Staff leaders invited to learn more about PLAN

Program builds leadership skills, addresses universitywide initiatives

PLAN reception is held
Members of the 2017 Professional Leadership Academy & Network gathered for a welcome reception in the Danforth University Center. Julia Macias (left), of the Rodriguez Scholars program, chats with Michelle Repice and Aimee Wittman, both now at the Career Center. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

Washington University in St. Louis staff members who are leaders in their departments and want to develop stronger leadership skills and better understand the university’s operations are invited to learn more about Professional Leadership Academy & Network (PLAN), a yearlong professional development program.

PLAN is hosting information sessions on all four campuses. The first session is 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at North Campus, Room 1312. Prior participants will share their experiences and answer questions. PLAN participants commit to attend regular lunch-and-learn sessions with university leaders and to participate in three three-day retreats, with topics ranging from the value of diversity and inclusion to university history to the future of higher education. Participants also work in groups to develop a strategic solution to a key university issue.

Rochelle Smith, assistant provost for diversity initiatives and PLAN program administrator, said the program, which launched in 2011, supports participants in their current jobs and prepares them to be tomorrow’s leaders.

Tia Drake, executive director of graduate medical education at the School of Medicine, is an example. She said PLAN gave her the skills and the confidence to lead her professional organization, the Association for Hospital Medical Education.

“It was great to hear directly from people in top university leadership roles about how they were challenged in their jobs and how they overcame those challenges to become effective leaders,” Drake said. “PLAN showed me that no job was too big for me and helped me embrace my own leadership style. And by being more involved on the national level, I can bring back information and resources here to Washington University so that we are better.”

For Ellen Rostand, assistant vice chancellor for university initiatives, PLAN gave her a bird’s-eye view of the university. At the time Rostand joined PLAN in 2011, she was assistant dean for communications at the Brown School.

“Working in a school, I didn’t understand how the university, as a whole, operated,” Rostand said. “I also wanted an opportunity to meet and learn from people from different parts of the university. Some of my closest friends and colleagues are from that cohort.”

Rostand said the group project allowed her to think strategically about big universitywide issues. Her team explored ways to improve diversity and inclusion of staff. The team did university benchmarking, researched peer institutions, consulted with university leaders and proposed a set of recommendations.

“A lot of those recommendations have been implemented in some shape or form,” Rostand said.

She also has experience as a project sponsor. 

“When I was working in the university’s public affairs office, we submitted a project to PLAN and asked from them to assess Washington Magazine and identify ways in which we could strengthen the publication and better tell the stories of the university. What they put together was very valuable.”

Today, Rostand encourages team members to apply for PLAN. She values the program’s core values of diversity and inclusion, innovation and leadership.

“By providing more context about the university, PLAN connects you to new people and opens your eyes to different opportunities,” Rostand said. “The program helps both its participants and the university pursue excellence.”

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