The View From Taft

While attending a recent three week-long educational leadership seminar workshop at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, I was struck by the sign that states, “Learn to Change the World.” This message hangs brightly in front of the Gutman Library of the Graduate School of Education of Harvard University, and this is the theme that resonated during my stay in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As I looked at that sign every day, I knew that through learning, I would be able to change the world despite an environment that is characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. While at Harvard, I was mentored by some of the world’s best, and was also able to learn with some of the brightest educational leaders in Asia. This was part of my fellowship with the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (UBCHEA).
UBCHEA is a non-governmental organization that is committed to education and that develops the whole person holistically; that is, intellectually, spiritually, and ethically. Its network of institutions spans Northeast Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, where my institution, De La Salle University Manila, is an active member. It draws its “strength from Christian identity and values and its collaboration with Asian colleges and universities,” and “prepares individuals for lives of professional and personal fulfillment and meaningful service in community with others” by “developing institutions that offer multidisciplinary education and that nurture a spirit of compassion, equity, reconciliation, social responsibility, and mutual respect among religious and cultural traditions.” The organization has several programs on faculty development, community partnerships, culture and religion, and leadership development for higher education. It is in the latter program that I embarked on my “learning to change the world” journey through the United Board Fellows Program.
The United Board Fellows Program is “designed to answer the needs of leadership development for mid-career faculty and administrators from Asian colleges and universities,” and it “develops dynamic leaders who will advance whole person education within their home institutions.” It runs for one year, starting in the United States, in this case, Harvard University, and is followed by a semester in an Asian college or university. After their placements, fellows would return to their home institutions and apply what they have learned from their hosts. I have just concluded the Summer Institute in the US, where my skills as educational leader were harnessed and honed by experts in higher education.
During the Summer Institute, we had several interesting and insightful sessions, from learning about ourselves to managing our university’s human capital and resources. We started by learning about Bolman and Deal’s “Four Frames,” which can help administrators conceptualize different approaches to an issue. These frames (structural, political, human resource, and symbolic) can be used both in the planning stage and in the revision of existing initiatives that might not have been successful. We also had a session called “Who are You,” which focused on the assumptions that we have that might not always be true. We then moved to more macro issues such as strategic planning and resource mobilization and generation. We were able to distinguish bad strategies from good strategies, and I learned that some strategies do not work simply because they fail to face the problem. Some strategies are like fluffy puff pastry, which is appealing but empty. Equally bad are fuzzy strategies that are overly complex and long.
The Summer Institute blends the best and the brightest, and this makes me more confident to make my institution bigger, bolder, and better and to move it from good to great. The program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for educational leaders to learn from a place where the world’s greatest come from, and most importantly, to be with a group of like-minded fellows who share a passion and zeal for efficiency, effectiveness, and excellence in our institutions.
Brian C. Gozun is dean of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business and is 2018-2019 United Board Fellow. He encourages educational leaders to apply for this fellowship at to change the world through whole person education.