Leading Edge Masthead
Photograph of Ujima Donalson

A message from Ujima Donalson
Assistant Vice President,
Total Talent Management

The Strategic Leadership Program received central funding in 1999, and the first workshops were delivered starting in 2000. In POD, we had a few big ideas about how we were going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this homegrown and nationally recognized leadership program. Given the current situation, those plans are not coming to fruition and, as with so many things this year, we are being called upon to be creative and agile with how we honor this milestone.

I’d like to thank the four early SLP graduates who today serve as prominent leaders at the UW and who agreed to be interviewed during this extraordinarily challenging time: Jean Choy, Bill Ferris, Kay Lewis and Barbara Van Ess. You can read about them in this issue, and I expect that you will feel bolstered, much as I was, by the wisdom that comes both from experience and from longevity, from being present, from engaging, and from learning and growing within a singular institution. Read More

Photograph of Kay Lewis

Leadership Interview: Kay Lewis
Assistant Vice Provost for Enrollment/Executive Director of Financial Aid, Enrollment Management

When Kay took SLP in 2003, she was associate director of Financial Aid and soon thereafter became the director and then executive director of Financial Aid, overseeing all three campuses. She moved into her current role when Enrollment Management transitioned from Student Affairs into its own unit.

Thinking back to your SLP experience, are there any learnings or insights that have stayed with you?

One of the reasons I like the UW so much is that it’s such a complex place to be. You’re never bored and you’re always learning and thinking of new ways to do things. Our work as leaders really goes beyond the borders of our own areas, and in SLP there was a focus on building connections and communicating with others in your own organization as well as across campus. Read More

Photograph of Jean Choy

Leadership interview: Jean Choy
Associate Dean, Executive Education & International Initiatives, Michael G. Foster School of Business

Jean joined the UW in 1992 as a program coordinator funded by a USAID grant, and when she took SLP in 2001, she had already worked her way up to director of Executive Education at the Foster School of Business.

Thinking back to your SLP experience, are there any learnings or insights that have stayed with you?

One of the key learnings from SLP is the importance of building a team, communicating clear expectations and holding each other accountable. After SLP, I remember creating an internal logo and sharing it with my team to illustrate this value of accountability, customer service and teamwork, all encased within a big “quality.” Read more

Photograph of Bill Ferris

Leadership Interview: Bill Ferris
Chief Financial Officer, UW Information Technology

Bill took SLP in 2001, shortly after moving from assistant director of Planning and Budgeting to executive director in the Office of the Executive Vice President. When the EVP retired, there was a major reorganization across the University and Bill became the executive administrator in the newly created Finance and Facilities. He transitioned to UW-IT in 2008.

Thinking back to your SLP experience, are there any learnings or insights that have stayed with you?

SLP was a really strong program. The instructors were excellent and I remember to this day how well organized it was and how great the material was. There were a lot of teambuilding exercises, which I would initially roll my eyes at but found they really made a difference. The importance of teambuilding, collaboration and networking was one of the really big takeaways. Read More

Leadership Interview: Barbara Van Ess
Director of Personnel Policy, School of Medicine

When Barbara took SLP in 2002, she was working as an assistant attorney general in the UW office, with most of her work focusing on employment law. Soon after, she moved into an administrative role in the School of Medicine, where she has remained.

Thinking back to your SLP experience, are there any learnings or insights that have stayed with you?

The School of Medicine, and UW Medicine, have grown a lot and changed over time, and many of the learnings from SLP have been useful. It certainly formed part of my foundation as a leader here at the UW.

As I recall, at the beginning of the program, we examined our own learning and communications styles, and did some group exercises exploring approaches related to those styles. Some of those strategies have stayed with me and become almost second nature in working with a broad variety of colleagues across many units. Read More

Top leadership books then and now

SLP was conceived in the late 1990s, received funding in 1999 and formally began in 2000. The following shows a selection of top business and management books published around that time and current business best sellers culled from The New York Times monthly lists for March and April 2020.


“Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, et al. (2002)

“First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (1999)


“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear (2018)

“Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.” by Brené Brown (2018)

Read more

What to expect from POD this summer

POD has shifted our start date for summer classes to just after the Fourth of July, with registration opening June 1. This shift to a later quarter launch is enabling us to better accommodate the quickly changing landscape of COVID-19.

We are currently planning for online instruction for July and August, and we hope to resume in-person classes in September, if we feel we can do so safely. When we return to in-person instruction, we will lower class maxes to allow for more distancing in the classroom.

Regardless of when we resume in-person classes, our new self-paced online learning will continue to be offered this summer, along with live productivity webinars and The Learning Lab online platform. Please see our online catalog for current offerings.

You are not alone! UWHR maintains a COVID-19 website with resources for caring for self and family, policy updates and other information. You can also drop in to free weekly POD Office Hours on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. for support and conversation as we navigate the organizational impacts and leadership challenges of this global crisis.

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