Global Education Leadership: Mentoring for Change (Part 1)

When we see highly successful educational leaders, it is often a mystery how they got to where they are today. For many, their accomplishments may seem out of reach and even in some respects intimidating–particularly for new leaders as they are starting their journeys. However, it is critical to remember that each successful leader was “new” once too. Understanding their stories offers particular insight into the journey that new leaders may encounter and can provide useful guidance in terms of best practices to leverage in promoting leadership and change. While every leader is unique, in this two part entry, we hope to pull back the curtain on success and shine light on one aspect of leadership through the personal story of one of this website’s Distinguished Fellows and global education leader professor Bruce Barnett–the role of “mentorship” in supporting change.

Bruce Barnett opens up about his early career experience with one key mentor…

The most influential mentor in my higher education career is Dr. Leonard Burrello, who is currently at the University of South Florida. Leonard recruited me to apply for a vacant educational leadership faculty position at Indiana University in 1987–my first job in higher education. Moving across the country from California to Indiana not only was culture shock for our family, but also was an entirely new educational landscape for me to understand and maneuver. This is where Leonard’s mentorship was particularly helpful–he was extremely willing to involve me in various professional relationships and networks he had established across the state. For instance, he gathered superintendents he knew from Marion County (Indianapolis) to consider supporting a leadership preparation grant we submitted to the Danforth Foundation. Although none of these superintendents knew me or my background, with Leonard’s blessing, they agreed to participate and we were awarded the grant. In addition, he invited me to attend several Indiana School Leadership Council meetings around the state; as a result, I became involved in a district-level school improvement and visioning project.

Although I left Indiana University after three short years to work at the University of Northern Colorado, we have continued our professional mentoring relationship. On one hand, when I became a department chair for the first time, I sought his advice and counsel on how to work effectively with faculty, especially in facilitating program development. On the other hand, he has involved me in projects and programs he has developed around the country. Examples include reviewing and analyzing instructional video materials, providing feedback on professional development programs for superintendents, and reading book prospectuses and drafts of chapters.

What he is so adept at doing is allowing our mentoring relationship to evolve and mature. This evolution is precisely what the literature reveals about effective mentoring–the best mentors are those who begin by being more directive in providing professional guidance and support and overtime shift the relationship to collaboration, where both the mentor and mentee (me) have equal standing in their ideas and discussions. The other point is that good mentors see possibilities in others that they often cannot see. Even though I did not envision being a university faculty member, Leonard planted the seed not only by recruiting me for the job, but also by expanding my professional networks. I can honestly say I was very nervous and skeptical about my chances of being effective in the professoriate; however, with Leonard’s unwavering trust in me support to try new ventures, I have come to love this job.

University Council for Educational Administration

From mentee to mentor, Bruce Barnett on supporting future educational leaders…

The Jackson Scholars Program:

I have had the good fortune to serve as a mentor in formal programs and in informal ways. The three most prominent examples include mentoring doctoral students in the University Council for Educational Administrator’s Jackson Scholars’ program, mentoring a junior faculty member at my current institution, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and my work supporting junior faculty with the UCEA.

This is a formal mentoring program organized by UCEA which matches doctoral students of color with a university faculty member in another institution to help them navigate the expectations of their program and build their knowledge and skills in pursuing a career in higher education. The expectation is that these scholars will seek university faculty positions upon receiving their degrees. I have been assigned a doctoral graduate student annually since 2006.

My approach in working with these students is to: (a) build trust with them, (b) determine their research interests during their doctoral program and their professional aspirations, (c) provide advice and assistance aimed at their needs, and (d) maintain lines of communication. Typically, we are formally assigned students for two years; some of them finish their degrees in this time period, while others take longer to graduate. Besides meeting at the annual UCEA Convention each fall, I contact with them throughout the year. Usually this is through email messages and Skype conversations.

Early in the relationship, I strive to get to know their professional background and what they are interested in researching in order to determine how I might best serve them. Often this results in suggesting other scholars in the field whose work they might find useful, reacting to their ideas for the dissertation, and offering to read drafts of papers to provide feedback. As our relationship develops, I focus on what they can do to prepare to become a future faculty member. We often discuss the need to seek important experiences, such as serving as a teaching assistant, expanding course papers to present at professional conferences, and submitting these papers to journals. As they begin preparing application materials for jobs, we discuss how to present their curriculum vita, develop effective cover letters, and prepare for job interviews and site visits. I offer to review students’ vita and cover letters, providing feedback on ways to improve these documents before they are submitted.

I also have kept in contact with several Jackson Scholars once they have taken faculty positions in universities. We often meet at the annual UCEA Convention to discuss their experiences, suggest ways to strengthen and focus their research endeavors, and recommend others in the field whose work complements their studies. It is a pleasure to watch these young scholars making their way in the profession and fondly reminds me of how Leonard was mentoring me at this stage of my career over 30 years ago.

Dr. Julia Mahfouz, a 2015-17 Jackson Scholar, and Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho college of Education, Health and Human Sciences, department of Leadership and Counseling shares her experiences with Dr. Barnett’s mentorship:

I was blessed with the selection of my mentor. Dr. Barnett is an excellent listener – he listened carefully and mindfully to what I know, what I am looking for from this mentoring relationship and what he thought is needed for me to know as I embark on applying for jobs and being in academia. The best part is that he didn’t assume and asked questions for clarifications. He spent hours guiding me through the process of applying; he read my cover letters and helped me see the options I may have. His mentorship didn’t stop by the end of my graduate years; he continued guiding me through the processes as I moved to academia as an assistant professor.

