Faculty and Academic Staff Leadership

Wayne State University
Academic Leadership Academy

Program Objective and Mission2022-23 Academic Leadership Academy Cohort

Wayne State University (WSU) is committed to developing effective academic leaders who empower others by working with them collegially to achieve common goals, build a community of scholars, teachers, and practitioners, and sustain a high level of morale and engagement. To this end, the Office of the Provost has created the WSU Academic Leadership Academy (ALA) to support the development of the leadership skills and capacity of WSU faculty and academic staff. ALA aspires to increase the number and broaden the impact of skilled leaders at WSU who can contribute to the mission of the University and enhance the lives of its students, employees, and surrounding community members.

The ALA is a one-year program designed for represented faculty and academic staff who have some knowledge and experience working toward the mission of WSU and in their areas of expertise and are prepared to build their capacity to be more effective leaders at WSU in their disciplines, departments, schools/colleges/units, and/or communities, in either formal and informal leadership roles. Program participants, known as ALA Fellows, will build on their emerging leadership skills by applying what they learn during the Academy to their current roles as well as to a leadership project or special focus of their choice.

Apply for the ALA | ALA in the News | Frequently Asked Questions | 2023-24 Program Curriculum

Program components include:

  • A one-day leadership retreat in August to orient Fellows to the work of the Academy
  • Monthly in-person seminars of approximately 3 hours (September through May, held on a Friday)
  • Monthly meetings with project sponsors and ALA coaches
  • Digital peer mentoring sessions
  • A Hogan Personality Inventory assessment, with a debrief led by the Department of Psychology
  • Fellows should identify a specific aspect of their current role that they will apply their ALA experiences to, with the goal of becoming more effective leaders in that particular area, OR design a leadership project that aligns with the WSU Strategic Plan to improve some facet of WSU life, with the goal of practicing and demonstrating leadership skills discussed in the ALA.
  • ALA Fellows will be invited to continue their leadership development after the one-year program by participating in future ALA seminars and offerings.

Apply for the ALA 2024-25 (deadline: End of day, April 26)

Stock photo of a working group.News about the Academic Leadership Academy

2023-2024 ALA cohort announced
2022-23 ALA cohort announced
Academic Leadership Academy welcomes new cohort, diverse group of collaborative projects
Academic Leadership Academy announces second cohort
Inaugural Academic Leadership Academy Launches First Cohort
Needed: Leadership Training for Faculty and Academic Staff (Inside Higher Ed)

Contact Information

If you have any additional questions regarding the academy, please contact:

Sara Kacin
Assistant Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Success
Director, Office for Teaching & Learning

Frequently asked questions

  • Why was the Academic Leadership Academy (ALA) created?

    The ALA was created to offer leadership training to full-time faculty and academic staff, who often do not have the opportunity to engage in leadership development and mentoring prior to taking on informal and formal leadership roles. The aim of the ALA is to offer leadership development and mentoring in a systematic and evidence-based way to grow the leadership capacity of current and emerging academic leaders who can empower others to be successful in their endeavors at WSU, in their disciplines, and in their communities.

  • Who contributed to the design of the Academic Leadership Academy?

    The ALA is a collaborative effort. At the behest of Provost Whitfield, Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Success convened a steering committee of experts in leadership research and practice across the university. These include Dawn Aziz (Human Resources), Marcus Dickson (Psychology/CLAS), Loraleigh Keashly (Communication/CFPCA), Leah Robinson (Academic Support/SOM), Amanuel Tekleab (Management and Information Systems/MISB), and Ricardo Villarosa (DOSO). In turn, the Associate Provost and steering committee consulted the literature and other experts at WSU. The ALA is based on evidence-based practices and will continue to evolve with input from the WSU community and ongoing assessment of the program.

  • Who is eligible to apply for the Academic Leadership Academy?

    To apply, faculty and staff must be represented by one of WSU's unions, regardless of length of service.

    At this time, non-represented WSU employees are not eligible to apply.

  • What is the Leadership Project?

    The Leadership Project is an optional part of the Academic Leadership Academy (ALA) experience. The aim of the Leadership Project is for Fellows to apply their ALA leadership learnings to concrete actions that are aligned with the mission of the university and improve the lives of campus community members. While it may not be possible to complete a project in the one-year timeframe of the ALA, the process of working on the project, refining goals, and/or redirecting to a new project offers ALA Fellows with many opportunities to achieve the learning outcomes of the ALA.

  • Is a Leadership Project optional?


