This fall we were fortunate to welcome our newest cohort of Academic Leadership Fellows (ALF) for 2023-2024 and provide a venue for the 2022-2023 Academic Leadership Fellows to showcase their project findings. As part of the ALF experience, each fellow is paired with a campus leader to gain first-hand exposure to academic administration. Fellows also receive mentorship as they work on a project that aligns their leadership interests with institutional priorities. The following provides a brief synopsis of the projects each of the 2022-2023 Fellows worked on this past year.

Project: Radically Imagining Flourishing Leadership at Michigan State University

M. Isabel Ayala, Director, Chicano/Latino Studies and Associate Professor, Sociology
Mentor: Chris Long, Dean, College of Arts & Letters

Dr. Ayala’s work centered on the idea that it is “vital to address body, mind, and spirit not only because it motivates individuals to achieve a deeper understanding of self but also, of community connection”. Most current motivation practices in higher education ignore and devalue these dimensions; however, leaders can change this by fostering environments that “ground relationships on communal, holistic, and spiritual growth and development”. These practices are shown to not only increase levels of engagement but also lead to overall performance improvement as people begin to feel heard and be seen. By conducting a review of current literature and participant observations, Dr. Ayala was able to develop a set of guidelines to foster Flourishing Leadership that center equity and inclusion and encourage habits of self-reflection. As levels of negative emotion and disengagement continue to increase, these ideas of Flourishing Leadership offer a way to radically reimagine our institutional environments as places to “create and fulfill joyful lives”.

Project: Arts Impact Assessment Framework

Stephen DiBenedetto, Professor and Chair, Theatre, College of Arts and Letters
Mentor: Judith Stoddart, Associate Provost, University Collections and Arts Initiatives

As MSU implements a new Arts Initiative, Dr. DiBenedetto decided to focus his attention on better understanding how the impact of institutional arts and creative activities are assessed. While there are not currently any methods accepted for arts assessment, there is acknowledgment that this is a problem. Dr. DiBenedetto’s project focused on researching and analyzing arts frameworks from different agencies at the national and international level and investigating potential ways of categorizing impact of traditional and non-traditional artistic practices. “The goal of this project is to generate a report proposing target measures that demonstrate the breadth of creative arts production, research, and pedagogy within a R1 context to better align arts efforts to the institutional strategic plan.”

Project: Promoting Equity: Equity in the Promotion of Women to Full Professors at MSU

Ayalla Ruvio, Associate Professor, Marketing, Eli Broad College of Business
Mentor: Mary Finn, Dean, College of Social Science

Despite increased attention, the gender gap is still prevalent for women in the academy and is most prominent for those at mid-career and beyond. Dr. Ruvio first examined data at MSU to understand the distribution of gender across the tenure-system ranks and complement those findings by interviewing tenure-system women to identify both professional barriers as we well as systematic institutional barriers to promotion. Building on current literature and the interviews, a series of solutions were brought forward that “encompass accountability, policy adjustments, family support, and cultural transformation to foster a more inclusive academic landscape.” A summary of efforts other RI institutions are introducing to mitigate gender bias was also developed.

Project: Implementation of the Student Perceptions of Learning Environments Policy (SPLEP) and Student Perceptions of Learning Survey (SPLS)

Peter Savolainen, MSU Foundation Professor & Interim Chair, Civil & Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
Mentor: Marilyn Amey, Assistant Provost, Faculty and Academic Staff Development

Decades have passed since MSU last updated the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) and the Student Public Evaluation System Policy [SOCT]. Dr. Savolainen focused his project to help with the development and implementation of a new policy and accompanying Student Perceptions of Learning Survey (SPLS). Participating in all aspects of the change, Dr. Savolainen navigated governance and institutional steps as this tool was brought online and introduced to instructors and leaders. His contributions not only helped with gathering feedback from instructors throughout the process but also educated leaders and instructors on how to use the tool and guided conversations about the available data and how it should (or should not) be used in evaluations.

Project: NIH and NSF Grants Funding Rate at MSU: Are there differences based on social identifiers?

Irving Vega, Associate Professor, Translational Neuroscience, College of Human Medicine
Mentor: Doug Gage, Vice President for Research and Innovation

Dr. Vega set out to identify inequalities in the probability of securing successful research funding. To research this question, Dr. Vega analyzed MSU submissions to NIH and NSF from 2010-2019 to determine if race/ethnicity and/or sex played a role in the faculty member’s success getting funded. Inequalities do exist when it comes to some funding, especially when it comes to intersectionality of social identifiers of female Hispanic/Latina’s. Findings from the project led to a series of recommendations for the institution:

  • Enhance data recording accuracy to assess institutional factors that may contribute to funding rate disparities.
  • Conversation with researchers from underrepresented backgrounds to design a process that enhances funding rates.
  • Enhance institutional collaborations and maximize use of/access to available resources.
  • Sponsorship to enhance exposure of research projects and advocate for policy changes.

Our newest cohort of fellows

  • Honglei Chen, Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Human Medicine
    Mentored by Doug Gage, Vice President for Research and Innovation
  • Bree Holtz, Associate Professor, Advertising and Public Relations, College of Communication  Arts and Sciences
    Mentored by Judith Stoddart, Vice Provost for University Arts and Collections
  • Kari Kammel, Director, Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection
    Mentored by, Eric Hegg, Associate Dean, College of Natural Science
  • Isoken (Nicholas) Olomu, Associate Professor, Pediatrics & Human Development, College of   Human Medicine
    Mentored by Chris Long, Dean, College of Arts and Letters and Honor’s College and Sonja Fritzsche, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Letters
  • Lyudmila Sakhanenko, Interim Chairperson, Statistics and Probability, College of Natural  Science
    Mentored by Narayanan Parameswaran, Associate Dean, College of Human Medicine

We thank our outgoing cohort of fellows for the extremely important work they invested in over the past year, and we look forward to what our new fellows will accomplish in the year to come.