The American Council on Education’s highly selective Fellows program provides a unique opportunity for college or university faculty or staff to spend a year working with another institution. The model enriches both: The Fellow gains insights from the host school, and the host benefits from the visitor’s expertise.

Dr. Vicki L. Baker, who is the E. Maynard Aris Endowed Professor in Economics and Management at Albion College and nationally recognized for being at the forefront of innovation and strategy in faculty and leadership development, was one of only 36 Fellows selected to participate during 2023–24. She opted to serve at Hope, where she’d previously led a series of six professional-development workshops for the faculty.

In the column which follows, she reflects on her time at the college.

Dr. Vicki L. Baker

As my time serving as an ACE Fellow at Hope College comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the experiences I had, but more importantly the relationships built. The ACE Fellowship program provides unprecedented leadership development opportunities in which Fellows work closely with the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, and alongside other senior leaders at their host campus. Hope College welcomed me with open arms, allowing me the opportunity to engage with the President and Cabinet members; I attended faculty meetings, committee sessions, department meetings, and student presentations. I participated in strategic planning sessions and was able to provide critical insights as the “educated, yet uninformed” outsider with particular expertise in faculty and leadership development. My background, experiences, and expertise in faculty and leadership would prove valuable as I engaged in my project work throughout the spring 2024 semester.

The Office of the Provost, and the amazing team that supports academic affairs, was where I spent the majority of my time advancing a critical need on behalf of the college, and on behalf of those newly serving and soon to serve in critical campus leadership roles — department chairs and program directors. As a department chair myself at Albion College, I know and have experienced the real challenge around serving in this role and making the shift from an individual contributor (via teaching, scholarship, and service) to an institutional contributor where I am expected to manage, lead, and support the career advancement of my departmental colleagues. Such a shift requires new ways of thinking about leadership development in the academy and how, with intentional investment, these roles can advance individual, departmental/unit, and institutional aims.

My approach was simple: Engage in capacity building to support capability development — which aligns with Hope’s values. I was deeply appreciative of the willingness of diverse units across campus — including Finance, Human Resources, the Office of Sponsored Research, the Registrar, Admissions, and the Office of Possibilities, to name a few — to advance this effort alongside me. My time at Hope College, and the pursuit of this project focus, were serendipitously aligned with the next strategic planning process, which is at the initial stage. The knowledge gleaned via engagement with so many at Hope College provides invaluable insights as campus members prepare to launch their next strategic visioning and planning efforts. I am hopeful that the efforts of so many will enable the next generation of department chairs and program directors at Hope College (and beyond) to be better equipped to take on such roles, setting a standard for how to more intentionally support the bright, talented individuals we are so fortunate to work with in the academy.

As I transition to the next phase of my collaboration with Hope College, three words come to mind about what the ACE Fellowship experience has meant to me:

Gratitude. I am beyond grateful to President Matt Scogin, Provost Gerald Griffin, and Associate Provost Heidi Kraus (and the entire team in the Office of the Provost) for the invitation to join the Hope College community. You provided me with such personally and professionally meaningful experiences and friendships; your approach to work and life, and thus how you supported my work-life needs, is a model I will carry with me moving forward.

Hope. I feel hopeful about the future and the ways in which we can better envision leadership pathways across the academy. Through our collaboration, we advanced a model for how to more intentionally advance innovative approaches to cultivating talent that fosters engagement of all stakeholders. It takes a village, and the village at Hope College willingly joined in that effort.

Possibility. I am proud of what we accomplished and am excited about the possibilities to enhance and expand on that work at Hope College and beyond. My engagement as an ACE Fellow allowed me to have dedicated time to explore interests, ask questions, and think deeply and critically about what value add I bring to the table and the areas in which I need to develop further. Hope College also provided me with the opportunity to support others as they navigate their personal and professional paths — a role, and opportunity, that I cherish.

Thank you, Hope College, for being so gracious — here’s to a bright future ahead!

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