Transformative Teaching, Learning, and Leading
Ten years ago, when Lilian Jasper was an English professor at Women’s Christian College (WCC), the United Board Fellows Program helped broaden her exposure to transformative teaching and learning practices. In July 2018, as principal of WCC, she enthusiastically renewed her connection to the Fellows Program in order to learn more about transformative leadership. Dr. Lilian and five other relatively new heads of Asian higher education institutions joined the Fellows Program’s Summer Institute, studying leadership styles, team effectiveness, institutional planning, and other topics alongside 14 midlevel college and university leaders. The three-week Summer Institute was administered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Institutes for Higher Education.
“‘Learn to change the world’ is the motto of the Harvard Graduate School of Education,” Dr. Lilian said, and that spirit of openness to learning and change echoes her experience as a 2006-2008 United Board Fellow. Placements at De La Salle University in the Philippines and Randolph College in the United States helped her transform her approach to teaching. “At De La Salle University, there was a lot of emphasis on research, teaching, and learning, which were seen as a three-pronged approach,” Dr. Lilian recalled. “This was a new concept for me, and when I returned to WCC I plunged into research on local knowledge, with grants from the United Board. My students and I benefited enormously as we explored service-learning concepts and learned from the community.”
Her experience at Randolph College also gave her new ideas. “After my stint at Randolph College, I introduced a class called ‘Ecoliterature,’” Dr. Lilian said. “It was a pure arts course but I introduced practical components and took students on field trips and engaged them in service-learning projects.” This change in classroom dynamics had lasting impacts on the students. “Students became passionate about the environment,” she said, and they carried that feeling with them after graduation. “Students have come back to WCC to say that as journalists or social workers they have been advocates for the environment. I think this is transformative learning.”
Dr. Lilian was both a leader and a learner at the 2018 Summer Institute. “I learned that leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations,” she said, “and that the leader’s vision should inspire a shared vision.” Dr. Lilian’s vision is for WCC to develop young women who are intellectually well trained, morally upright, socially aware, and spiritually inspired. Now, several months after its conclusion, she is putting some of the lessons of the Summer Institute into practice. “I am sharing my vision with important stakeholders so that we can move toward common goals and enhance the quality of education among our women students.”