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UMD graduates its second transformational leadership cohort


leadership development programs are a key component of the "Transforming the U" vision

By Stephanie Vine

TLP second cohort 08
Some graduates from the second UMD Transformational Leadership cohort.

May 7, 2008

University of Minnesota leadership development programs are a key component of the "Transforming the U" vision. In addition to creating exceptional faculty and staff, they also support the mission of creating an exceptional organization and exceptional innovation.

In April, University executives relayed the importance of leadership programs and their role in driving a "culture of excellence" to the Board of Regents at its monthly meeting. Two leadership development programs in particular, the President's Emerging Leaders program (PEL) and the Transformational Leadership Program (TLP), were highlighted for delivering the skills, behaviors and values the University considers essential for the future.

On April 15, the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD), graduated its second TLP cohort. (The first training program at UMD followed the inaugural session on the Twin Cities campus back in spring 2006.) The 13 employees were involved in a variety of projects over several months, some related to the U's Graduation Rates and Retention Initiative. (See a complete project list at the end of the story.) All of them were recognized for their work at the graduation ceremony, and each had the chance to display the results-to-date of their efforts that day.

"Transforming strategy into reality is an ongoing challenge for all leadership groups," says Matt Larson. "And UMD's first two TLP cohorts and respective sponsors have been true higher education pioneers by leading new ways to translate UMD goals into practical change that directly benefits faculty, students and staff."

The philosophy and approach behind the Transformational Leadership Program are to enhance the norms, values and behaviors the University deems essential for all future leaders. In addition to teaching the tools and techniques of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control), a leadership excellence methodology, the program also emphasizes

  • Strategy-focused knowledge and skills development
  • Change management
  • Team leadership
  • Process excellence
  • Results orientation

"As a participant of the Transformational Leadership Program, I was given an engaging, leading edge graduate level course in change management," says recent graduate, Joie Acheson. "I was immersed in an elegant approach to bringing my project ideas to fruition, in strategic planning for improvement of UMD systems, and in a language of change that eventually made a huge difference in my approach to problem solving. I leave Cohort II with a new vision for UMD. I am so impressed with the passion, the commitment and the brilliance of my peers. Frankly, this was the most important training opportunity I have had at UMD."

Judith Karon, UMD human resources director, agrees, saying that the TLP program "redefines leadership and emphasizes the advantages of working as a team." She adds that as a result of the program, UMD is "learning new ways to improve current processes and identify the true needs of our customers, the students."

The TLP curriculum was a joint effort between the U's Office of Service and Continuous Improvement (OSCI) and 3M, a University corporate sponsor and supporter.

According to Jody O'Connor, a student support services associate with the Office of Financial Aid, the program is a "valuable experience for any employee" and encourages colleagues from across campus to work together on a common strategic goal. "This fact alone helps drive change at the University."

Scott Martens, OSCI director, adds that the greatest benefit associated with the TLP program is "the improvement of the people who will ultimately transform the U."

"Process improvement is extremely important," he says, "but people improvement is the key to success."

A new Transformational Leadership Program session will start in the next few months on the Twin Cities campus. For more information about it or the program, in general, see the Office of Service and Continuous Improvement.


The cohort and their projects

* Joie Acheson, Kirby Student Center--"Developing/Enhancing a Comprehensive and Successful Student Leadership Program"

* Liz Benson-Johnson, Library--"Redesigning the Library's Fine System"

* Mary Cameron, Human Resources-"Developing Strategies to Increase On-Campus Student Employment Opportunities"

* Alex Jokela, Knowledge Mgmt Center--"Operationalizing UMD's Retention Data Collection and Communication Plans"

* Mary Jean Menzel, Continuing Education--"Improving CITS Card and Service Activations"

* Jody O'Connor, Financial Aid--"Developing an Effective & Comprehensive Financial Literacy & Personal Financial Management Program for Students/Families"

* Sonja Olsen, Career Services--"Improving the ePortfolio Classroom Scheduling Process"

* Susana Pelayo-Woodward, Multicultural Center--"Improving Persistence Rates of Students Color from 1st to 2nd Year"

* Megan Perry Spears, First Year Experience--"Creating an Effective and Comprehensive Orientation Program for 1st Year Students"

* Claudia Plaunt Martin, Tutoring Center--"Increasing the Usage of the Tutoring Center by Low Performing Students"

* Rebecca Thelen, Advisement Coordination Center--"Developing Strategies for Improving Course Access"

* Kuoa Vang, Multicultural Center--"Identifying Factors that Influence Asian-American Student Persistence"

* Joel Youngblom, Knowledge Management Center--"Improving the Process to Create Transfer Manual Web Pages"