USHE Women’s Leadership Exchange: Addressing underrepresentation of women in leadership positions at USHE institutions

*Pictured above from left to right: Jessica C. Hill, associate professor of psychology, UVU; Nancy Hauck, associate provost of community & global engagement, DSU

As women, it’s really difficult sometimes to rise up and be a leader at your institution without some outside assistance.
Associate Provost of Community & Global Engagement, Dixie State University Nancy Hauck

The Utah System of Higher Education Women’s Leadership Exchange program started out with two women working independently to advance women in leadership roles across the USHE system. Now, nearly two years later, the effort has culminated in a cross-institutional leadership and mentorship program for 20 women from Dixie State University to Utah State University.

Through a series of videos highlighting women in leadership in higher education for Utah Valley University, Associate Professor of Psychology Jessica C. Hill and the media team from the College of Health and Public Service interviewed Nancy Hauck, Associate Provost of Community and Global Engagement at DSU and the idea for the exchange emerged.

Elizabeth Hitch, USHE associate commissioner for academic and student affairs

During the interview, Hauck discussed how she would develop women leaders in Utah through an exchange program where women in line for leadership positions at USHE institutions could work with colleagues or mentors at another USHE institution to develop leadership skills, solve problems, and establish networks of support as Hill described her experiences pursuing support for an American Council on Education Fellowship. Hill and Hauck found an immediate connection in a vision to work toward professional advancement for women across the System.

After the interview, Hill presented her research on the state of women leaders within USHE at the Utah Women in Higher Education Network conference with two students: Chantelle Shapcott-Anderson and Gretchen Monson. Hauck then brought the idea to USHE Associate Commissioner for Academic and Student Affairs Elizabeth Hitch, and Hill, Hauck, and Hitch began moving forward with the opportunity.

At the November 2018 Board of Regents meeting, a final proposal for the program was presented and approved, with the support and oversight of Hitch. This proposal discussed the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions at Utah’s public colleges and universities, and that the UWLE program is an innovative way to combat that issue.

*Hill, J. C., Shapcott-Anderson, C., & Monson, G. (2018, April). Mending Utah’s leaky leadership pipeline. Symposium presented at Utah Women in Higher Education Network Leadership Conference, Salt Lake City, UT.

The UWLE program pairs mid-career women with high leadership potential to those already in leadership positions at Utah’s public colleges and universities to provide opportunities for professional mentorship and leadership development. Moreover, the program will give participants the opportunity to have insights into:

  • Their own leadership capacity
  • Different institutional cultures
  • The value of mentorship and leadership development
  • Constraints and opportunities within higher education in Utah; diverse perspectives on leadership roles
  • The value of networking and professional connections

In addition, the program provides mentors with those same opportunities as well as the opportunity to:

  • Develop knowledge and skills in mentorship
  • Build a cohort of colleagues with diverse perspectives on leadership
  • Expand their professional connections at other USHE institutions
  • Increase their awareness of current trends affecting USHE institutions

Through the program, participants will work on a yearlong leadership project and advance it through activities and projects surrounding the four main competencies of:

  • Leadership vision
  • Building relationships and navigating organizational complexity
  • Communicating with and influencing others
  • Executing plans and evaluating outcomes

This year, participants were nominated by their supervisors. In the future, all USHE women will self-nominate as an opportunity to gain the skills needed to advance their careers. To continue the program forward, this year’s participants will be trained as future years’ mentors. Upon completion of the program, participants will be more informed, will be on their way to achieving their stated goals, and will have a strong network of other women leaders.

Prior to the UWLE program, Hill and Hauck piloted the viability of the program through the UVSELF program through UVU, which provides an “intellectually stimulating career exploration and discovery experience for faculty and staff who have demonstrated exceptional promise in contributing to excellence at UVU.”

Participants for the UWLE program will be announced at the May Board of Regents meeting.

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