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.

I have now facilitated Level 1 of the Strategic Leadership Program for thirteen years, first as a co-facilitator and then as lead facilitator and program manager. As my position has grown and expanded in UWHR, I have largely handed over the reins to Lee Davis and others in POD to facilitate this four-day program, but I continue to lead at least a few modules each time the workshop is offered.

As a leader and as a practitioner, the opportunity to facilitate SLP is golden. It allows me to help influence emerging leadership and to connect with newly hired and promoted supervisors — truly, our future — from across the University. In SLP, I get to hear the word on the street, connect supervisors to HRCs and other resources, and assist with triaging organizational problems and coaching needs, all while being steeped in a place of learning and discovery.

Because SLP is typically offered about ten times a year, it provides an active lab where we can try out ideas, address current events and tap into the latest trends in real time. The iterative process of deploying content and testing ideas with new and ever-changing groups of leaders keeps us nimble and helps to keep POD current with understanding and meeting needs.

The overarching structure of SLP has remained largely unchanged over the years, but the content is dynamic. We shift as needed to respond to a particular group or day, or adapt key learnings in line with University changes or initiatives. For instance, when the Race & Equity Initiative launched in 2015, that gave us an opportunity to reframe and expand the diversity module in SLP.

I believe this kind of responsiveness is a hallmark of POD, and this year, like countless others across the University and world, we have certainly been tested in this capacity. In moving a primarily in-person service to an online format, we have transformed our business. We have been challenged to rethink our usual approach and dive into ventures that, in other circumstances, would have taken many months of planning.

While not quite the celebration we’d envisioned, in many ways this transformation serves as a fitting tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Strategic Leadership Program. Change is constant, and SLP will continue to adapt and grow ― and support leaders to adapt and grow ― in response to the University and its needs.

Spring 2020 | Return to Issue Home