Dr. Valova is one of 38 faculty across the U.S. and Canada selected for national leadership development program designed to promote women in academic STEM fields.
Professor of Computer and Information Science and Associate Dean of the College of Engineering Iren Valova was selected to participate in Drexel University’s Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) program. ELATES is a national leadership development program designed to promote women in academic STEM fields and faculty allies of all genders into institutional leadership roles.
The Class of 2023-2024 ELATES Fellows are a prestigious cohort of 38 faculty members from over 25 institutions of higher education across the U.S. and Canada. The ELATES Fellows include experts in engineering, mathematics, and science, all of whom have significant administrative experience on top of their scholarly accomplishments. The program runs from summer to spring and includes three in-person sessions at Drexel's campus in Philadelphia.
"I didn't really know what to expect, but the first session in August was transformational," Valova said. "I think every mid-career woman should have the chance to go through something like this. It is valuable for women in STEM to learn about each other's experiences and get fresh perspectives on our own problems. It was eye-opening for me."
A change of perspective
"There are many aspects of leadership and management you don't necessarily learn as a faculty member. We participated in exercises where you realize what it means to be in middle management, or in a subordinate position, or in executive-level leadership.
"One of my assignments was to interview university leadership: the college dean, the provost, the chief financial officer, etc. This was extremely informative; I've known these people for a long time, but there's so much I never knew about their roles as campus leaders. I gained a whole new perspective on what they do.
"The program has also given me a better understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. I'm learning to build skills to address my own weaknesses, and how to leverage my strengths to affect change. I'm especially interested in gaining a better understanding of budget and finances because budgets affect so much.
"In November, we'll take the Hogan 360 Assessment, where we will be evaluated by our peers, supervisors, and direct reports, and then we will receive a comprehensive report and coaching. Some have joked that I'm brave for wanting to know how others perceive me, but I think it's important that leaders find out what they can do to improve."
How do you hope to apply what you learn from this program at UMassD?
"In order to graduate from ELATES, we have to develop an institutional action project (IAP) that serves the mission of the university with the hope that it will actually be implemented. The project will involve wide-reaching change with multiple stakeholders and will help students in some way. With the rapid growth of our data science program, I'm interested in exploring how we can adapt to this change in scale. In the spring session, we will present our institutional action projects and there will be a graduation ceremony.
"I am very grateful to Dean VanderGheynst for nominating me and encouraging me to do this. With the abundance of information out there, you might think, 'what can I learn from a leadership program?' It turns out you can learn a lot."
Sharon Walker, PhD, executive director of the ELATES program and dean of Drexel University’s College of Engineering, shares her excitement for welcoming the newest class of fellows. “I am thrilled to welcome this talented new cohort of ELATES Fellows as they join the community of distinguished alumnae who are committed to lifelong learning and leadership development. I am excited to see what impact they will not only have this year on their home campuses, but, more broadly, to the higher education STEM community in the future.”
To learn more about ELATES at Drexel, visit ELATES online at Drexel.edu/ELATES