PKAL Leadership Initiative Institutions (LI2)

Memo #1 - August 30, 2004

To: PKAL Leadership Initiative Institutions (LI2)– all team members
Re: Building an effective institutional leadership team


You will be receiving copies of Leadership (the new PKAL publication) this week, together with the announcement that your team has been accepted as one of the 38 institutions in PKAL's new Leadership Initiative. (Excuses if you received a letter addressed to another institution; our temp goofed.)

There are several expectations on both sides in this collaboration. On PKAL's side we will:

  • identify a liaison/mentor for your institution, based on your statement of dreams/barriers
  • organize a series of workshops for collaborating teams that address the concept of leadership in the context of specific opportunities facing leaders in undergraduate STEM
  • orchestrate monthly electronic conversations on critical leadership issues open only to teams at leadership initiative institutions
  • serve as intelligence broker between the larger PKAL community, your campus, and the other institutions involved in the initiative (we are developing a non-public web site for all actively involved in this PKAL leadership initiative; more to come on that)
  • institute and manage a process for evaluation and assessment of individual (local) efforts to transform the undergraduate STEM learning environment

You are asked to:

  • schedule a time in early September to meet as a team and begin to plot strategies for the coming year
  • review your application packet (visions & barriers)
  • identify a team representative to participate in the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) workshop, October 8 - 10, 2004 ( and let us know who that will be (no registration; your campus pays for travel and hotel); review RPI story/agenda available through the PKAL web site (
  • consider initial steps such as the following to build your on-campus leadership team:
    • identifying on-campus expertise (theoretical/practical) in building effective collaborating teams, within and beyond your five-person team. (These could be disciplinary experts in sociology, psychology or political science; they could be STEM faculty using pedagogies that incorporate collaborative learning, or administrators with demonstrated experience in doing this. Ask him/her to meet with your team to enhance your collective understanding of the theory/practice of team building.)
    • explore/determine how you want your team to function, connect and communicate with: each other; your campus community; the PKAL LI2 community (for example, do you want an observer/reporter from outside the team?)
    • review the Leadership publication and suggest further resources that outline leadership theory (the left-hand pages) and send them to PKAL for posting to the PKAL LI2 community
    • have conversations within your team about perceptions on "leadership," perhaps using the tear-out grid in Leadership
    • begin to assemble your institutional portfolio capturing the process and progress of transformation on your campus

Each month, PKAL Volume IV postings ( will address issues covering the range of topics that those taking responsibility for leadership must consider. In addition to public postings, the PKAL LI2 community will have opportunities for internal electronic conversations to explore critical questions and share experiences and expertise. We are identifying liaisons for each PKAL LI2 and they will be involved in these conversations also.

The September conversations will cover issues raised in Leadership. To prepare for these conversations (beginning on September 15), review the following list of proposed PKAL LI2 activities, determine which are timely first steps in your context, take those steps and report back to PKAL. Our responsibility is as "intelligence-broker" to and between the PKAL LI2 community, and we intend to capture your experience, expertise and passion on an ongoing basis as this initiative evolves. keep in touch with PKAL; we assume that one message to a designated on-campus liaison is the best way for PKAL to keep in touch with you. All memos to participating teams will be archived on the PKAL web site at: for future reference.

A final note: this new PKAL initiative has two goals:

  • to assist individual collaborating institutions in realizing their dreams toward transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment
  • to transform the undergraduate STEM learning environment in colleges and universities across the country.

We have a collective responsibility to work toward achieving each of these goals. The wisdom and energy within the PKAL LI2 community is astounding, and as you come to know each other, you will know how much you can gain from and contribute to the work of colleagues in this group. This relates to the first goal.

To achieve the second goal, we must capture your experiences very systematically over the next two/three years. Basically we intend to establish a solid, long-term qualitative research agenda on what it takes to achieve systemic and long-lasting institutional change. To accomplish this, we need:

  • lengthy, candid and insightful quotes from all of you (and your colleagues) throughout this collaboration
  • written materials on what works and what does not work in your setting (at this early stage, it just means throwing all potentially relevant materials into a box under the table, no editing, writing needed)
  • to discover if, in fact, leadership theory is compatible with leadership practice in the undergraduate STEM learning environment.

We must also:

  • come to understand how local circumstances (identity and and context) affect what works and what does not work– the diversity of approaches and the commonalities when the process leads to demonstrable transformation, etc.
  • be able to articulate this in a way that leads to the broader transformation of the nation's colleges and universities over the next decade.

There are many strengths within the PKAL LI2 community:

  • the experienced senior academic administrators
  • the senior faculty who have been the key institutional agent of change and are prepared to pass the baton of leadership to the next generation of faculty leaders
  • the impressive faculty who are now taking responsibility for leadership over the coming decade. Can we capture and galvanize these collective strengths for the greater good...?