Leadership Administration / Management

In being elected President of York St John Students’ Union (YSJSU), I was lucky enough to gain a year’s full-time professional experience at a level that allowed me to be involved in institutional practice and policy formation at the highest level at York St John University and within the organizational framework of the Students’ Union itself.  ACPA’s professional competency model (2007) identifies four sub-competencies for this skill-set, and in reflecting on my experience at YSJSU and various other leadership roles since, I am confident that I satisfy enough of the criteria to consider this as one of my advanced competencies.

The first of this skill-set’s sub-competencies is Resource Management.  To evidence my experience in achieving this advanced level, I have attached three artifacts: the proposed committee structure and accompanying narrative that coincided with YSJSU’s 2006-07 governance reviewYSJSU’s 2006-11 strategic plan, and a paper written by myself and two classmates that evaluates the current crisis management plan at Owen’s Community College as part of our crisis management class in the Spring 2009 semester.

My term at YSJSU coincided with changes to legislation within the British government with regards to charity law.  At the time I began my term, the majority of Students’ Unions were classified as exempt charities deriving their charitable status from the universities they were associated with.  Once fully implemented, the Charities Act (Parliament of the United Kingdom, 2006) was to remove this exempt status for all SUs.  The 2006 Act was implemented in stages, with the removal of exempt status being proposed for 2008.  This change to the law meant that the Students’ Union needed to revise its committee structure in order to be fully compliant with the new provisions.

During this period, I liaised with our Senior Volunteer Development Coordinator, General Manager, and Finance Manager to conduct a full governance review of the organization.  The Charities Act of 2006 required that all registered charities file annual reports, and be open to review and investigation by the Charity Commission.  Also, any non-primary purpose activities (such as the commercial services of the SU) were to be carried out through a trading subsidiary, which we implemented in the form of the York St John Students’ Union Trading Company, of which I served as the Chief Executive.

Prior to the changes in charity law, the SU President, VP of Student Activities, and VP of Education and Welfare were the sole trustees of the organization.  The stipulations placed on us by losing our exempt status required us to alter our committee structure to include two external trustees, an external finance committee, and also a legal compliance committee that allowed us access to the professional expertise of administrators in the field of human resources, higher education, and charity law.  In conducting the governance review, it was necessary to assess the resources available to the organization as well as to the institution itself, giving us a clear idea of which elements we needed to outsource.  The process also required a comprehensive review of the organization’s long-term planning and budgeting processes.

In the Spring 2009 semester at BGSU, I enrolled in a crisis management class that focused largely on institutional planning and resource management as it relates to the planning, prevention, response, recovery, and learning processes of crisis management (Zdziarski, Rollo, & Dunkel, 2007).  In order to fully understand the importance of the planning stage and its appropriate steps, we read a great amount of literature, including Harper, Patterson, and Zdziarski’s Crisis Management: Responding From the Heart (2007).  In this NASPA publication, Paterson writes about the importance of establishing set protocols and terms of reference for a crisis response team, as well as the need to create a crisis audit.  As a capstone to this class, we exhibited our learning throughout the semester by evaluating the existing crisis management plan of Owen’s Community College, and presented our findings to them in a written document.

My experience in conducting YSJSU’s governance review and working with my classmates at BGSU to assess and make recommendations for institutional resource management, campus-wide protocols and long-term planning specific to crisis management helped me to develop my competency in facilities management as defined by ACPA in the leadership and management competency (2007, p. 10).

ACPA also highlights fiscal management as a professional sub-competency in leadership & management (2007, p. 11).  As President of YSJSU, I also acted as trustee and chief financial officer.  Although a great deal of the financial management for the organization was deferred to our finance manager, I was required to approve large-scale spending and provide oversight of the organization’s budgeting process.  I worked closely with the finance manager, executive committee and general manager to allocate funding to the various services and departments within the SU, and also liaised with the institution to negotiate our “block grant”, a nominal sum provided from government funding through the university to fund our non-commercial services.  Although I was unsuccessful in persuading the university that our financial reserves must not be taken into account when deciding upon the level of our subvention, I do believe that this experience was valuable in helping me achieve ACPA’s description of basic fiscal management ability: “Basic accounting techniques for budgeting, monitoring and processing expenditures. Appropriate use of fiscal resources assigned to area.” (ACPA, 2007, p.11).

