New program creates a pipeline for critical leadership positions

EDP group shot sizedExecutive Development Program 2014 graduates from left to right: Mark Hickson, Jeff Engler, Tracee Synco, Nir Menachemi, Molly Wasko, Lisa Schwiebert, Janelle Chiasera, David Yother and Kristi Menear. Nine senior-level faculty and staff graduated from UAB’s Executive Development Program, the first group to complete the two-year program to prepare employees for executive leadership.

This inaugural class was chosen from nominations submitted by deans and vice presidents, who had worked with Human Resources to identify the characteristics and skills needed to succeed in these roles. A second cohort was chosen this past year, and a third — the class of 2016 – will be selected this summer.

“These are people who have big plans; they are ambitious and want to make UAB a better place,” said Emily Wykle, organizational development manager. “EDP provides an opportunity for them to develop the leadership competencies that our deans and vice presidents have told us are critical for success at the executive level at UAB.”

Some of the key advanced leadership competencies identified are the ability to champion change, think strategically, support innovation and navigate complexity. 

Nir Menachemi sizedNir Menachemi, Ph.D.Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., director of the doctoral program in public health, said he was happy to have the opportunity to improve his leadership skills.

“The EDP forces you to spend a dedicated amount of time developing yourself — something that with a full-plate, you never have any time to do,” Menachemi said. “But in order to improve at anything — whether you are learning how to play a musical instrument, fly a plane or become a more effective leader — you need dedicated time to practice the skill.”

Janelle Chiasera, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, said she feels she benefited most from the relationships built between the participants and the hands-on learning.

“This program not only provided me with knowledge and skills, but also an opportunity to use those skills hands-on with real world problems,” Chiasera said.

Leadership pipeline

Janelle Chiasera sizedJanelle Chiasera, Ph.D.

Wykle said the program benefits UAB in two ways:

  • It creates a pipeline of prepared leaders who can step into to critical roles, and
  • It help retains strong leaders who might otherwise leave UAB for opportunities at other institutions.

Through the program, participants meet with executive leadership to gather insights, and they also learn from each other, leaders at other universities and their executive coaches, Wykle said.

“EDP is a customized development experience,” Wykle said. “Each participant develops an individual development plan. That plan likely will include executive coaching, mentoring, site visits to other universities, special projects, conference attendance, etc. It is the roadmap for their program experience. In addition, we provide some classroom training on topics that would be valuable to all participants, such as how to have difficult conversations.”

Kristi Menear, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Human Studies, said her individual development plan was focused on her needs at the beginning of the program but was flexible enough to be modified as her skills, abilities and knowledge increased.

“With this combined approach of group and individual activities, I continuously learned and applied new information about the university, higher education or myself,” Menear said. “And, I was accountable to the EDP leadership for my growth. We were asked to give feedback about the group activities, suggest new activities kristi menear sizedKristi Menear, Ph.D.and provide progress reports on our individual development plans. This was a very intensive program with tremendous benefits to me and the university.”

David Yother, director of Enterprise Technology Services and graduate of the program, expected the program to be more focused on building individual leadership skills, but that was not the case.

“What I found — and enjoyed — was the program became more of a team effort, and interaction with fellow members was critical to success,” Yother said.

Yother said he particularly liked the critical conversation sessions, which helped him with his professional and staff relationships. “I attempt to listen more and understand situations before weighing in or making a quick decision,” Yother said.

Training, however, does not guarantee participants an executive-level position.

“The program provides opportunities for them to develop the skills and knowledge that would make them even stronger candidates for dean or vice president positions,” Wykle said. “It also gives UAB more bench strength, so that when those types of positions become available, we have a list of people who have developed the competencies that we know are critical for those roles.”

Wykle said deans and vice presidents will be contacted this month to request nominations for the EDP class of David Yother sizedDavid Yother2016.


2014 Executive Development Program graduates

  • Janelle Chiasera, Ph.D., chair, Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, School of Health Professions
  • Jeff Engler, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, associate dean for academic affairs in The Graduate School
  • Mark Hickson, Ph.D., professor of communication studies
  • Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., director of doctoral program in public health, School of Public Health
  • Kristi Menear, Ph.D., chair of Human Studies, School of Education
  • Lisa Schwiebert, Ph.D., professor of biology, associate dean, Office of Postdoctoral Education
  • Tracee Synco, Ph.D., executive director, Retention Initiatives and Academic Engagement, Office of the Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Success
  • Molly Wasko, Ph.D., chair, Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods, Collat School of Business
  • David Yother, director, Enterprise Technology Services, Office of the Vice President for Information Technology