the needs of its students and, as a result, see persistence and graduation rates gradually improve over the next few years."

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 curriculum and training workshops for the U.

"Meeting faculty, student, and staff requirements more effectively and more frequently will continue to be a challenge into the future," said Larson. "Building University talent to advance our strategic directions will elevate our competitive position and add value to the University of Minnesota for years to come."

The TLP methodology tackles problems and processes from "cradle to grave"--opportunities for improvement are accurately defined, current performance levels are effectively measured, gaps in performance are analyzed against customer requirements, solutions are selected and implemented based on gains received, and long-term performance processes and measures are standardized over the long term.

After completing the first week, human resources associate director Mary Cameron described her experience as "amazing." Though a lot of information is given in a short period, she said, "it leaves me excited and anxious to move forward with my project and begin seeing results."

The cohort will meet for two more weeks of training over the winter and will complete the program in March. A graduation ceremony is tentatively planned for early April.

Office of Service and Continuous Improvement director Scott Martens has led many transformation efforts across the country in many corporations. He says he is most excited about the transformational change opportunities today in higher education.

"What we are trying to accomplish with regard to performance excellence through TLP is cutting-edge for most colleges and universities," Martens says.

Chancellor Martin and Vice Chancellor Hyman summarized the benefits of TLP: "Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. If the box prohibits free thinking, innovation, and creativity, then get rid of it."

The first TLP cohort of 19 UMD employees, who completed the program in 2006-07, examined and improved a variety of campus issues using the TLP tools and techniques for process improvement and performance excellence.

RELATED READING

"UMD graduates its first Transformational Leadership Program class," April 11, 2007


Stephanie Vine is UMD's TLP coordinator.