Technology management is also highlighted as a necessary sub-competency by ACPA (2007, p.11).  Specifically, the matrix describes a “demonstrated ability to discern the pace in which technological advances should appropriately be incorporated into organizational life (with students, staff and other constituents)” (ACPA. 2007, p.11).  While at YSJSU, I suggested to the executive committee that the implementation of online voting would be advantageous in increasing voter turnout for the 2006 Union Council elections.  We launched a pilot program and tested its effectiveness, resulting in an overwhelming increase in the number of voters as opposed to a standard ballot station system.  I also implemented a policy that allowed for campaigning through social networks during this election, which was also suggested to be a cause for the increase in voter turnout.

I believe my understanding of social media and its benefits to the democratic process allowed for greater student representation in the final electoral vote, which is why I consider myself to be advanced in this area.  I continued to use online voting for executive officer elections in my position at the Oldham College, which again proved to be a success.  At BGSU, one of my roles as a conduct officer is to monitor complaints about students relating to digital copyright infringement.  After it became clear that the current educational initiatives put in place to prevent students from illegal file-sharing were not achieving the desired results, I worked with a peer to create an online educational initiative related to copyright issues.  I have included this as an artifact as it has been implemented as a minimum sanction for students who violate the student code of conduct relating to illegal file-sharing, and because ITS has also agreed to use it within their system as a proactive educational tool.

Finally, the resource management sub-competency highlights “green” management as a necessary skill within leadership and management.  ACPA describes an advanced “green” manager as someone who “champion[s] sustainability efforts within unit and across the organization [and] facilitate[s] institutional support for broadening sustainability efforts” (ACPA, 2007, p.11). While at YSJSU I achieved this level by being involved in a number of “green” initiatives, first as the advisor to the environmental and ethical committee, and second by sitting on the university’s LA21 committee (formed to ensure sustainable practice within the institution).

I also enrolled the organization in the Sound Impact Awards conducted by the National Union of Students.  Involvement in the Sound Impact Awards required a year-long process of reviewing and implementing sustainable practice throughout the organization.  In our first year we achieved the bronze standard at the annual awards ceremony, and sustainability policies put in place during my tenure led to the achievement of the silver standard one year later.  I have included the commendation of YSJSU’s practices taken from the Sound Impact Annual Report as an artifact for this competency.

Another aspect of ACPA’s sub-competencies listed under leadership and management is human resources (ACPA, 2007, p.11). The wide, although shallow range of experiences I enjoyed at YSJSU provided me with basic competencies in the area of human resources.  My first experience supervising came in the form of supervising the general manager of the Students’ Union.  Although it were a unique dynamic, with my supervisee having 15 years of experience in the field and I having only just graduated from my BA, she was adamant that we stay true to the supervisor-supervisee relationship as she believed it would be a valuable experience for me.

I quickly developed familiarity with the basic aspects of supervision and managed to apply them with great effect during the general manager’s extended absence due to illness.  During this time, I acted as the direct supervisor to the finance manager, commercial services manager, marketing and media coordinator, and senior volunteer development coordinator.  I learned the importance of equity when motivating and leading others in an organizational environment, an idea that was conceptualized more clearly when I took the Theory and Assessment of Educational Environments class in my third semester at BGSU.

