Preparing for Appalachian’s future

The Chancellor’s Academic Leadership Development Program graduated its inaugural class of nine participants. A class of 14 more individuals is already underway in 2016-17.

Last spring, the Chancellor’s Academic Leadership Development Program (ALDP) graduated its inaugural class of nine participants. The program, which is led by Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Sue Edwards, provides development opportunities for department chairs, assistant chairs and academic administrators, preparing them for leadership and management roles at Appalachian and beyond.

Chancellor Sheri N. Everts created the program, she said, because she recognizes, “the faculty of Appalachian is strong and eager to pursue new opportunities.” Likewise, she recognizes, “Appalachian has much to gain from investing in our academic leadership.”

The inaugural nine were:

  • Chad Everhart, Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment
  • Dr. Melissa Gutschall, Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management
  • Dr. Tim Huelsman, Department of Psychology
  • Dr. Denise Levy, Department of Social Work
  • Dr. Doug Roberts, Department of Accounting
  • Dr. Lisa Runner, Hayes School of Music
  • Dr. Tracie Salinas, Department of Mathematics
  • Dr. Tim Smith, Department of Anthropology
  • Dr. Tracy Smith, Department of Curriculum and Instruction

One key objective of the ALDP is for participants to develop an understanding of how a university works on a day-to-day basis. It provides future leaders a “30,000-foot view of how Appalachian operates within a larger university system,” Edwards noted. “This sort of overview is essential when preparing future leaders for roles in an academic institution such as Appalachian,” said Edwards. “We have extensive talent in the faculty and we hope to provide development opportunities to retain and promote that talent here, at Appalachian.”

Newly appointed to her role of interim vice provost, Edwards keenly understands the value of leadership training and development for those whose areas of expertise fall outside of academic administration. She acknowledges that she did not go to graduate school to become a department chair. “I was trained as a biologist,” she said. “My graduate training did not prepare me for becoming an administrator. I was just very fortunate to have had great mentors along the way, who provided me with development opportunities that challenged me in new ways.”

To that point, the goal of the leadership program goes beyond simply preparing future academic managers. Leadership, as Edwards explained, “is not about titles; it’s about valuing the people you work with; it is how you support them, and how you work with others to achieve results.” The ALDP, she explained, strives for a holistic and humanistic approach to developing future leaders.

Edwards is quick to point out that a program like the ALDP doesn’t happen alone. She recognized the dedicated team that worked with her to create the program: Walker College of Business Dean Heather Norris; Dr. Jim Denniston representing the College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Dave Williams representing the Beaver College of Health Sciences; and Dr. Jim Toub representing the College of Fine and Applied Arts.

She uses her biologist’s frame of reference to explain that the benefits of the program apply not only to the faculty, but also to the university. “Evolution in an institution is as essential as it is in nature.”

Nominations to the program are made by a faculty member’s chairperson or dean. Applicants must be at the rank of associate or full professor and be interested in pursuing academic leadership positions. All participants have demonstrated evidence of professional leadership and service at department, college or university levels.

The 2016-17 ALDP is underway. Participants are:

  • Dr. Neal Das, Department of Marketing
  • April Flanders, Department of Art
  • Dr. Michael Howell, Department of Social Work
  • Dr. Nickolas Jordan, Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling
  • Dr. Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce, Department of Geology
  • Dr. Eric Marland, Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • Dr. Dave McEvoy, Department of Economics
  • Dr. Brad Nash, Department of Sociology
  • Dr. Chris Osmond, Department of Leadership and Educational Studies
  • Dr. Baker Perry, Department of Geography and Planning
  • Alan Scherlen, University Library
  • Dr. Kin-Yan Szeto, Department of Theatre and Dance
  • Dr. Rosemary Webb, Department of Psychology
  • Dr. Melissa Weddell, Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education

For more information on the ALDP, visit

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    Photo by Marie Freeman
    Melissa Gutschall, Ph.D, RD, LDN
    Associate Professor and Director, Didactic Program in Dietetics
    Department of Nutrition and Health Care Management

    I think the key for me was that I can grow by leading from where I am as program director, with the larger goal of continuing to move forward to achieve the rank of full professor. At that point, other opportunities may open up, but in the meantime, I have gained a great sense of what it means to be a leader in my program, college and the university as a whole. I have become more confident as a leader, stronger in sharing ideas and taking initiative, excited about role-modeling to motivate others, and more aware of how my work plays into the larger mission and purpose of the university.

    Faculty Bio

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    Photo courtesy of Denise Levy
    Denise L. Levy, Ph.D., LCSW, REACE
    Associate Dean for Academic Support
    Beaver College of Health Sciences

    It was helpful for me to learn from other faculty members and administrators and to take time to reflect on my own skills, values and leadership style. Based on these experiences, I discovered several characteristics that are important to me as a leader: authenticity, thoughtfulness, openness and intentionality.

    Soon after completing the program, I transitioned from being a graduate program director in the Department of Social Work to being an Associate Dean in the Beaver College of Health Sciences. The ALDP helped prepare me for my new role, and I continue to draw upon the knowledge I gained while in the program.

