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Potsdam/Canton first to finish SUNYCL program
SUNY "shared services" campuses share their pride in seven finishers
Potsdam-Canton SUNYCL participants

Left to right: Mary Dolan, Sherry Paradis, Amanda Rowley, John Wicke, Patrick
Hanss, MaryAnn Stark, Alex Jacobs, Melissa Proulx.  Not pictured: Nancy Rowledge

SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton — who together became a model for the SUNY system's strategy of cost control through resource sharing — have now applied that concept to the realm of leadership development, in the process becoming the first two SUNY colleges whose personnel have completed all elements of the SUNY College Leaders Program (SUNYCL).

The undertaking was conceived by Mary Dolan, herself a shared resource in her capacity as Assistant Vice President for Human Resources for both colleges. At her instigation, each college identified "rising stars" on their staffs, whose performance indicated a capacity to take on greater leadership roles in the future. The designated staff members were then inivited to participate in SUNYCL as a reward for their past performance and an incentive to continue developing their leadership skills in the future.

But besides being a reward and an incentive, the program was a challenge, too — as it was intended to be. The curriculum included:

  • The SUNY360 Leadership Skills Inventory, a self-administered online instrument requiring the participant to assess their current leadership skills and garner inputs from colleagues on their leadership behaviors
  • A pre-inventory workshop to prepare them for the SUNY360, and a post-inventory workshop to help them understand their results and put them to use
  • Intensive workshops targeting key elements of effective college leadership, including team building, dealing with change, and managing conflict
  • Exercising SUNYCL's option to include additional workshops of the colleges' own choosing, Potsdam and Canton enriched their program with added sessions on ethical leadership, strategic planning, and building partnerships, relationships and professional networking
  • Mentorships: recruiting a more-experienced personal adviser, then consulting with that party to gain insights on leadership challenges and how to meet them
  • A Skill-Development Project - not just a practice exercise but an in-depth task of the participant's own creation, addressing a real need or problem confronting their college

And, as another added touch, between each of their workshop sessions, the participants divided into "coaching teams" for discussions and completing assignments.

SUNYLI Organizational Development Strategist MaryAnn Stark (third from right in the photo above) facilitated the workshops; and Mary Dolan administered the program, maintaining the spirit that has become the hallmark of Potsdam and Canton's sharing relationship, for example, alternating sessions between locations on the respective campuses.

Sharing was part of the program's aftermath, too, as the participants contributed their assessments of SUNYCL's challenges and benefits. A few samples:

  • "The SUNY360 is a great tool to begin the program with...It provides insights into how you are perceived by others. Knowing this is critical to improvement."
  • "All the workshop topics were things that leaders need to be prepared for."
  • "The Skill-Development Project forced me to go outside of my comfort zone and was a valuable component."
  • "The facilitator, MaryAnn, was very engaging. She kept the sessions fun and energized. She was always available for questions in between sessions via email or phone, which was helpful."

Another comment that was heard over and over in various forms: "I feel like just being selected gave me some confidence that people believe in me and that I have leadership potential."

But the most impressive comments came, not from the participants themselves, but from their supervisors, who saw noticeable changes in the participants, among them:

  • "Gained a more complete understanding of the college."
  • "Gained additional insight and became more intentional about goals."
  • "The outward change in confidence is astonishing."
  • "Has developed into an articulate, purposeful, and confident professional."

The Potsdam/Canton SUNY College Leaders participants:
Sherry Paradis, Director of Donor Relations, Potsdam
Melissa Proulx, Assistant Director of Human Resources, Potsdam
John Wicke, Development Officer, Potsdam
Alex Jacobs, Media Relations Manager, Potsdam
Pat Hanss, Director of Physical Plant, Canton
Amanda Rowley, Assistant to the VP of Administration, Canton
Nancy Rowledge, Assistant Director of Human Resources, Canton

For more information about SUNYCL, visit our Publications Center via the link at the top of the sidebar. Or call SUNYLI at 315-214-2428. Or send us an email message.