2016-17 Year-End Report


The Academic Leadership Development Program (ALDP) is an annual, cohort-based leadership development program for new Heads, Directors, Associate Deans, and other academic leaders at UBC Vancouver. The Program is sponsored by the UBC Vancouver Office of the Provost and is implemented through a partnership between UBC Human Resources and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. Over 350 UBC academic leaders have participated in ALDP since the Program was first offered in 2006.

The three primary objectives of ALDP are:

  • To enhance the effectiveness and personal satisfaction of Heads, Directors, Associate Deans, and other academic leaders,
  • To articulate expectations regarding their roles and responsibilities, and
  • To support the development of leadership capacity at the University, through problem-based learning, workshops, and one-on-one coaching support.

In addition, the Program is designed to provide opportunities for new academic leaders to network with their cohort colleagues, experienced leaders, and resource unit experts across campus, to increase their awareness of their leadership styles, and to identify strategies, tools, and approaches that can help them succeed in their roles.

Program Director Fran Watters, Academic Director Bill Aiello, and Program Manager Julianna Chen, together with a Planning Team of seven UBC-Vancouver faculty and staff, develop and deliver the Program.

In this report

Highlights From This Year

2016-17 has been another year of strong cohort engagement and positive feedback from cohort members, as well as from ALDP alumni, and the faculty, staff, and senior administrators who engaged with the Program over the course of the academic year.

The 2016-17 cohort consisted of 56 Heads, Directors, Associate Deans, and other academic leaders from eight Faculties, UBC Library, and UBC Vantage College. Building on the successes of the previous year, the ALDP Planning Team maintained for the most part the 2015-16 Program format in 2016-17, while making several additions and modifications in response to cohort feedback and interest.

96% of respondents to ALDP’s year-end questionnaire would recommend the Program to colleagues. According to one respondent, ALDP was “absolutely invaluable. Without it, I think that I would have been far less comfortable and effective in my new role.”

“ALDP was… a very valuable experience, especially for [the] integration of administrative work with the rest of my academic career. Throughout the year, I felt there was so much to digest that I think much of this will come back to me in the years to come. Thank you again!”
ALDP 2016-17 cohort member

Most respondents to the Program’s year-end questionnaire indicated that they achieved the Program’s three core and three auxiliary objectives: 1

  • 88% increased their understanding of the roles and responsibilities of their academic leadership position.
“All aspects covered in the program have enhanced my understanding of my role as Department Head, including change agent, mediator, faculty review, budget overseer, etc.”
  • 92% increased their awareness of strategies, tools, and approaches for addressing issues that academic leaders face.
“I now know what steps to take…, who to contact, and what to expect of the process. I’ve had a chance to put this to practice and it has, so far, helped a great deal–especially in reducing my sense of dread, but also increasing my effectiveness in understanding and handling the situation.”
  • 92% began to apply the knowledge and strategies learned in ALDP in their leadership role.
“[I] have started to filter challenging situations through rubrics learned at ALDP in order to strategize responses.”

A majority of respondents also indicated that they gained an increased awareness of their personal leadership style (88%), derive more personal satisfaction in their academic leadership role (58%), and developed a network of support within the cohort (67%) as a result of their participation in ALDP.

2016-17 Program Elements – What Did ALDP Offer?

