Perspectives Online

Leadership program finds home in CALS

In coming years more than a few of the nation's top academic administrators and perhaps a few private sector leaders will be more than a bit familiar with North Carolina State University and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

That's because a program designed to give the next generation of leaders the tools they need to be more effective is now located in the College.

The Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI), a two-year program designed to develop the leadership abilities of upper-level administrators in higher education, government and industry, was created in 2005 with Dr. Ken Swartzel, former head of the College's Department of Food Science, as director. As the first classes move through the institute program, that N.C. State-CALS connection is being strengthened. Dr. Ken Esbenshade, associate dean and Director of Academic Programs, is a member of the first class, while Dr. Donn Ward, Department of Food Science head, is a member of the second class.

The institute is a National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) program that is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, says Swartzel. It is being implemented by N.C. State in partnership with The Ohio State University and the University of Vermont. The program is housed in offices in Schaub Hall, home of the Department of Food Science.

The FSLI curriculum was developed by a team of leadership and food systems experts that included a diverse mix of N.C. State representatives, including Dr. Mitch Owen, director of the College's Professional and Organizational Development group; Provost Larry Nielsen; Dr. Nancy Creamer, director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems; and Dr. Bart Craig, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.

Dr. Claudia Fernandez, a leadership expert at the North Carolina Institute for Public Health in the School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, was also a critical contributor to the curriculum. Swartzel says collaboration with Fernandez is an example of the multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional partnerships that will be needed to tackle future food systems challenges. Michael Bryan, the program's associate director, works with program coordinator Carol Reilly to manage institute operations, which include continual evaluation and refinement of the curriculum.

In a roundabout way, Dr. Jim Zuiches, N.C. State's vice chancellor for Ex-tension, Engagement, and Economic Development, played a role in developing the institute. Swartzel says Zuiches was a member of the NASULGC design team that proposed the institute when he was at Washington State University before coming to N.C. State.

FSLI is designed for what Swartzel calls "upper-tier leadership." It's also fairly exclusive; there are only 20 to 25 participants in each class.

"We work hard to make sure this is one of best programs available," Swartzel adds. The program defines food systems broadly, and while the bulk of participants thus far have come from colleges of agriculture and life sciences, the program is open to employees of government agencies and the private sector.

"We're trying to help these people be more influential and give them a better understanding of food systems," Swartzel explains.

The program focuses on developing personal and organizational leadership while also providing a broad view of food systems and the role universities can play in helping those systems function smoothly. Participants also get a crash course in risk management and dealing with crises.

Esbenshade, now in his second and final year in the program, says the institute has given him a more holistic view of food systems and the role higher education can play in those systems. He thinks his participation will benefit the College and N.C. State, particularly in curriculum development.

Ward, in the first year of the program, has found it "one of more interesting and helpful programs I've been involved with."

He adds, "You learn a lot, and a lot is expected of you. It all fits together well, and it gives you the opportunity to interact with people from other institutions and diverse backgrounds."

-Dave Caldwell