I have had the awesome pleasure of leaving a legacy of programs at past institutions of higher education. When discussing my process with a new professional in the field, I found myself excited at sharing the details of how I have created sustainable programs that continue to exist at campuses where I have been employed. I hope that you will find this information useful as you develop your own educational programs.
In this five part series, I will share with you 1) The importance of starting with a mindset that you are creating a legacy program; 2) How stakeholders help create a structurally strong foundation; 3) Why outlining your end goals and creating a timeline will be invaluable to your process; 4) Why you should design the program around these goals; and 5) How to use the program design to create a comprehensive assessment process and implement continuous improvements.
Start with the mindset and philosophy that your goal is to create a legacy program. As a leader, your primary goal should be to leave a legacy. If we start with the mindset of helping students, then no matter how we feel about our leaders, we focus on ways to serve and develop students. If you have the right mindset, then you are not likely to create programs for your own honor and promotion. I may not have received any real credit or a campus reward or acknowledgement for any number of programs that I created at former campuses, but I take pride in knowing that these programs and initiatives continue to exist and benefit students who I may never meet. If we want students to be prepared to effectively lead in our increasingly diverse society, then we need to create programs that are inclusive, practical, and experiential. But this all starts with the right mindset.
I have worked on campuses where staff felt that senior leaders and department heads lacked knowledge, lacked vision, didn’t support staff, and even used them as a scapegoat for others’ mistakes. Despite these real factors, we are in the business of serving students. When we start with the right mindset, we are well positioned to do our best to work around the political and bureaucratic quandaries that can hijack our ability to effectively serve students.
I encourage new professionals that if you want to exhibit good leadership skills and leave a legacy, then plan to leave the institution stronger than when you arrived. Prepare a plan of action that is solid and inclusive for stakeholders in every part of the institution, increasing the likelihood of them buying in and supporting the vision.
Although, the details have changed slightly, check out three programs I created in collaboration with students, faculty and staff at Syracuse University. The Diversity Business Summit was a collaboration with students in the African-American Male Congress who wanted more internship opportunities with major companies and corporate recruiters who wanted to hire more diverse students. We started with a strong foundation and created developmental opportunities for both the students and the corporate recruiters. A number of university offices have graciously supported this program since its founding.
Another great program that was started under the premise of bringing both the college and Greater Syracuse communities together was the Gospel Explosion. It has since expanded to something greater than I even imagined, but both communities look forward to this program every year. An inclusive desire and mindset helped set these programs up for success.
In Part II, I will discuss why stakeholders are instrumental to developing a structurally strong foundation for the legacy program.