  • Two-day intensive “Boot Camp I” in late August. Topics included: Understanding the academic leader’s role · Governance at UBC · Identifying campus resources · Budget & finance · Working with staff.
  • Individualized Learning Plans to help cohort members identify the ALDP events and opportunities that could best help them meet their goals.
  • Confidential, one-on-one executive coaching was a central part of the Program this year, as in 2015-16. Due to limited coaching capacity, priority was again given to new Heads and Associate Deans. 43% of the cohort (24 of 56 members) worked with eleven UBC coaches, receiving an average of six hours of coaching over the course of the academic year.
  • One-day intensive Boot Camp, Part II at the start of Term 2. Topics included: Getting things done in your unit · Individual leadership strengths & styles · Working effectively with groups & teams · Working with your Dean.
  • Leadership strengths & values inventory, using the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). This personalized learning inventory provides insight into one’s motivation, conflict triggers, communication style, and leadership strengths, and was offered as part of Boot Camp, Part II.
  • Three half-day workshops focusing on broad leadership topics, making extensive use of case studies and scenarios. Topics included: Engaging with Conflict · Leading Change · Planning for Year Two.
  • Thirteen two-hour studios focusing on specific topics relevant to needs of academic leaders. Participants were encouraged to bring their current challenges and questions around the session topics in order to receive support and fresh perspectives from Planning Team facilitators, experienced academic leaders, campus resource people, and fellow cohort members. This year’s Program included a new studio, “Managing a Crisis,” in response to cohort member interest. The Planning Team also significantly redesigned three studios – The Changing Landscape of Teaching & Learning, Building Strategic Partnerships in the Community, and Strategic Planning – as part of its ongoing commitment to continuous improvement.
    Studio topics Supporting and Assessing Faculty Career Development · Supporting Research in Your Unit · The Changing Landscape of Teaching and Learning · Fostering a Positive Student Experience · Working Effectively with Union and Non-union Staff · Budget & Finance, Part II · Succeeding in your Role as an Associate Dean · Holding Difficult Conversations · Addressing Faculty Relations Issues · Your Role in Creating a Positive & Respectful Environment at UBC · Strategic Planning · Building Strategic Partnerships in the Community ·Managing a Crisis
  • Appreciative Leadership (Feedback) Initiative, an opportunity for cohort members to receive reflective feedback about their development as a leader from up to five colleagues of their choice, using an Appreciative Inquiry model.

Cohort participants also received a voucher to reimburse expenses up to $50 incurred while networking (e.g. when inviting one or more colleagues for networking conversations over lunch or coffee), a copy of The College Administrator’s Survival Guide (2006) by C.K. Gunsalus, and access to all session materials and three online learning modules via the ALDP Connect site.

Profile of This Year’s Cohort

This year 56 academic leaders were invited to participate in ALDP. While Department Heads, Directors, and Associate Deans made up almost half of the cohort (49%; 28 individuals), the cohort also included leaders in a variety of other roles. Of particular note, this year’s cohort included the greatest percentage of Program Chairs and Directors in the ALDP’s history (25%; 13 individuals). Also, for the first time, two Associate Heads took part in the Program. Both of these milestones are consistent with ALDP’s increasing emphasis on supporting emerging academic leaders.

This year’s cohort included academic leaders from eight Faculties, UBC Library, and UBC Vantage College. As in previous years, the Planning Team contacted all Faculties in May – June 2016 to identify the new academic leaders to receive an invitation to the Program.

Cohort Engagement in ALDP Events

As in previous years, participation in ALDP was voluntary; cohort members engaged in the Program offerings they identified as relevant to their leadership roles, fitting within their schedules, and suited to their learning preferences. The individualized Learning Plans that cohort members completed during or shortly after the first event of the Program year were designed to help cohort members identify the ALDP offerings they wished to engage in, and then reserve time for these Program events in their calendars.

Cohort engagement in all three types of ALDP events was strong again this year. 82% of the cohort attended the Program’s two-day inaugural event, Boot Camp I: Getting Started as an Academic Leader at UBC. This was the highest percentage participation since the event was first offered in 2014. 48% of the cohort participated in the daylong Boot Camp II: Getting Things Done as an Academic Leader, similarly to 2015-16, when the event was introduced. Deans were again asked to encourage the ALDP members from their Faculty to attend these two events, which focus on academic leadership fundamentals that new leaders need in order to establish themselves well in their roles.

On average, about half of the cohort (42%) participated in each of the half-day workshops, while about a quarter (23%) attended the two-hour studio sessions. While the Boot Camps and workshops address general academic leadership topics pertinent to most cohort members, studios topics are more specialized and may not be applicable to the all leadership roles in the cohort. As a result, studios generally engage smaller groups. The number of cohort members at studios this year ranged from 23 for “Budget & Finance, Part II,” to five for the highly specialized “Succeeding in Your Role as an Associate Dean.”

