Continuum Home Page - University of Utah Home Page - Alumni Association Home Page
Questions, Comments
- Table of Contents



American universities, once among the most unwavering institutions imaginable, are on the cusp of transformation, according to graduate students preparing to take on the novel challenges and opportunities of leading higher education into a new century. This group of U students has a unique vantage point from the new Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. These doctoral candidates are midlevel administrators at various Utah institutions of higher education; are participating in an educational administration program undergoing metamorphosis; and are expecting their graduation to coincide with changed values and expectations for post-secondary education. To them, everything seems to be evolving.

1 Mark Hampton

2 Suzanne Espinoza

3 Scott Marsh

4 George Bradshaw

5 Karen Kwan-Smith

"The journey that colleges provide and the journey that is reshaping the industry both are changing," observes student Mary Hasak MED'85 MBA'92, director of advising for the David Eccles School of Business. A sampling of Hasak's classmates includes managers and directors overseeing such integral administrative functions as recruitment, budgeting, development, and finance. They are academic advisors, associate deans, and information technology specialists who one day may be college or university presidents.

A willingness to entertain alternative views, spur innovation, assume responsibility for goal setting, and chart new directions has not always characterized the elitist world of American higher education. A successful administrator or college president should have broad management skills, although most "administrative" curricula are geared to prepare managers for industries and organizations. The department formerly known as Educational Administration is now called "Leadership and Policy," partly to reflect a shift in emphasis from theoretical underpinnings to desired outcomes. Programmatic changes also include learning done in conjunction with analyses conducted in the U's new Educational Policy Center, notes Gary Crow, a professor of leadership. Both are reflective of the slow-in-coming "academic revolution" that sociologists David Resman and Christopher Jencks say began 30 years ago. Alan Wolfe, a university professor at Boston University, writes in a Chronicle of Higher Education essay that the revolution is identifiable in that "faculties are no longer the gentlemanly – and somewhat amateurish – elites of yesteryear, butÉbecoming highly professional, very mobile, and confident that the university should be run by people like themselves, rather than by churches, administrators, or trustees." One of the program's compelling aspects is its emphasis on defining leadership in alignment with students' personal values.

"The governor is asking higher education to recognize that the normal way of doing business doesn't work anymore; it must continue to think outside its normal processes."

"How will you protect the interests of the members of the institution, and its students?" faculty continually ask. Given the driving forces of change in higher education that include market competition, scarce resources, and competing needs, the best choices are not altogether clear – which is why leadership skills are so essential.

Even the public's willingness to support post-secondary education at research university prices is in question, given the declining share of State General Fund expenditures going to higher education since the late 1980s. Spiraling tuition costs have added to the debate, as Utah tries to address the challenges of entering the 21st century while considering the implications of the Governor's vision of delivering education without walls. The Utah State Board of Regents has responded by undertaking master planning for the entire Utah System of Higher Education. Regents chair Charlie Johnson points out, "The governor is asking higher education to recognize that the normal way of doing business doesn't work anymore; it must continue to think outside its normal processes." So this division of the Department of Education emphasizes the application of the latest theory, research, and programmatic advancements to the practice of administration in a new era.

The Leadership and Policy program's national reputation is strong – this year it was ranked twelfth in the country by U.S. News and World Report. "Our student leaders are taught to be sensitive to both the emotional components of human interaction and the substantive issues that constituents bring to them," notes Patrick Galvin, co-director of the department's Educational Policy Center. "Successful leaders have the skills they need to make good decisions, and there is no one formula to accomplish this objective. Therefore, our students are exposed to a breadth of theories and perspectives to sensitize them to the complexity of their own minds in action, as well as to the sometimes seemingly chaotic nature of educational environments." For instance, some student leaders rely on the theory of higher education as an organized anarchy. They hold a pluralistic view that values participative decision making by the members of the institution.

After their coursework and dissertations are completed, most of these student-leaders will return to higher education administration. At least three of the 16 say they want to become college or university presidents. Their schoolwork includes examining how one produces and quantifies good relationships between people – perhaps the most vital elements in education – along with consideration of such issues as virtual education, distance learning, common course systems and numbering, performance-based budgeting, affirmative action, fairness, and equity.

