A PLAN for your career

Professional development program accepting applications online for second class

The PLAN worked, and now organizers of the Washington University in St. Louis program are looking for a second group of participants, including staff from the School of Medicine.

PLAN, as in Professional Leadership Academy & Network, launched in February 2011 with an inaugural class of 27 Danforth Campus middle- and senior-level managers.

A yearlong professional development program, PLAN is intended to cultivate future leaders who can contribute to university-wide initiatives and projects.

The program, which is under the stewardship of the Office of the Provost, attracted nearly 100 applicants interested in being part of the first class that ended in December.

With overwhelmingly positive responses from those participating in the inaugural class, PLAN organizers say they hope to have an even larger pool of applicants for this year’s class and also will be opening the application process to medical school staff.

“We plan to build upon the success of the first year, incorporate feedback from the pilot participants, refine the program based on their feedback and make it an even stronger program,” says Julia Macias Garcia, PLAN steering committee co-chair with Gail V. Oltmanns and Shelley L. Milligan, EdD.

Macias Garcia said she was impressed by the participants’ enthusiasm, energy and effort and is seeing their hard work pay off, both for the university and the participants themselves.

“As we hoped, the PLAN’s curriculum and team projects have fostered collaboration among the diverse members of the group. Many have said they continue to collaborate with campus colleagues they typically haven’t interacted with before and continue to learn from each other,” says Macias Garcia, assistant director of Campus Life and assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Starting conversations

The PLAN curriculum is designed to strengthen participants’ institutional knowledge, appreciation for the importance of inclusion and core leadership skills. The university covers the participants’ cost in the program, which combines classroom sessions and “lunch & learns” to enhance the growth and productivity of staff.

The first class was broken into groups for the final class project. Each group was charged with developing strategic solutions for four different key issues at the university and presenting its findings to top administrators and school deans.

The four focus areas were: engaging faculty and staff with the WUSTL and St. Louis communities; assessing key student services; building a more diverse staff; and improving health and wellness programs for staff.

“We were pleased with how the class members researched the issues and presented strong recommendations for moving these issues forward. Their presentations sparked great ideas and started dialogue and conversations that continue across campus,” Macias Garcia says.

“It was exciting to see it all come together and to witness the energetic interactions that occurred each time the group met,” says Oltmanns, an associate dean of University Libraries. “When asked how PLAN influenced the way they perform as leaders, participants reported having gained a better understanding of Washington University.

“They became more reflective about their own behavior and the impact it has on others while refining many important leadership skills. They felt energized and valued developing new relationships and making connections with other staff at the University.”

Kimberly G. Walker, WUSTL’s chief investment officer and a member of the first cohort, agrees.

“The PLAN leadership development program brought together thought leadership from inside and outside Washington University to provide participants with the knowledge, tools and an action-oriented mindset to advance in our career paths,” Walker says. “I found the program to be challenging and engaging. Through PLAN, I learned more about myself, my fellow participants and the university.”

Harvey Fields, PhD, another member of the inaugural class, also found the program to be enlightening.

“PLAN provided me a unique opportunity to learn much more about Washington University, and myself, in an engaging, focused and productive environment. The PLAN experience was enhanced by the presence and contributions of the other talented participants,” says Fields, assistant director for academic programs for Cornerstone.

“While my multi-faceted expectations for the PLAN initiative have been, or are in the process of being met, PLAN moved me beyond my own expectations, helped me gain a clearer and broader perspective on the intricate ways in which the university functions, and inspired me to recommit to the university’s core mission and to the principles of scholarship, leadership and service.”

“Our work on diversity issues has identified leadership development as a critical tool for building and sustaining an inclusive campus community,” says Provost Edward S. Macias, PhD, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.

“The first session of PLAN succeeded beyond our expectations,” Macias says. “I look forward to meeting the program’s second cohort of participants and learning from their experiences. I encourage faculty and administrators to nominate qualified candidates.”

Applications due May 29

Applicants, who must receive a statement of support from their supervisors, should be serving as key contributors and ready for leadership opportunities within their departments. They should also show a commitment to diversity — diversity of thought, perspective and identity.

Application forms and supporting materials, which can be accessed online at leadership.provost.wustl.edu, are due by May 29. A review committee will select approximately 25 participants for the second class, which will be announced in July.

Among the events PLAN participants are expected to attend include an opening reception in August and three subsequent three-day classroom sessions (Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday) in September, November and February.

For questions not addressed in the website’s FAQs section, e-mail leadershipacademy@wustl.edu or contact Macias Garcia at (314) 935-8379 or julia.macias@wustl.edu; Oltmanns at (314) 935-9334 or goltmanns@wustl.edu; or Milligan, associate provost, at (314) 935-6232 or shelley_milligan@wustl.edu.