Empowering New Leaders
When Ridling Margaret Waller attended the United Board’s Asian University Leaders Program (AULP) in January 2007, she had been principal of Women’s Christian College (WCC) in Chennai, India, for only seven months. But she had begun to hone her leadership skills seven years earlier, as a United Board visiting scholar at Davidson College in the United States from 2000 to 2001.
“The experiences I gained in an American academic environment fueled my passion for teaching and research,” she said in a recent interview, “ and strengthened me through the challenges I faced in a new establishment, a new workplace, a new team, and of course a different culture. When I returned to WCC invigorated and with a broader perspective of education, I was identified by the then-principal for an administrative position as the dean of residents, which further empowered me for leadership.”
AULP is designed to give new and seasoned leaders of Asian colleges and universities specialized skills training, as well as an opportunity to share information with their peers. Each year, about 15 presidents, vice presidents, deans, and other key administrators attend the four-day program.
Dr. Waller found common ground with the other participants at the 2007 AULP, in terms of “responsibilities, lifestyle, commitment, and vision.” As important as the presentations were – on topics ranging from trends in higher education, to quality assessment, to resource generation – she also valued talking to other leaders about who they meet challenges. “AULP was an invaluable experience because it provided new insights into leadership styles. The cross-cultural experience – interacting with leaders from universities across Asia – was truly inspiring and motivating.”
Dr. Waller continues to draw benefits from her United Board experiences. “I’m nurturing leadership among my colleagues,” she said, “and my focus is on capacity building and infusing team spirit among them. I’ve learned to be more structured, systematic, and disciplined, which I observed in United Board programs.” She finds even greater inspiration in her Christian faith. “I consider leadership a ‘calling.’ In my case, it was with a purpose – to serve a diverse college community unconditionally.”
(First published in Horizons in Spring 2011.)