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ACE Fellow: Why I chose the University of Nevada, Reno

American Council on Education Fellow chooses the University of Nevada, Reno as his host institution to increase his leadership skills from the University’s senior leadership team.

As part of the ACE Fellowship Program the fellow chooses an institution and spends a period of time, in my case one academic year, studying leadership.  During my prospective host institution research, I was looking for three main characteristics of the senior leadership:

  1. Longevity – In order to gain the most out of the experience I knew that I wanted to be mentored by leaders that have been in their senior leadership position for longer than I have been at my position.
  2. Dedication – It was also important that the senior leadership is dedicated and happy doing their work at their institution.
  3. Willingness to mentor – Of course, it is highly important that leadership had the desire to invest their time in the future of higher education by mentoring me and assisting me in my professional development.

During my research I also identified four institutional characteristics that I believed were important for my professional growth:

  1. A university that is different from my own – I believe that I learn the most when I am out of my comfort zone, in unfamiliar territory.
  2. Evidence of high-quality efforts to support and educate students.
  3. Evidence of efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across campus.
  4. Evidence of sustainability regardless of outside pressures of decreased enrollments and state funding.

In my view, the University of Nevada, Reno and the senior leadership team have all these characteristics.  It was very clear that the University of Nevada, Reno is a university that cares for its students and is moving toward long-term sustainability regardless of the outside pressures faced by higher education institutions across the nation.  The growth in faculty, students, infrastructure (buildings and research capacity), student retention and graduation rates, faculty research (R1 status) and gift giving, to me, are all signs of a healthy university.  When I participated in my on-campus interview with the senior leadership, I learned that they all met the characteristics that were most important to me and my future professional development. 

Plans and Goals while at the University of Nevada, Reno

While at the University, my overarching goals are to learn:

  1. Different approaches to address the complexities of higher education
  2. How to develop new initiatives that address the health of any institution
  3. How other leaders are addressing today’s challenges in creative and adaptable ways
  4. How to create engagement that transforms discontent into ‘buy in’ and move projects forward in an effectual manner
  5. How the "broken" business model in higher education can be modified to better fit today's universities
  6. New perspectives from different leadership styles and ways to grow as an effective leader

I believe some of these goals can be accomplished by doing research and reading the literature as well as through observation and actually doing the work.  However, some can only be accomplished through observation of how others manage/deal with the particular situation or crisis.  These things cannot be learned by reading about them but only through being present while someone works through the issue and learning from their leadership. 

Therefore, my plan is to shadow President Johnson and the senior leaders and observe their leadership styles while they lead and manage their teams and deal with the everyday things that come up. My second approach: In addition to observation, I will work on three specific areas that allow me to learn, in more depth, these include development (how to raise funds for an institution), university finance and budgeting, and using data analytics to improve enrollment, retention and graduation. I also plan on getting involved as much as possible in the diversity and inclusion initiatives at the University. Finally, I plan on meeting with as many executive level leaders on campus as possible – such as deans, directors and vice presidents/provosts – to learn more about all the great things they are doing in their respective areas.

My experience to date

Thus far, I have enjoyed my experience.  I have met many faculty and staff, some students and other campus leaders.  I have also participated in / attended various events and meetings with senior leadership, faculty and community stakeholders. 

For fun, I have been taking advantage of some of the events on campus, football games and the hiking/running trails in the area.

If you have something interesting you are working on and would like to share it with me, please reach out and invite me to your lecture, committee meeting, event, discussion, etc. The more involved I get, the more I will learn. My office is in the Clark Building Rm 203, x26031, email: edwardmartinez@unr.edu.

The American Council on Education

Established in 1965, the ACE Fellows Program is designed to strengthen institutional and leadership capacity in American higher education by identifying and preparing faculty and staff for senior positions in college and university administration. Thirty-eight Fellows, nominated by the senior administration of their institutions, comprise the 2019-20 cohort at colleges and universities across the nation. Over 2,000 higher education leaders have participated in the ACE Fellows Program over the past five decades, with more than 80 percent of fellows having served as senior leaders of colleges and universities.

(Editor's note: Edward Martinez was named an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow in spring 2019, and he selected the University of Nevada, Reno as his fellowship host institution.  Martinez will increase his leadership capacity through mentorship from the University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson and the senior leadership throughout his full academic year fellowship. He is the founding interim vice president for strategic enrollment management and full professor in the Department of Natural Resource Management at New Mexico Highlands University.)

Edward Martínez
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