To exhibit my competency in organizational development as a sub-competency of leadership and administration (ACPA, 2007, p.12), I have included four artifacts. The first is the YSJSU Strategic Plan 2006-2011. This five year plan was created and implemented at the start of my tenure to ensure that all involved in the organization were working towards a shared vision. The two-year maximum term for sabbatical officers was rarely utilized, and so leadership tended to change every July, which led to problems implementing long-term initiatives. The strategic plan was intended to reflect on our values and mission statement, consider internal and external stakeholders, assess opportunities and threats to the organization’s success, and to set long-term goals that future sabbatical officers would be mandated to work towards. The plan’s detailed objectives and action plan demonstrates my ability to “facilitate continuous improvement strategies and techniques that leads to improvement at the unit level” (ACPA, 2007, p.12). The process of creating and implementing this document was an incredible experience and I would relish a similar opportunity in the future.

The strategic plan also demonstrates my advanced competency in being an agent for change, described by ACPA as “demonstrated understanding of how to identify key stakeholders, how to facilitate collaborative processes, and how to garner decision-maker support (internal/external) that effects significant and/or complex change on campus” (ACPA, 2007, p.12).  I originally presented the strategic plan to the university board of governors and again to the institution’s management team. Following strong connections made with the office for institutional advancement, we also garnered support from alumni for the raising of funds to go towards the creation of a new students’ union building.

The second artifact I will be including for organizational development is the PESTLE Analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental) that considered factors influencing the Students’ Union, which is taken from the strategic plan itself.  This analysis demonstrates my ability to “carefully assess on-going shifts in the cultural landscape as it affects the work of student affairs and how these shifts lead to developing and implementing organizational strategies that reflect one’s understanding of the impact of these strategies on the landscape” (ACPA, 2007, p.12).

The document also exhibits my ability to consider upcoming changes in politics and culture that would directly affect the organization and plan appropriately for them.  This is a skill I have developed further in my role as a graduate assistant, regularly reading Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Higher Education Legal Alert to stay aware of external changes in protocol that might affect my practice.

I have included YSJSU’s annual evaluative report from 2007 as an artifact that “demonstrates ability to lead, motivate, influence, inspire, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization” (ACPA, 2007, p.12).  This report highlights the major successes of the union during my term as President, including the Sound Impact Awards bronze standard and becoming one of the first unions to enroll in the Students Union Evaluation Initiative (SUEI), a program created to benchmark and evaluate best practices within individual unions.  I have also included the syllabus from the leadership class I took in the Fall 2009 semester, taught by the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Ed Whipple.

The leadership class gave me a comprehensive overview of leadership theory and how it relates to administration in student affairs and higher education.  The class focused heavily on the 360 degree leader model (Maxwell, 2006), which suggests effective leadership is possible from any level of an organization.  I have learned to implement this theoretical model into my everyday practice, especially in “leading up” by offering to take on extra work in response to staff cuts due to the economic crisis.

The last of leadership and management/administration’s sub-competencies, and that of which I believe I am most competent is social responsibility and civic engagement.  According to ACPA, to be considered advanced one must be able to “envision, plan, organize, drive, and learn from social/institution change initiatives aimed at improving culture, policies and/or practices in communities beyond the campus” (2007, p.14).  I have included a letter written to me by a local resident in York after she had attended a meeting of the Groves’ Community Action Group.  This committee was set up as part of our efforts to foster strong, harmonious and collaborative relationships with the local community.  As can be read in the letter, the resident found the meeting to be extremely beneficial and was highly satisfied with the lengths taken by YSJSU to engage with the local community.

I have also included the website links for Peacemaker and V-Inspired.  While working at the Oldham College I created strong, collaborative relationships with each of these organizations to the mutual benefit of the community and the students who I encouraged to volunteer.

V-Inspired is an independent charity dedicated to helping young people volunteer in ways that matter to them.  With so many students looking for further involvement opportunities outside of the college, I found this to be a great opportunity to create a partnership that would serve all involved.Finally, I have included the leadership program proposal I wrote while at The Oldham College that would later prove to be the foundations of my I-Plan in the Educational Outcomes class I took in Fall 2009.  The program is heavily based around community engagement, collaboration with community organizers, service, and variety of opportunity pathways to make it accessible to as many students as possible.  It is my hope that the program is implemented in the future as I believe it will greatly influence the students of the Oldham College and the local community that surrounds the institution.