PESLA personnel present on Purdue program at national conference

College of Engineering professional staff members recently delivered a well-received presentation about Purdue Engineering Staff Leadership Academy (PESLA) at the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation (NCCI) Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado.
CoE staff Marsha Freeland and Eric VandeVoorde pictured at the 2019 Network for Change and Continuous Innovation (NCCI) Annual Conference, where they, along with Will Sondgerath, gave a presentation and discussion session on the Purdue Engineering Staff Leadership Academy (PESLA) program.

Presenters were Marsha Freeland, director of Faculty Success Programs; Eric VandeVoorde, director of Professional Engineering Master’s Programs; and Assistant Dean for Staff and Director of Administration Will Sondgerath.

PESLA, a program specifically offered to CoE Administrative/Professional (A/P) and Management/Professional (M/P) staff members, began in February 2017 and produced 10 graduates in January 2019. The current cohort comprises 12 staff members.

PESLA is a two-year, customized leadership development program in which select staff engage in real-world case studies, small group discussions, and interactive presentations with the goal of encouraging them to lead in ways that support larger institutional objectives. In the first year, participants learn about all areas of the University. In the second year, they put their knowledge to work in a research project related to their work in the College. At the conclusion of the program, participants have the opportunity for a third year as a program leadership team member.

PESLA generates benefits for the College, including serving as a retention tool for valuable staff, assisting with succession planning for key administrative roles, and functioning as a recruiting incentive for staff outside the institution.

“Our leadership team is proud of PESLA’s success in contributing to a more capable, engaged staff in the College of Engineering while simultaneously breaking down silos across functional areas throughout the University,” VandeVoorde said. “We are eager to share the PESLA program with colleagues at other institutions with the goal of encouraging similar staff development programs to be created.”

During the NCCI conference, Purdue presenters engaged with the audience by jointly building a menu of professional development opportunities offered for staff at each attendee’s respective institution. Freeland, Sondgerath, and VandeVoorde also facilitated brief small group discussions with attendees focused on what drives peak performance among supervisees and colleagues.

The CoE team delivered three distinct outcomes for those attending their session:

  • A defined blueprint for designing a staff-led professional development program at their respective institutions
  • Tools for attendees to recognize how to successfully build the necessary coalition of stakeholders, including administrative leadership, for program approval and implementation
  • Opportunity for attendees to evaluate program curriculum, including incorporation of formative and summative feedback from cohort members

Multiple Big Ten institutions were represented at the conference, both as presenters and participants.

The Purdue presentation drew high marks from attendees, including Ralph A. Gigliotti, director of Leadership Development and Research at Rutgers University.

“I was especially interested in learning more about the presenters’ ideas for engaging past participants of the program in an advisory capacity. The PESLA initiative seems quite like an impressive undertaking with a number of tangible and intangible benefits for the college and institution,” he said.

Gigliotti, who works out of the Rutgers Center for Organizational Leadership and is a part-time lecturer, added that there is a “scarcity of high-quality leadership development programs across higher education – particularly programs that are focused, experiential, and collaborative – and the interdisciplinary and staff-centered approach to the PESLA program is one from which others can learn.”

PESLA and its participants have produced a number of dynamic new projects. A few of those include Grad School 101: An Online Course, Online Education Showcase Week, Student Success Database, ABET Student Outcomes Transition, Forming the Right Research Team, and Engineering Outreach: Website Proposal.