With an eye toward improving the accountability of higher education to the public, John Vickroy BS'78, in the Office of Veteran Affairs at Weber State University, explains his reasons for continuing his own higher education at the U. "I study leadership and policy so that I can help improve and advance the methods that we use to meet students' needs. We can no longer think of higher learning as meaning the preparation and training of the student's mind; we must shift to a new understanding that higher education is about preparing students for life. The public wants us to educate students with a unique knowledge base and with the capacity for addressing lifelong issues," he says.

"The Educational Leadership program is really capable of guiding a new generation of administrators to react and act in a world that is diverse."

John Zamora, assistant dean in the U's College of Engineering, professor of computer science, and doctoral student in Educational Leadership, believes that higher education should provide students "tickets to the show; inviting them to see and participate in opportunities" that were previously unavailable to women and members of minority groups. He believes in higher education's value in changing the way that people see the world, making them better able to cope with a multifaceted society. He has a vision that the research and teaching that occur in universities and colleges are a fundamental part of the life processes that occur beyond the walls of academe. Zamora wants to be part of the process that "contributes a sense of life to the less-developed areas within the urban centers and the rural areas in Utah."

Doctoral candidate Karen Kwan-Smith, an academic affairs advisor at the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs at the U, credits both University President Machen and her professors for emphasizing the legitimate role that diversity plays on college campuses. "I think the Educational Leadership program is really capable of guiding a new generation of administrators to react and act in a world that is diverse. I see it as being very important that we are able to talk more actively and openly about issues that are raised by having diverse populations in our faculty and staff, and about the benefits that can come when we're actively seeking that heterogeneity," she says.

Part of the preparation for life that comes from a college education, according to another doctoral candidate, is learning to ask "why?"

"Higher education gives students permission to ask questions of themselves, of their colleagues, of the policies that govern society, and of the way that populations interact," notes Scott Marsh, chair of the Modern Dance Department. "Leadership" in higher education, especially in such a center of artistic vitality, "is really the facilitation of community, cohesiveness, high standards, and excellent research," observes Marsh. "The beauty and essence of higher education is attained through an expansion of the boundaries of our knowledge. And it is really the faculty who work together, who share their unique talents and gifts, who see the world in new ways," adding the charisma and soul to what might otherwise be a merely economic pursuit, he adds.

One of the most important questions that arises in academic settings is the one professors raise time and again: "Why do you believe that?" Kimberly Brown BS'88, an academic advisor at Weber State University, devotes herself to the development of students, assisting them with their decision-making strategies. For her, leadership is helping students see options, make good choices, and learn to balance the demands that compete for their attention. Brown says that being back in school has not only reminded her of the support from others that helped her to succeed, but that examining one's beliefs is necessary for identifying goals.

While positive about higher education's capability for introducing students to the wonders of learning, the Educational Leadership and Policy students' remarks are peppered with a sobering concern about how the public, students, parents, and taxpayers are holding up a high vocational standard as an outcome for Utah's institutions of higher learning. The University of Utah's own President Machen shares some of the same concerns. In his installation address he decried, "Some see higher education as a job factory. Especially today when the economy is booming, parents and young people are focusing on just one aspect of education. But a college education is much more than a job applicationÉ. A college education is very important to individuals in helping improve the overall quality of their lives."

Of course, these student-leaders and administrators want graduates to earn a living and obtain the jobs that they desire. But some are afraid that the drive for job training will supplant the individual's broader needs. "For too long we have built walls where we should have built the perception that good research affects the community," notes Mark Hampton BA'86 MSTAT'92, doctoral candidate and director of institutional analysis at the U. "While the University of Utah enjoys a national reputation, we also have an obligation to let our community know that our research does enhance our own local quality of life and that it is fruitful for the disciplines to conduct interdisciplinary research." Higher education will likely benefit from the current attention to competitive pressures and the movement away from autonomous disciplines, he believes. "We need to challenge present-day structures," urges Hampton. "We are almost slaves to the processes that are embodied in history; and we need to embrace a more contemporary picture, the hope of education," he says. As Hampton speaks, he searches for a metaphor for his vision. "When I think of change, I think about a butterfly flapping its wings with all the beauty and development embodied in its carriage. The improvement of society will never come if we can't move flexibly amidst the many elements of our culture."

