Blaze Leadership Academy alums give back through mentoring

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Dorothy OgdonDorothy OgdonThe Blaze Leadership Academy is UAB’s flagship training program for high-potential faculty and staff. The academy is accepting nominations throughout the month of November for its 2021 cohort, which will be the 12th class.

Blaze has evolved over the years, refining its offerings based on the feedback of each class, said Organizational Development Manager Gerriann Fagan. Starting with the Class of 2019-20, participants could choose to be paired with a mentor for additional development opportunities. Optional mentoring also will be offered to the Class of 2021. “Blaze is designed to support leaders who want to grow professionally and to contribute more to UAB,” Fagan said. “Mentoring provides a way for our participants to build relationships across school and unit lines and gain a broader understanding of how the institution functions.”

The academy “seemed like an ideal opportunity to learn more about the structure of the university and to broaden my understanding of what it means to be in a leadership position at an academic institution,” said Dorothy Ogdon, emerging technologies librarian for UAB Libraries, who participated in the 2019-20 Blaze cohort. “I transitioned to a new position within the UAB Libraries in 2018 and participating in Blaze was an opportunity to expand my knowledge of what I might be able to do in that role to benefit both the UAB Libraries and the university.”

Blaze Leadership Academy, a Learning & Development program, is accepting applications for its Class of 2021 through the end of November. The program is highly selective with limited enrollment. To nominate a candidate, e-mail and include the name of the person you are nominating and the reasons you are nominating them. Nominees will receive a link to a survey application, and applicants will be reviewed by a selection committee. (Learn more about criteria in this Reporter article.)

Ogdon was mentored by Karen Iles, Ph.D., director of the Office of the Conflict of Interest Review Board and a member of the Blaze Class of 2016-2017. “I appreciated the opportunity to form a mentoring relationship with someone I might not have encountered in my regular activities at UAB,” Ogdon said. “Karen was a wonderful mentor and was open to discussing a variety of topics related to program, career and professional development. It was useful to have a mentor with an academic background that was different from mine as her perspectives and insights were a good counterpoint to what I’ve learned from participating in professional development opportunities within my field. I think being able to draw from multiple perspectives will have a long-lasting benefit following my participation in the program.”

Mentors have been drawn from past participants in the academy, Fagan said. “Our Blaze alumni have a rich variety of backgrounds in terms of their professional expertise and knowledge of how to succeed at UAB,” she said.

Tim Wick, Ph.D.Tim Wick, Ph.D.“I have had many mentors at UAB who have provided valuable insights and feedback through my career,” said Tim Wick, Ph.D., associate dean for research in the School of Engineering and a member of the Blaze Class of 2009-10. This past year, Wick was mentor for the Michael Mosely, instructor and director of the School of Nursing’s Accelerated Masters in Nursing Pathway program. “I appreciate mentors outside my department, school and profession,” Wick said. “They tend to have a different perspective that can be invaluable. And as an outsider they are not part of any entrenched hierarchy, and sometimes I find that I can be more open and honest with them. I agreed to connect with Michael to learn about his challenges and successes and talk through problems and challenges with him. Michael is an accomplished nurse, teacher and administrator. He is a valuable asset for the School of Nursing and UAB, in my opinion.”

Adam RoderickAdam Roderick“Mentorship is such a critical piece to ensuring the overall health and success of a large organization like UAB,” said Adam Roderick, associate director of the UAB Career Center and a member of the academy’s 2017-18 cohort who volunteered to be a mentor for the Class of 2021. “The mentee is not the only person who benefits from these relationships. I have grown personally through serving as a mentor. Further, establishing these strong bonds of mentorship across campus benefits the overall mission and vision of the university through creating a culture of support, growth and advancement.”

Informal peer mentoring among Blaze participants is one of the key benefits of the program, Ogdon said. Even though her class found its schedule disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the circumstances we find ourselves in during 2020 provided some unique opportunities to put what we did learn in Blaze sessions to immediate use, whether that was being able to reach out to other members of our cohort during the early work-from-home period or utilizing new approaches to communication during a challenging time.”

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