Over half of the cohort (28 of 56 members; 51%) participated in four or more events over the course of the academic year. Remarkably, almost 40% of the cohort (21 members) participated in six or more events over the course of the Program.

Experience from prior years indicates that lower levels of attendance is often due to prior experience in academic leadership roles, schedule conflicts, and (in the case of those cohort members from the Faculty of Medicine who do not generally work on the Point Grey campus) the location of sessions.

As part of the Planning Team’s ongoing commitment to continuous program improvement, cohort participants were asked at the close of each event to indicate the degree to which they agreed with the following three statements:

  1. I learned useful information and/or strategies related to this topic.
  2. The amount of content was appropriate.
  3. The material was presented effectively.

Cohort feedback aggregated across the year’s thirteen studios and two workshops indicates that virtually all respondents agreed with these statements.2

Three sessions identified by the cohort as particularly valuable in the year-end questionnaire were “Holding Difficult Conversations” (65% of respondents), “Budget & Finance, Part II” (52%), and “Engaging with Conflict” (52%).3

The Value of Coaching

One-on-one, confidential coaching is a fundamental element of ALDP. Throughout the Program’s history, feedback from cohort members who have participated in coaching has indicated that the support of a trained and certified coach has been a valuable support in their academic leadership development, and a useful complement to the group learning sessions. This year, ALDP was able to provide coaching to 24 cohort members (43% of the cohort). This was the highest percentage to date. (Last year 18 cohort members (29%) received coaching.) Due to limited coaching capacity, priority for coaching was given to new Heads and Associate Deans this year. Each participating cohort member received an average of six hours of coaching over the course of the academic year.

86% of the respondents to the year-end questionnaire who participated in coaching reported that it had been helpful for them.

“So often just talking out concerns or the daily management issues makes all the difference. I have a great trust in [my coach] who created a safe space for me to talk out the issues and any solutions I had considered. Through her questioning and thoughtful comments I became clearer about my read on the situation and the consequences of the various actions.”

Participants described how coaching has helped them transition to their leadership role, identify and build on their strengths, and navigate specific leadership challenges.

“Absolutely [recommended]!….The confidential nature of the sessions enables one to talk through sensitive and potentially explosive issues that would be difficult or impossible to discuss with anyone else.”

Several cohort members described coaching as an important source of support and encouragement, whether they met with their coach regularly or for a single session.

100% of respondents to a year-end coaching questionnaire indicated they would recommend coaching to others taking on an academic leadership role.4 One respondent added, “I really appreciated ALDP reaching out and offering this experience. It’s probably not something I would have thought (or had time) to and I found it very fulfilling and supportive.”

Appreciative Leadership (Feedback) Initiative (ALI)

This year, 18 cohort members chose to receive feedback from faculty and staff colleagues through the Appreciative Leadership (Feedback) Initiative (ALI). Each participating cohort member was matched with a coach who interviewed several of the cohort member’s colleagues using an Appreciative Inquiry approach and prepared a comprehensive report based on those interviews. The coach and cohort member met at the ALDP Capstone in May to review the report and discuss implications of the feedback for the leader’s work going forward.

“This was an amazing opportunity to get input in a non-intimidating way which I could use for future growth.”

Eleven ALI participants responded to the year-end questionnaire. All reported that the ALI was a valuable way to receive feedback as an academic leader, giving them input on when they had been most effective and insight into their colleagues’ perceptions of their leadership. All added that they would recommend participating in the Initiative to other academic leaders at UBC.

“I found it a worked really well as a complement to the Strengths Deployment Inventory and the coaching… as a way to chart progress over the course of a year.”

Nearly all respondents reported that they had either already made a change to their leadership approach as a result of the ALI, or that they were likely to do so in the future.5 For example, one cohort member reported that as a result of the ALI, “I have more confidence in my own leadership style and abilities, which makes me more dynamic and able to move things forward.”

