ST. JOHN’S, NL
– College of the North Atlantic (CNA) employees are used to helping thousands of students each year, but recently, more than 50 of these employees had the opportunity to receive graduation diplomas of their very own.
Behind the scenes, in each of the past two years, select employees from CNA’s 17 campuses in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) have been participating in two, week-long training exercises with the Chair Academy, an organization that focuses on advancing academic and administrative leaderships across all levels of higher education through competency-based leadership development programs and services. At one time, organizational training might have been reserved for the executive levels of corporations or businesses, but a shift in focus during the past 30 years has broadened the scope of participants.
For the second time in two years, CNA employees, including Allison Stamp, Student Development Officer (SDO) at Prince Philip Drive campus; Craig Baker, Senior Campus Director at Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HV-GB) campus; Anna Peddle, Manager of the Office of Alumni and Advancement; and Jeff Patry, Guidance Counsellor at Port aux Basques campus, gathered in St. John’s to complete the extensive leadership training opportunity.
Each had their own reasons for applying to be a member of the Chair Academy class, but they all agree that anyone given the chance to enlist should do so without hesitation.
For Baker, being new to the position at HV-GB campus, he felt he needed training that “was a little different and more comprehensive” than management training he had received before. When he read the email invitation to apply to the Academy, he saw it as a great chance to step forward.
“The first year helped me formulate goals that go beyond management and expanding my role there at the campus,” Baker said, “I really got to know what my strengths were and bring those out. Some of them I didn’t even know I had. Self-identifying strengths is a big thing, but identifying them in others and using them to complement the team is also huge.”
Peddle says she liked the fact there was a wide variety of people taking the training, who had a broad brush of roles at the college sharing experiences, cultures, expertise and knowledge.
“It was obvious the college wanted to ensure that it gave this leadership initiative and opportunity to all campuses, all disciplines and roles so we can, in the end, take this information and make a positive impact on the overall college … (we were each tasked with finding a mentor); someone who could give us professional guidance. So that is over 50 people as a group bringing in 50-plus experts into the fold. Now, as leaders, we can continue to foster that expertise for the benefit of not only us as individuals, but for the knowledge and well-being of the college as well.”
Stamp was attracted to the Academy because she liked the idea that it was about leadership, and not necessarily just because a person is a manager. While she does aspire to someday expand her responsibilities at the college, the SDO felt this training will help her in her current role that interacts with students on a daily basis.
“Having the ability to be a leader and recognizing and identifying those supports to students is important. I also really liked the fact that realistically, I probably would have never met these people in person if it hadn’t been for this training. It’s nice to know that when I see a name and I have a question, I now see a face and have developed a relationship with people across the 17 campuses that I know I can call upon,” she said.
“Given that our college has a big divide geographically, this is probably the best thing CNA could have done to make us feel more connected. We are here for the same cause. We have a spirited group of people who believe in the direction we are going as individuals and as an institution.”
In his blended role at Port aux Basques campus, Jeff Patry says student leadership interests him and he wanted to bring back ideas and skill sets from the Chair Academy to help with student governance at the campus level because, “the skills and techniques will continue long after the training ends.”
Liz Kidd, CNA Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, is not only a member of the college’s executive team, but she is also a graduate of the Chair Academy. She knows first-hand the value of this training for each person who enlisted, and how CNA will also be rewarded by this heightened learning.
“First of all I would like to congratulate our latest Chair Academy graduates. I am very proud to be an alum of the Chair myself (2007), and I am so excited for them,” Kidd said. “The opportunity I had at the Academy made me realize the importance of people in achieving great things. CNA needs its employees to also be leaders. No matter what their position is at the college – we can all lead. We are in the middle of a time of transformation at the college. An exciting time. A challenging time. We need to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work toward common goals. I encourage all those who recently graduated to come up with new and unique ways to challenge the status quo, and alter your environments to support the success of CNA. We are a great college. We have done, and will continue to do, great things. We need to focus on excellence and continuous improvement.”
College of the North Atlantic