Skip to main content

Providing pathways for development, promotion and everything in between.


Big 10 Center

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Academic Leadership Program Nurtures Professional Advancement of UMD’s Faculty

Article by: Maggie Haslam

When the University of Maryland joined the Big Ten Conference three years ago, it opened a lot of doors—and not just for athletics. Its academic offshoot, the Big Ten Academic Alliance, provides unique opportunities for its members to share expertise beyond their campus borders and offers fertile ground for collaboration. One of its most successful initiatives is the Academic Leadership Program, or ALP. Launched in 1989, the ALP brings faculty members and administrators from each of the 14 member universities together for an intensive—and often illuminating—course in leadership and professional development, as well as for candid discussions about the challenges facing universities today. ALP fellows are nominated by each university for their desire and potential to consider taking on a larger role in shaping their university, as well as to hone their skills for their current positions.

The 2018 fellows—Daryle Williams, Associate Professor of History; Doron Levy, Professor of Mathematics; Philip Joyce, Professor and Associate Dean at the School of Public Policy; Jason Geary, Professor and Director at the School of Music; and Mike Faulkender, Associate Dean of Masters Programs and Professor of Finance— are two-thirds through their program, having attended symposiums at the University of Iowa in the fall and the University of Michigan in February. “This program exceeds all expectations,” said Professor Joyce. “Not only has it added to my own development, it’s allowed me to forge truly meaningful connections with my peers. This could be a valuable exercise even if you don’t pursue a career in academic administration.” Below, UMD’s 2018 ALP fellows reflect on some of the benefits of the program:

It’s a diverse network of experts at your disposal. One of the greatest benefits touted by this year’s fellows is the opportunity to learn how other people approach challenges at both macro and micro scales; through ALP, you are gaining a network. High-caliber speakers at the seminars share their depth of experience to help make sense of today’s most pressing campus challenges. Smaller group discussions with colleagues can offer ideas for solving problems in programs, departments, and colleges. “The symposiums and on-campus discussions offer plenty of opportunities to actively engage with other fellows,” said Professor Geary. “It allowed me to become attuned not just to the issues but multiple perspectives. There is a wide range of experiences and positions among the fellows, which really enriched the conversations.”

Each symposium is unique and topical. Each of the three symposiums follows a unique agenda that covers a wide range of issues, from free speech and academic freedom to the decreases in funding for public universities to recruiting a diverse and excellent faculty. This year’s programming has also addressed how the nation social climate has brought new challenges into campus life. “A lot of the national focus and challenges have shifted in the past year,” said Professor Levy. “It was unexpected to see university presidents be challenged in the ways that they are.” These discussions offer a better understanding of the role leadership plays in addressing critical campus issues and explore the components to good leadership and problem-solving for those in a variety of positions. “It’s also a good reminder that these issues can’t be treated top-to-bottom,” Levy adds. “We need people at all levels talking about these issues.”

Administrative experience is not a prerequisite. In fact, you don’t even have to be certain that a career in academic administration is right for you; many individuals use the fellowship as an exploratory exercise. Each of this year’s fellows agreed that what really matters is the interest, curiosity, and desire to impact the greater university community. “While there are individuals already engaged in some level of administration, many fellows are not,” explains Joyce. “The program is a great opportunity to simply explore if this is a path of interest.”

ALP forges connections with a diverse set of peers—both across the Big Ten and right here at UMD. A challenge that plagues many on campus is finding the time—and venues—to connect to colleagues in a meaningful way. ALP balances structured programming with plenty of opportunities for more informal discussions, both at the multi-university symposia and within the smaller UMD cohort discussions. “This experience has allowed me to make connections on campus that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise,” said Joyce. “We tend to be very stove-piped with the demands of our individual colleges. Opportunities like the ALP fellowship offer big payoffs in the cohesion of the campus and help connect us to the university as a whole.” They also provide a sounding board and source of expertise. “I was looking for some advice on an upcoming program we are implementing and there was a colleague at the symposium who headed a similar program at Ohio State. We connected a few weeks later and she was able to give me some really great suggestions,” said Professor Williams. “I wouldn’t have known to contact her without that interaction at the ALP program.”

There is strength—and good ideas—in numbers. Think the University of Nebraska doesn’t face the same challenges as UMD? Think again. All of the 2018 fellows remarked that many of the issues facing college programs today are similar at similar institutions, and that the range of perspectives and responses is inspiring and instructive. “It’s reassuring to know that as a campus, we aren’t the only ones dealing with these issues,” said Joyce. “By learning from each other’s experiences, we aren’t re-inventing the wheel.” “Whether it’s the formal program or just casual conversation during meals or some of the exercises, what you realize is that all of us are big public institutions, and we all share this land grand size and scope,” says Williams. “Regardless of the geography, we all suffer the same challenges; through this forum, we can talk about them with our peers in concrete ways.”

No canned rhetoric. The symposiums are largely led by high-level administrators—including university presidents and provosts—speaking very candidly about the challenges they face at their institutions. Real case studies are offered, often presented by the actual people involved. The atmosphere of safety and non-judgmentalism, as well as the “Las Vegas rules,” reigns at both lectures and small group discussions; which allows for the honest responses that are catalysts for deeper discussions. “At both symposiums, I was particularly struck by the strong sense of cohesiveness of the leadership team and how that sets the tone for the core understanding of the university’s mission,” says Williams. “It was really inspiring.”

ALP offers skills that you can use now and as you develop your academic career. While the stories and perspectives shared by the symposium speakers help fellows envision possible career trajectories, many of the ideas gleaned through ALP activities are applicable to situations they face right now, not just in the future. “It’s been very instructive to see how other units function in ways different from my own. These big-picture discussions allow me to see how what I do fits into a larger context and why it is relevant,” said Geary. “It’s really compelled me to think about ways to tweak my work to be more aligned with the University’s larger goals.” “This program has helped me think more deeply about my career path in general,” said Levy. “It’s been very useful to speak with people who have similar aspirations and learn their trajectory.”

It re-thinks the definition of leadership. The skills that help a professor lead in the classroom and succeed in their research may not be the same as those demanded by leadership positions. ALP exposes its fellows to experts in the fields of leadership and management, and arms them with the tools they need to nurture new kinds of skills. But the training goes beyond making leaders; it speaks to the very foundation of discovering others with leadership potential by creating opportunity. “I am fundamentally here to serve others,” explains Williams. “That’s an important mindset. As a leader, one of the best translations of that service is by providing others the opportunity to thrive, succeed, and advance.”

Academic Leadership Fellows are chosen each year from different disciplines across UMD. Interested in learning more? Visit the ALP website or OFA's ALP page. Eligible faculty must be nominated by a program dean. To learn more about applying, contact Faculty Affairs at or 301.405.6803.