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SUAC and UMC go virtual to prepare higher education leaders and managers for the new normal

We have to accept that leadership must now be exercised in a very different environment.


COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of society including higher education and now, more than ever, administrators need to hone the skills and knowledge necessary for the new normal. In response to this need, The Centre for Higher Education Learning and Development (CHERD) will provide both the Senior University Administrators Course (SUAC) and the University Management Course (UMC) in a virtual environment this fall, running from late October 2020 through May 2021 in order to allow participants to balance their demanding work schedules with this important professional development.

The pandemic required CHERD to regroup and rethink. First, we offered several tuition-free webinars in which department heads and senior university administrators shared experiences and strategies necessary for the future. Articulation of a clear vision, agility, transparency and communication, empathy, and the courage to make tough decisions in a timely manner were identified as paramount skills for those charged with leading our universities. The unique governance and decision-making principles that characterize our universities meant that responding quickly while respecting these core principles was a demanding task. However, all sectors of the university came together with a common goal of enabling students to complete their term of study and to support students, faculty and staff in new ways of working and learning in this new environment.

Faced with travel and gathering restrictions and recognizing that leaders and managers have their plates full attending to immediate needs, next, CHERD responded by postponing its summer flagship programs, SUAC and UMC until fall and offering them virtually. While we had hoped that COVID-19 would dissipate to a level that would allow for a return to campus, this is clearly not the case for many and we have to accept that leadership must now be exercised in a very different environment.

Since 1987, CHERD has provided programs, courses and workshops to support higher education leaders and managers. Over the last three decades, more than 4,000 Canadian administrators have participated in intensive face-to-face programs which have helped them to address the many challenges their roles entail, to grow and develop as leaders, and to advance their careers. All CHERD programs are updated and revised annually to reflect current realities. In this extraordinary year, programs will be contextualized within the new environment in which our universities must currently function so that we can continue to be key assets for our communities, regions and our country.

This fall, CHERD offers both SUAC and UMC in a virtual environment, using a range of synchronous and asynchronous technologies to facilitate building a community of practice to learn and network. Join senior leaders Michael Benarroch, Sheila Brown, Tom Chase, Adam Gaudry, Donna Janiec, George MacLean, Sheila Cote Meek, and Miles Turnbull for a unique learning and networking experience.

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Kathleen Matheos is an associate professor with the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) in extended education at the University of Manitoba, with over 30 years of experience in higher education administration. Sheila Brown is president emerita of Mount Saint Vincent University where she served for ten years as president and vice-chancellor, after an extensive career in university administration across Canada. She has been affiliated with CHERD, facilitating sessions in their flagship programs, for many years, to assist the next generation of university administrators develop their leadership skills.

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