So the students who work in changing institutions, study in an evolving University, and prepare to lead change have become acutely aware of the inflexibility that has resulted from tenured faculties, high-overhead buildings and laboratories, and orthodox management techniques.

The students' current administrative activities range from the creation of budgeting systems within electronic databases, to evaluating and developing procedures for processing student credit hours, to meeting with administrators at other institutions to develop agreements on transfer and "articulation." One supervises a staff of advisors who meet with students daily and weekly, and another conducts interviews and researches human resource policies that will best meet the contemporary needs of the faculty, staff, and student-employees of his institution.

Jeff Hoyt MPA'94 works behind the scenes at Utah Valley State College to improve its budgeting and administrative services. For him, higher education institutions are going to have an increasingly international perspective and be more detailed in documenting and managing their operations. "I hope to spend my lifetime improving administrative structures and reconceptualizing this notion of costs," Hoyt says. Improvements to the quality of students' educational experiences, he says, could come in the form of more support and development of teaching faculty and assistants, and on methods for motivating and supporting students who truly want to learn.

These student-leaders are confident of themselves and of the changing institution of higher education. Every student in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program has at least one field experience, and often more than one, in which they take theory to task. They study and debate issues in educational policy, law, human resource management, finance, organizational theory, leadership theory, ethics, research methods, and strategic planning, both in and out of the classroom.

Opportunities for student-faculty interactions are numerous and meaningful as students work on field projects that reflect the theoretical foundations of the program.

Many of them have had teamwork experiences in a cohort program, joined faculty at conferences, and networked across the state with educational officials. The opportunities for student-faculty interactions are numerous and meaningful as students work on field projects that reflect the theoretical foundations of the program.

"I think that higher education gives students the broader picture of our world; it exposes them to ways of thinking previously unexplored," notes Suzanne Espinoza, director of High School Services and Student Recruitment at the U. "It is true that there is a cost in providing higher education, but we need to incur the cost in every instance, whether or not students obtain degrees. Imagine a society of individuals who have never experienced the best that our culture has to offer, in terms of discoveries and understandings. What kind of world would that be?" she asks.

George Bradshaw, associate director of High School Services and Student Recruitment, calls the preparation of educational leaders and policy analysts a necessary process of "awakening" and an opportunity to shape a public voice that can withstand debate and dissension, since these students one day are likely to be held accountable for the success or failure of educational institutions or their programs. "You know when you've been around a leader," Bradshaw says. "You are changed in some way, and, in the end, you know that you or the office you work in is better for having experienced the person who cared, or who shared a vision, or who held a high standard."

Institutions of higher education must be willing and able to reach beyond their base in liberal education to thoughtfully engage students not only in the discovery of arts and sciences, but in a range of academic programs offered both for the sake of learning and for society's sake. The Educational Leadership and Policy Program, a course for career advancement of educational leaders, is one example. It provides people working on many different campuses with an opportunity to weigh such trends in higher education.

This sense of cultivating broader visions and understandings reflects for Bonnie Henrie, associate dean of learning resources at Utah Valley State College, "a kind of push and pull effect; on some issues there is a tugging one way, and as soon as we have some evidence and information on one perspective, then the direction shifts and we find ourselves pushing another way. This educational and policy-making process is not unlike driving a bus. Sometimes we in higher education are the drivers, and sometimes the community wants to question our direction and get behind the steering wheel." Learning to welcome that tension is also part of readying the venerable institution known as higher education for change.

– Kathy Girton BS'91 MS'94 is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. She works in academic advising for University College at the University of Utah, and teaches an independent study course in Lifelong Learning at the Gerontology Center in the College of Nursing.

Continuum Home Page - University of Utah Home Page - Alumni Association Home Page
Questions, Comments
- Table of Contents

Copyright 1999 by The University of Utah Alumni Association