The faculty and staff colleagues interviewed had similarly positive feedback about their experience with the ALI. The process inspired many to think about how they could use the same approach in their own contexts. According to one interviewee, the ALI “helped me to reflect on my management style and how I can adapt to my peers and colleagues.” Another interviewee commented, “I love it, it’s so valuable, please keep it going!”

Finally, the coaches who volunteered their time to conduct the interviews and prepare the ALI reports also described the value that participating in the Initiative had for them. According to one coach, the most rewarding part of the ALI experience was “connecting with an academic unit and putting my coaching skills to use in a setting I don’t normally coach in. Now I want to do more faculty coaching!”

Support From the UBC Community

The enthusiastic and sustained support of the UBC community continued to be an essential factor in ALDP’s success this year. A record number of ALDP alumni, faculty, staff, and senior administrators – over 100 – shared their time and expertise with the ALDP cohort during one or more Program events.

Participants included Professor Santa Ono, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Angela Redish, Provost and Vice-President Academic pro tem, Lisa Castle, Vice-President, UBC Human Resources, Andrew Simpson, Vice-President Finance & Operations, Dr. Simon Peacock, Dean, Faculty of Science, Dr. Rickey Yada, Dean, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, 53 staff and 37 faculty members, six current UBC students, and two UBC alumni. Of particular note, the faculty participants included 23 experienced academic leaders; feedback from current cohort members indicated that learning from their colleagues in leadership was a highlight of their ALDP experience. Ten faculty and staff members supported the cohort by providing one-on-one confidential coaching during the academic year.

Key Takeaways

The experiences of the past year in ALDP reaffirmed a number of lessons that the Planning Team has learned about the Program’s keys to success over the course of the its eleven-year history:

The value of partnership: The Office of the Provost, UBC Human Resources, and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT)

The steadfast support of these three offices has been crucial to the success of ALDP. Each has provided vital resources and the diverse perspectives that have enabled the Planning Team to develop and implement a Program that is relevant, engaging, and effective for UBC’s new academic leaders.

It takes a university to raise an academic leader

The engagement of a broad range of faculty, staff, senior administrators, and other University community members in ALDP has been critical to its success. Not only do cohort members value learning from their colleagues and campus resource participants, but the resource participants have also indicated that they benefit from meeting with and learning from the new academic leaders and other event participants. One of the best examples of successful collaboration in service of academic leadership development is the ALDP Planning Team itself, which has been a joint effort by staff and faculty members since its inception in 2006. Overall, the campus’ support for ALDP and leadership development at UBC has led to powerful opportunities to learn and connect for all involved.

The importance of an appropriate pedagogical approach

An appropriate pedagogical approach is critical to delivering effective leadership development opportunities for faculty. Through experience, the Planning Team has identified a number of several key components that contribute to the Program’s success.

First, the Planning Team has found that recognizing, eliciting, and highlighting new leaders’ extensive prior knowledge and experience is vital. Throughout the Program year, cohort members are encouraged to share what they know and to learn from their colleagues’ experiences. The resulting “cohort effect” is a highly valued and effective aspect of ALDP.

Second, the Planning Team has found that coaching is a critical step in the learning process for new academic leaders. Coaching is often the only place where a leader can honestly discuss their experiences and, with support, strategize their way forward. It is also in the reflective and safe environment of a coaching session that cohort members frequently identify the issues requiring their attention and their areas for further skill and knowledge development. Cohort members can then engage in the workshops and studios that address these specific needs.

Third, given the wealth of knowledge and expertise in the room at each ALDP session,
lecture-style content delivery is kept to a minimum. Brief presentations are only used to share resources and frameworks that cohort members can use in specific aspects of their leadership roles. Sessions emphasize dialogue, discussion, and problem-based learning, using case studies and issues that are UBC-specific. The cohort reports that problem-based learning helps them become familiar with the wide range of issues that new academic leaders encounter, as well as strategies and resources for addressing them, in an active and engaging manner.

