Diversifying Academic Leadership at CUNY

Administrators Go to Harvard for Program on Development


“It was refreshing that the IEM curricula, guest speakers and workshop facilitators provided a framework for thinking about what I do and how I do it. I found the exercises related to being an authentic leader and transitioning to more demanding leadership positions particularly poignant.” — Claudia Schrader Kingsborough Community College President

Inspirational. Skills-enhancing. Difficult conversations. For the CUNY administrators who attended Harvard University professional development programs this summer as part of an initiative to diversify CUNY’s academic leadership, the experience was invaluable – personally and for their colleges.

For two weeks in June and July each of nine administrators who made up the 2018-2019 inaugural cohort of the program, “Diversifying CUNY’s Leadership: A CUNY-Harvard Consortium,” attended one of three renowned certificate-granting leadership programs at Harvard’s School of Education. The intensive programs, tailored to different experience levels, were paid for through a CUNY-Harvard partnership; a Harvard Club of New York Foundation grant covered one-third of the cost and CUNY covered the rest, said Annemarie Nicols-Grinenko, University associate dean for faculty affairs.

Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz said: “The knowledge and resources this diverse group of administrators have gained through the new CUNY-Harvard Consortium initiative will benefit the University now and in the future. The nine leaders participating this year will bring new ideas and skills to the important work that we do — providing a world-class education while broadening access to the University for students and staff. Diversifying CUNY’s academic leadership ranks is a critical part of our mission.”

The administrators, of diverse races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations, joined other higher education leaders attending the programs from more than 31 states and 11 countries. This academic year they will also shadow and meet with CUNY leaders, all part of an effort to increase academic administrator diversity throughout the University. They will also work on a diversity-focused project to benefit their campuses.

“CUNY’s leadership at the vice presidential level and above is not nearly as diverse as our faculty, and our faculty are not nearly as diverse as our students,” said Nicols-Grinenko. “We’re looking to make our leadership more closely reflect the diversity of our student body, and of New York City in general.”

Speakers, Workshops

Kingsborough Community College President Claudia Schrader, who mentored the other eight CUNY participants before she attended Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management in July, said: “I often find myself in a constant state of getting things done. So, it was refreshing that the IEM curricula, guest speakers and workshop facilitators provided a framework for thinking about what I do and how I do it. I found the exercises related to being an authentic leader and transitioning to more demanding leadership positions particularly poignant.”

The CUNY participants, selected from 72 applicants, also included Dr. Stanley Bazile, dean of students, Lehman College; Dr. Derrick Brazill, professor and chair, Biological Sciences, Hunter College; Dr. Dara Byrne, associate provost for undergraduate retention and dean of undergraduate studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Jane Cho, director of administration, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College; Danielle Dimitrov, interim executive director of student services, College of Staten Island; Dr. Shelly Eversley, associate professor, English, Baruch College, and director of faculty fellowship; Dr. Shu-Ping (Sandie) Han, professor and chair, Mathematics, New York City College of Technology; and Dr. Ted Ingram, professor of general counseling, Bronx Community College. At Harvard, they attended either the Management Development Program (MDP) or the more advanced Institute for Management and Leadership in Education (MLE), in June.
Participants said the programs intellectually enriched, challenged and inspired them, got them to focus on professional goals, and sent them back to CUNY with new skills.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” said Bazile, who called the instruction by experts and scholars and the exchange of ideas with 110 other educators in his MLE program “incredibly” beneficial. “That was the beauty of having this diverse group together – to get different perspectives,” he said. “Folks from Australia could say, ‘Here’s what we’re struggling with,’ and someone from China would say, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ This was not holding hands on the lawn singing ‘Kumbaya.’ People were able to be in a room together and agree, agree to disagree, and not have it be contentious.”

Session topics ranged “from financial administration, to difficult conversations in the workplace, to diversity, to the current state of higher education,” and “at the end of the day you had an enormous amount of reading,” he said. Cho said her Harvard program gave her “a new lens through which to view issues and problems that I face every day.” She and her colleagues returned “eager to bring new perspectives, ideas, tools and skills back to our CUNY campuses and contributing our collective efforts to furthering CUNY’s diversity mission.”

Dimitrov said the program, “well curated with every detail thought out to help us be better learners,” offered “a great lesson to help our students. It just hit home how much they were trying to support us as human beings.

“What I got out of the program was clarity about my continued work in higher education. What I’d like to do more of as chief diversity officer, Title IX coordinator, another role someday, is about student success: How do we define it, how do we work toward it?”

At Harvard, “it was amazing to meet scholars whose work I read in graduate school,” said Ingram. “One of them was Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland —Baltimore County’s president.” When Ingram was going for his master’s, he said, there was limited research on black men in college, with most “written from a deficit model — high attrition, low graduation rates.” Hrabowski’s text, Beating the Odds, changed the narrative,” highlighting black men’s successful experiences in school.

“From reading his text, I wrote my thesis and future scholarship from an antideficit perspective,” said Ingram. “Most recently, I completed my own book, Engaging African American Males in Community College, and I shared with Hrabowski how his text inspired me, and gave him a copy of my book.”