5 Things I Learned at the PD 101 Workshop

So, I’m a new program director. How did I get here? And now that I’m here, what do I do? Let’s think about this for a moment . . .

You have now joined the administrative ranks of PA education. Your new role as a PD is most likely both challenging and rewarding, and it’s important to remember that the knowledge you have has a significant impact on how you shape the future of your department. It also plays a role in how you support the professional development of your faculty and ensure that your graduates become competent and compassionate health care providers.

While you wrap your head around your new role, now is a perfect time to consider attending Program Directors 101 this summer! I learned so much from this retreat, and I’m sure you will, too. Here are the five top valuable takeaways that I gained from my experience:

A More Global Perspective

The perspective of a PD is much more globally and broadly focused than that of a faculty or staff member. As a PD, I’ve learned that you should consider some key questions to help focus your work:

  • Outside of the teaching role, what describes the academic environment?
  • How does the structure in which I work function as an institution?
  • How does this institution play well (or not) with others?
  • What are the key issues in this institution and how might they affect the PA program?
  • Am I inclusive (or not) in the leadership of this institution?
  • What are the hot issues in higher education in the region? In the country?

It’s important to know your resources (and use them wisely), to stay informed, be visible, and continually scan the world for new developments.

Professional Leadership Development

Ah, one of my favorite topics! It’s important to take time to reflect upon our own transition into leadership and set appropriate priorities for our ability to influence people with this new role. Leadership success is based upon individual characteristics and action. Careful preparation and a new way of thinking strategically, rather than operationally, assists in maintaining a “big picture” vision of your work as a department. This process requires the self-appraisal and assessment of strengths, areas of improvement, and potential vulnerabilities. Staying focused on your purpose — both professionally and personally — is critical to maintaining a healthy balance in life.

Visioning for the Future

What do you want professionally? What do you want personally? And what is your overall project objective? Most institutions have a strategic visioning process at multiple levels: state, university, school, division, department, and program. It is important to align missions, goals, and values with the bigger picture to maintain solidarity in an unpredictable environment. Strategic planning encourages a clearly defined direction, builds a shared vision, and promotes ownership and commitment in setting priorities for the program.

Developing and Coaching Your Team

An important aspect of faculty retention is effective development and coaching. Efforts here are best focused toward engaging faculty in project development, so that they become vested in improving a part of the program. Faculty development plans can be broad-based to include all departmental faculty, yet individualized enough to ensure continued growth in areas unique to each member. It’s important to include experienced faculty in the delivery of development content in their areas of expertise and strength.

Network, Network, Network . . .

At the retreat, you will learn from and network with peers and experienced PA educators representing a variety of backgrounds and experiences. It’s essential to develop a network of resources in similar institutions across the country, and with those who exhibit strengths and experiences in areas of professional weakness or inexperience for you. Networking and connecting with others is imperative to PA education success — it’s not about collecting contacts, but about planting relationships that you can rely on in the future.

At the end of my retreat experience in July 2011, I remember wondering how I could take all the information from that retreat and tailor it to my own needs within my institution to best serve my students and department. I have frequently reviewed the materials and have enjoyed continued mentorship from the faculty at the retreat.

Now I am serving as a facilitator for the retreat and strongly encourage any new or emerging leader within the PD community to consider attending this summer. Along with the meaningful topics above, the agenda also includes financial management, interpersonal conflict, faculty recruitment and retention, curriculum development and revision, enrollment management, program evaluation, outcome assessment, accreditation, and legal issues. While not all of these topics may directly apply to your work at this moment in time, they certainly will in the future because of the momentum of leadership in higher education.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that there is always something new to learn (even for those of us who have been doing this for a while). I look forward to learning with you in July!

Early bird registration ends June 20. Click here for more information.