    In an effort to make the ALA accessible to a wider cohort within the university, identifying a specific leadership project will now be optional. If they prefer, prospective Fellows should focus on a specific aspect of their current role where they wish to enhance their effectiveness through leadership development. This could be through chairing a committee, taking responsibility for improving an internal process, or any number of everyday activities that can benefit from informal leadership. If prospective fellows choose not to propose a project, their application should instead focus on why they want to improve their leadership skills.


  • How does one develop an idea for a Leadership Project?

    ALA applicants may already have ideas for projects based on their research, teaching, and service experiences at the university; however, it is recommended that applicants discuss possible ideas with their supervisors or unit heads (e.g., Directors, Chairs, Deans) to ensure they have adequate support from their unit leadership and to investigate other project ideas that might align with their units’ missions. If a project may be relevant to the university at large, it is also recommended that applicants contact the Provost’s Office to connect with staff who may support the goals of the project. For more information, contact the Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Success.

  • What is the scope of an ideal Leadership Project?

    The answer to this question depends on the extent to which groundwork has already been laid, whether the project fits into a larger pre-existing plan for a unit, professional goals of the Fellow, etc… However, the following considerations may be helpful when proposing a leadership project:

    • Fellows should be able to make progress on a project in one year (knowing that as the project progresses, significant revisions or changes in course may be required).
    • The project should align with unit and/or university mission and strategic plan.
    • The project should offer the opportunity to apply ALA learnings including networking and collaboration (see ALA Learning Outcomes).
    • Avoid projects that include proprietary or confidential information because Fellows will be sharing project ideas with ALA Fellows and facilitators
    • If two or more people propose a leadership project to work on together, address how each person will take the lead on different aspects of the project. What will be in place to ensure that each person will be able to work toward their own leadership goals?
  • What are some examples of leadership projects that would be appropriate for the ALA?

    Below is a sampling of Leadership Project ideas. Note that ALA applicants need not restrict themselves to these ideas:

    • Collect and analyze data on faculty engagement in international research collaborations to offer recommendations to your unit and the Office of International Programs for supporting these collaborations
    • Develop a teaching and learning program with the Office for Teaching and Learning for graduate teaching assistants in your department or discipline
    • Create a holistic graduate admissions process in your unit
    • Create a collaborative learning community with the Office of Student Success to enhance faculty and academic staff partnerships Develop a program to enhance social media coverage of your unit’s staff (or student, or faculty) accomplishments
    • Create a speed networking and mentoring event for women across roles and units
    • Create a new undergraduate recruitment program for your department in collaboration with Enrollment Management
    • Propose new faculty-student engagement initiatives based on data collected in collaboration with Dean of Students Office Work with professional societies to create a mentoring program for STEM researchers of color at Wayne State University
    • Develop a transfer student success program with community colleges in collaboration with Educational Outreach to promote student success in a department
    • In collaboration with Enrollment Management, develop informational resources for employers about best practices promoting higher education among their employees
    • Develop a financial literacy toolkit for all students, with special attention to first-generation and Pell-eligible students, in collaboration with Financial Aid
  • What are Sponsors and Mentors and why are they required for the ALA?

    A premise of the ALA is that collaboration and reflective practice (e.g., self-reflection to improve one’s effectiveness) are key ingredients of success. Thus, Sponsors and Mentors facilitate and support the success of ALA Fellows. Although there may be overlap in the functions of Sponsors and Mentors, there are also differences:

    • Sponsors are people in positions to advance your leadership project goals or your personal growth. They can champion a project by providing informational resources and networking opportunities (and sometimes financial resources) to achieve a shared goal. If you’re not working on a specific project, they may be someone who can provide or help you identify opportunities to grow as a leader. They may or may not be a direct supervisor.
    • Mentors are personally invested in your development and provide feedback to enhance your professional development. They can also serve as confidential sounding boards. Like Sponsors, Mentors may or may not be the direct supervisor.

    It is recommended that the Sponsor and the Mentor be different people. One reason is that Sponsors may not always have the time to provide appropriate mentorship; another is that Fellows may not want to reveal the need for assistance to Sponsors who may evaluate project success.

  • How do I identify appropriate Sponsors and Mentors?

    Having a Sponsor ensures that the proposed project aligns with strategic goals and is feasible. The Sponsor can provide valuable feedback about the scope of your project, and help you identify possible team members to assist you. The Mentor helps you develop your skills so you can be more effective as you work on your leadership project. You may already have people in mind but if not, we can provide some assistance. Please contact Assistant Provost Sara Kacin (skacin@wayne.edu) to consult on appropriate Sponsors and Mentors.

