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Staff Leadership Academy

College of Liberal Arts

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Imagine what it would feel like to step into work every day, no matter your role, as an empowered leader whose contributions are recognized and celebrated. What if it were possible to cultivate an organizational culture where you feel engaged and empowered as a staff member? What would it feel like to work in an organization where you feel deeply valued and your development is highly prioritized?

With the creation of the College of Liberal Arts’ Staff Leadership Academy, our college takes another step toward building that workplace. Through this program together we will:

  • Cultivate a community of outstanding and courageous leaders
  • Build an organizational culture where we face challenges as opportunities
  • Stress less while accomplishing more
  • Work collaboratively to build a supportive and growth-minded community that furthers our mission


Beginning Fall 2021, the College of Liberal Arts will launch its inaugural Staff Leadership Academy. This 9-month program will run each academic year from September through May. The program has one, 3-hour live session per month with meetings taking place in-person at various locations on campus or virtually as necessary. The total time commitment per month is approximately 10 hours, consisting of live sessions, practice group meetings, and individual study. All monthly sessions and practice groups will be held during work hours and considered work time. Additional reading and preparation may be necessary during personal time.

  • The first month of the program will orient you to the goals and structure of the program, focusing on cultivating a collaborative learning environment. We will explore concepts and skills such as vulnerability and courage, growth mindset, holding paradox, grit and anti-fragility. A focus on diversity, equity and inclusion will be infused throughout this and all phases of the 9-month curriculum.

  • The next three months of the program will center on community building and deep skill development and practice, focusing on the relational tools needed to thrive as leaders. We will build upon the themes introduced in month one, adding topics such as building an inclusive workplace, transformative communication, utilization and resourcefulness, among others.

  • The third phase of the program is designed to connect and engage you with leaders from across campus, to deepen your well of resources and grow your network of collaborators. We will spend various sessions connecting with and learning from premiere COLA and UT leaders in: diversity, equity and inclusion; health and wellness; and leadership and development.

  • The final three months will be spent developing an individual leadership project that addresses a need or challenge in your work. This phase is designed to put leadership skills into action. The program concludes in May with a finale event where staff members present their leadership projects to their cohort.

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Practice Groups

At the beginning of the program, you will be assigned to a small practice group of approximately 4 staff members. Practice groups will meet weekly for one hour, at a time that is arranged by members of the group. The groups meet in person or via Zoom or another remote technology. Each week a discussion topic will be provided that is designed to foster meaningful dialogue, help group members practice deep skills, and contribute to the formation of meaningful connections with peers.


At the conclusion of the program, you will have the option to submit the following materials for certification:

  • Documentation of time spent each week/month on in-person sessions and weekly practice group meetings (form provided)
  • Summary sheet of reflections from each monthly session (form provided)
  • Written summary of your leadership project, including presentation materials (e.g., PowerPoint presentations)


The Staff Leadership Academy is open to all full-time staff members who have worked for the college for a minimum of one year at the time of application. Staff do not need to have prior managerial or formal leadership experience, rather a desire to learn and a commitment to build their leadership skills to enhance and grow their careers.


There is no fee to apply nor to attend. Instead, we ask for the commitment of staff time and supervisor support.


Up to 12 COLA staff will be selected to participate in the inaugural year of the program (AY 2021-22).

Applications will include:

  • One-page personal statement of interest describing the ways in which you most want to grow as a leader, and what you hope to get out of the COLA Staff Leadership Academy.
  • Résumé or CV
  • Two reference statements speaking to your leadership strengths and areas for potential growth in the program.
    • One from a current or former supervisor
    • One from a current or former colleague
  • Supervisor approval form

Selection for the program will be based on an applicant’s expressed desire for and commitment to personal and professional development. The college will strive to admit a diverse cohort that is representative of varying levels of leadership experience and roles.

Academy Leadership

Heather Gatlin, Chief of Staff
Monique Pikus, Director of Diversity and Organizational Climate
Christian Rafidi, Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration
Tamela Walker, Human Resources Director

This team facilitates the monthly in-person sessions along with invited collaborators who provide instruction and expertise, particularly as it relates to DEI, wellness, and UT leadership and development programs.

For more information contact:
COLA Staff Leadership Academy