    Faculty Bio

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    Photo courtesy of Doug Roberts
    Doug Roberts, Ph.D.
    Interim Departmental Chair
    Department of Accounting

    It allowed me to think about some of the skills and characteristics necessary for success and evaluate whether I had them or would be able to develop them (or perhaps even wanted to develop them).

    The primary benefit for me was a realization that, while higher administration may not be what I am suited for, many of the skills and characteristics needed to succeed there are valuable as a faculty member. I’m currently serving as department chair and am viewing this role as one where I can work on those skills and characteristics as I serve my department. I suspect I will either find later that I have the ability and desire to do something at a higher level or will find that I do not want to move further up but have developed into a better faculty member in the process.

    Faculty Bio

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    Photo courtesy of Lisa Runner
    Lisa Runner, Ph.D.
    Campus coordinator, Silver Burdett/Pearson Summer Music Institute
    Coordinator, Orff-Schulwerk certification program
    Associate professor, Hayes School of Music

    The importance of developing and maintaining outstanding communication skills – in writing, speaking and listening – is something I remember pondering multiple times during every ALDP class session (whether or not “communicating” was advertised as a part of that month’s topic). It’s such a huge part of the leadership experience, regardless of the situation. The importance of consciously speaking and/or writing so that everyone receives a message exactly as it is intended and of actively listening in order to clearly understand what others are saying was definitely a key takeaway for me!

    Fellow participants from the inaugural class are now good friends – and great colleagues – all around campus. A number of us would likely never have known one another very well without this opportunity Likewise, there’s a valued connection with those faculty who were our mentors during the program as well as those leaders from all over campus and beyond who shared their expertise in sessions.

    I believe I approach my own leadership experiences and opportunities in a more informed and more intentional manner – a bit more confidence and understanding perhaps.

    I have a deeper understanding of how interconnected the offices, departments and departments within the university really are, and better insight as to how far the “ripple effect” of a decision may reach.

    Faculty Bio

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    Photo by Marie Freeman
    Tracie McLemore Salinas, Ph.D.
    Director, Secondary Teacher Education and Engagement, College of Arts and Sciences
    Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences

    Many of the people who currently serve in leadership positions have done so not because of any particular ambition to be leaders but instead because they accepted opportunities to serve their departments or programs or offices when needed. I found the strong sense of servant-leadership to be encouraging as that has been my approach to all aspects of my work as a professor.

    I also appreciated opportunities to discuss examples of challenges faced by academic leaders and strategies for engaging with others for solutions. It can be tempting to overlook the complexities of interactions that occur at various levels in the organization or how those interactions may ultimately impact the quality of teaching, our No. 1 goal. Because of that, having a broader view while maintaining a focus on the importance of teaching our students was an important perspective to cultivate.

    The program has allowed me to reflect on many things, including on how others view my work and my interactions. It has also helped me to focus on my own values and what leadership pathways will allow me to continue to retain my original purposes of working with diverse students, or growing future teachers and of collaborating with K-12 school partners. The program allowed me to reflect on what I am and could be but also on what I am not and don’t necessarily want to be. That perspective is equally helpful!

    Faculty Bio

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    Photo by Marie Freeman
    Timothy J. Smith, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor and Department Chair
    Department of Anthropology

    I was elated to be selected as a member of the inaugural class of the Chancellor's ALDP. We were given a front row seat to not only the challenges and pressures that administrators face in securing the best future of the university, but also the need for innovative and creative solutions, which effectively balance the interests of all of our community's members, faculty, staff and students. It is often very easy to be critical of how decisions are made without proper buy-in and shared governance. Participation in the ALDP taught me that transparency is key and that there are always difficult decisions to be made when negotiating the varied interests of our institution (which at times can be conflicting). This program in and of itself was an example of how transparency and shared governance can work to maintain the ideals of an effective and transformative university. In particular, I found the presentations and workshops on budgets, diversity and strategic planning to be the most educational.

    In my role as the chair of an already stellar department in the College of Arts and Sciences, I was able to present to my faculty a very clear understanding of how Appalachian is funded from the UNC General Administration all the way down to the department level, and how student credit-hour production and resource allocation are intimately linked to the university's larger strategic goals of sustainability, teaching excellence and international education. The Department of Anthropology is committed to all three, and our better understanding of resource allocation has helped us to envision how we can best help the College of Arts and Sciences in strengthening our position within the university as the largest college without sacrificing the academic quality of our mission to stay the course as effective teachers and scholars.

    Faculty Bio

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    Photo by Marie Freeman
    Tracy W. Smith, Ph.D.
    Professor and assistant chairperson, Department of Curriculum and Instruction

    For me, it was most helpful to spend time using the exercises to articulate my own core values. Though I had thought about and written about them before, primarily as a teacher, it was helpful to consider how my core values might influence my role as a leader.

    I think in the ALDP, as in most programs of its kind, the greatest benefit is the people one meets. It’s encouraging and inspiring to know that a group of caring, committed colleagues is working in units across campus to promote Appalachian as an excellent place to learn and work. I have continued to collaborate with and seek guidance from several members of the cohort.

    Faculty Bio

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