  • How do I approach a potential Sponsor or Mentor if I do not already have one?

    Here are some suggestions

    A brief email to the potential Sponsor or Mentor explaining your reason for contacting them and asking for an in-person meeting to discuss further is recommended. If you already know the candidates, you may choose to contact them in the typical way you have in the past.

    If you approach a potential Sponsor or Mentor during the application stage, be sure to explain that you are applying for the program and are considering project ideas. It’s important that Sponsors and Mentors understand that your interest does not necessarily mean that you will be admitted to the program and have the time to work on the project. It’s also possible that your ideas may change after initiating the leadership program. Better to be express interest but be tentative.

    In addition, if you have a project idea, present it in a manner that invites Sponsor feedback and ideas. Presenting a fully formed idea without asking for their input may give the impression that you are not willing to collaborate.

    Be prepared to explain why you are interested in participating in the leadership academy. In addition, here are several phrases or questions you can use when meeting with potential candidates:

    • “I’m interested in doing a project on XXXXXXX (general topic area) because YYYYYYY (your observations, evidence). I’ve respected your work in XXXXX and think you have some great insights/experience in this area. What do you think is the next right step for a project in this area?”
    • “Right now, I’m thinking of doing XXXX, YYYY, and ZZZZ as part of my project. What do you think about that?”
    • “How might this idea align with the strategic goals of the university/your unit?”
    • “As part of this program, I will be expected to meet with a Sponsor at least once per month to ensure that I am making progress on the leadership project. Is this something you would be able to do?”
    • “At this point, would you be interested in serving as my Sponsor?” (share with them the application, program information, and FAQs)
  • How are diversity and inclusion addressed in the ALA?

    Diversity and inclusion work is a foundational value of WSU and thus, a core value of ALA. The application of best practices in diversity and inclusion is also stated as an outcome of the ALA. It is expected that Fellows will share the value that diversity and inclusion is a necessary principle for successful academic leadership. Therefore, Fellows may wish to consider the value of diversity broadly defined in their networks (including Sponsors and Mentors) and teams. It is beneficial to learn from a variety of people who may be able to contribute unique and valuable perspectives to promote the success of the leadership project. In addition, even if a leadership project is not framed as a diversity and inclusion project, it is expected that Fellows will be open to discussing with facilitators, Sponsors, Mentors, and peers how their projects can be refined to consider and/or address the needs of diverse populations.

  • What is the timeline for the selection process and beginning of the program?
    • Mid-January: Program marketing begins
    • Mid-April: Deadline to apply
    • End of April: Selections made
    • August (after contract year start date): Program begins
    • The following August (after contract year start date): Program concludes
  • What happens after the yearlong program is over?
    Once a Fellow, always a Fellow. ALA Fellows are invited to serve as mentors for future cohorts of Fellows and are invited to future monthly seminars to continue to develop their leadership potential. Other ideas for involving ALA Fellows in the work of enhancing leadership capacity at WSU are welcome.
  • I want to apply to the ALA: how should I format my Leadership Project or Leadership Focus Description document?

    For submission to the ALA selection committee, we recommend you prepare your responses to the following questions/prompts in a single PDF document using 1-inch margins, single-spacing, and no smaller than 11-point Arial font. Please limit this to no more than three pages.

    • Describe your tentative project idea and its mission relevance or describe how the area you've chosen to focus on will impact your unit and the university.
      • When writing this, consider that the selection committee is well-educated but not experienced in your domain.
      • Avoid jargon and abbreviations.
      • Please explain how the project or focus will not only advance the mission of your program or unit but how it may enhance other units or the broader university community.
    • If you are leading a project: 
      • Discuss how you will build and facilitate a team to move the project forward; as this is a leadership project, the committee anticipates/expects that the project will require working and coordinating with others to achieve.
      • Explain how you might reach out and collaborate with colleagues or another unit with a similar project underway or already completed, if applicable. See some examples of previous ALA projects.
      • Detail why you should lead a team to advance this project. (Preference is given to projects that build on your existing skills and knowledge but may be "stretch" or "boundary-spanning" projects that will enable you to develop new skills, knowledge, and networks).  
      • Identify 3-5 learning outcomes that you expect to achieve by working on this project. To help you reflect on your specific outcomes:
        • What are you trying to achieve?
        • What are you hoping to learn by doing this project?
        • How will working on a project like this help you develop as an academic leader?
    • If you are focusing on a specific area within your current role: 
      • Discuss why you hope to enhance your leadership skills and the impact that could have within your unit or department.
      • How does your area of focus require working and coordinating with others?