Finally, there is value in both group and individual support. While cohort members consistently report that learning with and from their cohort colleagues in group sessions is valuable to their leadership development, those who engage in one-on-one coaching also find that the focused attention of a certified coach can be invaluable for receiving personalized support on wide range of leadership issues.

The importance of affirmation

ALDP cohort members have consistently expressed appreciation for the affirmation they receive in ALDP, whether at workshops and studios, in coaching sessions, or as part of the Appreciative Leadership (Feedback) Initiative (ALI). This feedback suggests that while new leaders are likely to feel overwhelmed or isolated at times, the acknowledgement, encouragement, and support they receive in ALDP can help enhance their effectiveness in their roles, as well as their overall wellbeing.

Emerging leaders can benefit from participating in ALDP

While ALDP was originally designed to support Department Heads, Directors, and Associate Deans, the Program has gradually expanded to include several other academic leadership roles, including Program Chairs and Directors, and Associate Heads. Participation data and cohort feedback indicate that these emerging leaders can and do benefit from participating in ALDP. While engagement levels of leaders who are not Heads or Associate Deans vary, many of the most engaged cohort members in 2016-17 have been those in these emerging leadership roles.

ALDP alumni find value in continuing to engage with the Program

Many ALDP alumni continue to engage with the Program, even after their terms as academic leaders come to an end. ALDP alumni often return as key resource people in studios, sharing their knowledge and expertise with current cohort members. The generosity and enthusiasm of these experienced leaders as they support their colleagues has been remarkable. In addition, feedback from ALDP alumni indicates that ongoing engagement with the Program supports their continued learning, leadership development, and sense of connectedness to the campus community. This high level of engagement suggests that alumni may well be interested in further opportunities to share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues, further their academic leadership development, and connect with colleagues at UBC.

Opportunities for the Future

Building on the successes of the 2016-17 Program year, the Planning Team is, as always, looking forward to making further improvements to the Program in the coming year. Specifically, the Planning Team plans to expand its capacity to support new academic leaders by piloting the inclusion of Associate Heads on a broader basis in 2017-18. In addition, the Planning Team looks forward to enhancing support for ALDP alumni by developing a lightweight process for forming peer-support groups or communities of practice.

The Planning Team also looks forward to continued conversations with Program sponsors on academic leadership development priorities and strategy. In anticipation of these conversations, and to better understand academic leadership development needs still to be addressed at UBC Vancouver, the Planning Team is contracting an external and internal consultant to carry out a needs assessment in Summer–Fall 2017. This work will review current gaps in academic leadership development at UBC, and will provide a range of options and strategies for addressing them. Possible areas for consideration may include, for example, increasing coaching capacity to provide more support to new and experienced leaders, offering additional support to experienced academic leaders, and considering how emerging leaders could be supported. The Planning Team looks forward to presenting and discussing the findings with Program sponsors towards the end of 2017.

Thank You!

As the Planning Team reflects on the successes of the past year and looks forward to 2017-18, we once again thank ALDP’s sponsors and the many resource people across campus whose support and contributions of time and expertise have made the Program’s work possible in 2016-17.


1: All data on this page, and unless otherwise indicated, from ALDP year-end questionnaire, administered May 2017, completed by 24 of 56 cohort members (43%). Percentages represent combined responses in two categories, “Agree” and “Strongly agree.” We are happy to provide the complete collection of responses to the year-end questionnaire on request.

2: Sources : Feedback forms completed in ALDP workshops and studios from September – April, 2017. The Planning Team did not collect participant feedback at the third and final workshop of the Program year, held on May 9, 2017.

3: Source: Year-end questionnaire. Respondents were asked to indicate the workshops and studios that they found particularly valuable; the three listed above were named most frequently.

4: 15 of the 24 cohort members who participated in coaching (63%) completed this questionnaire.

5: 7 of 11 respondents (64%) reported already making a change as a result of participating in the ALI. Three of the four who reported that they had not yet made such a change said that they were likely to do so in the future.