Acting Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter is the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Sponsor and Mentor Award from the Executive Leadership Academy, which prepares visionary higher education leaders from all backgrounds to guide their institutions in a multicultural and global environment.
The academy is sponsored by the Center for Studies in Higher Education, established at UC Berkeley in 1956 as the first research institute in the United States devoted to the study of systems, institutions and processes of higher education.
The Executive Leadership Academy was held annually from 2011 to 2015 and twice in 2016. There have been 226 graduates to date, with participants coming from all over the world.
The awards presentation took place in July amid the seventh academy.
Hexter’s award recognizes his tireless efforts to promote and advance talent to the Executive Leadership Academy. In his position as provost and executive chancellor, from January 2011 until late April when he moved up to acting chancellor, he sponsored 18 fellows from UC Davis — people like Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and Carolyn Thomas, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education.
Dillard, who became the CA&ES dean in 2014, said: “Ralph Hexter suggested that I attend the academy and told me to talk to Dean Michael Lairmore (School of Veterinary Medicine) and Dean James Hildreth (who formerly led the College of Biological Sciences), who had both attended the program in previous years. When I spoke with them about the academy, they said it was excellent and to be sure and take Ralph up on the offer!”
Taught by a faculty team comprising more than 20 senior-level higher education executives, including current and former university presidents and chancellors, the Executive Leadership Academy promotes key critical thinking skills, leadership and strategic planning for higher education.
“I had attended leadership trainings previously, but this one was unique because it spent a lot of time talking through and analyzing real scenarios, and plenty of time was built into the program to share ideas among the participants and the teachers,” Dillard said.
“I came away from the academy feeling a little more grounded in how to deal with various crisis situations and the complexities of university administration,” she said. “And I also felt they did an excellent job of reminding us of the importance of listening and being in the present moment.”
Thomas attended the Executive Leadership Academy in 2013, the year after she was appointed interim vice provost.
“This was my first formal leadership training,” she told Dateline UC Davis. “It provided me an opportunity to understand the larger issues in higher education and consider the challenges of providing access and excellence for all students within California. It strengthened my commitment to creating opportunities for academic success for every UC Davis student.”
Dillard noted how the academy stressed the importance of perspectives, how each person brings a different perspective to a given situation. “We spent a lot of time discussing diversity and inclusion, and understanding the critical importance of this work in all of our various leadership positions,” she said.
Thomas recalled being “inspired by my colleagues who were so thoughtful and passionate about creating universities and community colleges that are spaces of innovation and community engagement — places that truly make the world a better place.
“I left feeling invigorated by my work, eager to share my learning with my colleagues, and confident that a career in higher education administration was the right place for me.” And, indeed, in 2014, she was appointed vice provost and dean on a permanent basis.
Thomas added: “I’ve gone on to prioritize leadership training for all of our staff in Undergraduate Education, and I believe it has helped to make us a stronger, more supportive and more student-centered team.”