He is my one person I could meet with and know that I am not judged or blamed for what I think or how I think. Now, I try to mirror the values of Barbara Jackson. Ubuntu— ‘I am because you are and you are because I am’ a motto followed by the Jackson Scholar network which builds that strong sense of direction in which one is grateful for all the mentoring that is happening within this space and is ready to pay it forward.”

Junior faculty mentorship at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA):

Our department has an informal mentoring program, one where junior faculty can select another faculty member to mentor them. Several years ago, I realized one of our new faculty members, Dr. Nathern Okilwa had not selected anyone to mentor him, so I approached him to see if he would like to work with me in developing his research and publication record. Because of his interest in conducting international studies, I invited him to participate in the International School Leadership Development Network (ISLDN), a UCEA-sponsored project I helped to create and co-direct. I also said we could begin to contribute to the network by gathering data in a local high-need school that has experienced increased student achievement for the past 20 years under the leadership of four principals (to learn more about this project, see a previous blog here).

Through this involvement, he has been the lead author/presenter for one book chapter (in press), two peer-reviewed journal articles, and five national and international conference presentations, focusing on the empirical research we conducted at the local high-need elementary school. I also have collaborated with him to co-author two peer-reviewed articles and one conference paper dealing with my research interests on international preparation programs for school leaders and mentoring experiences of assistant principals.

Dr. Nathern S. A. Okilwa, an Associate Professor at UTSA’s College of Education & Human Development, department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies shares his experiences with Dr. Barnett’s mentorship:

“When we attend professional conferences or district meetings, Bruce is very intentional about introducing me to people thus helping me build critical networks. Bruce mentors by example be it scholarly or service projects. He takes his commitments seriously and follows through to completion.

In addition, our relationship spans outside of the work environment – we’ve attended ball games together, with our families and he has supported me on some home improvement projects as well. I’m really fortunate this mentor-mentee relationship has evolved into this special relationship.”

Mentoring junior faculty for University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA):

Over the past few years, I have been involved in activities with UCEA aimed at providing mentoring support for junior faculty who are seeking promotion and tenure. For example, for almost a decade we have been hosting a “speed-dating” mentorship event in which audience members meet with small groups of faculty mentors and then rotate to another group about every 8-10 minutes. In addition, a group of senior UCEA faculty members has been creating other opportunities for junior faculty to learn about the promotion and tenure process. Under the leadership of former UCEA President, María Luisa González, this group has organized forums at the Convention and developed the UCEA Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Guidebook published by UCEA. I co-authored a chapter on preparing for promotion to full professor with my long-time mentor, Leonard Burrello. Since its publication in 2017, chapter contributors share their insights during a Convention session. The group is now proposing a half-day workshop for deans, department chairs, and faculty on important ways of supporting faculty to achieve tenure and promotion. Our hope is to deliver the inaugural workshop in November 2019 during a Convention pre-session.

We thank Dr. Barnett and his colleagues for shedding light on some of the ways that mentorship contributed to their success as education leaders. In part 2 of this series “Global Education Leadership: Mentoring for Change” we will learn more from Dr. Barnett regarding the role and value of mentorship for education leaders at different parts of their careers as well as what this looks like within different countries and cultural contexts. Make sure to stay tuned and we welcome you to share your mentor and mentee experiences with us at:  this website.

Maxie and Paula

Meet Bruce Barnett:

Educating Women for a Changing Planet

Guest Blogger Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, founder of the Akilah Institute in Rwanda, discusses sustainability education in sub-Saharan Africa.

Project Drawdown, a broad coalition that researches climate change solutions, ranks girls’ education as the sixth-most-effective solution to global warming. Educated women have more agency, marry later, and more actively manage their reproductive health. They earn higher wages and contribute to economic growth.

It’s well documented that educating women and girls is critical to sustainable development, economic growth, environmental stewardship, and a host of other factors key to humanity’s future. It’s less well-known that women’s education plays a critical role in mitigating climate change.

The environmental benefits of educating women are clear: Educated women have fewer children; they can be more effective stewards of the environment; and they have greater resiliency in the face of extreme weather events.

But what if we could do more than increase female enrollment? What if we could create an educational experience that explicitly prepares women for careers on our changing planet?

I founded the Akilah Institute, an award-winning women’s college in Rwanda, in 2010 to create opportunities for women. Our mission was “educating wise leaders to excel”, and our first diploma prepared women for careers in hospitality and tourism, one of Rwanda’s fastest growing sectors. Our graduates landed coveted positions in human resources, customer service, business development, and more.

We’ve since expanded to offer diplomas in technology, business, and entrepreneurship, which are aligned with high-growth areas of Rwanda’s economy.  

Our model proves to be working. A recent alumnae evaluation found that nearly 90% of our graduates secured employment within six months of graduation. They earn incomes that average 12 times Rwanda’s national median income. And nearly 60% of our alumnae have received a promotion in position and/or salary since graduating.

The World Is Changing, So Should Education

But as I look to the future, I realize we have to evolve our model. The world is changing — and quickly. Population growth, rapid urbanization, technological automation, environmental degradation, and globalization present unprecedented challenges and opportunities. The challenges are compounded by climate change, which disproportionately affects developing countries. Many have weak institutions, limited infrastructure, and few technological resources, limiting their ability to adapt to global warming. Poverty, poor health care, and low levels of education also undermine climate resiliency.

While Africa contributes less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the continent is the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Those effects are wide-ranging and life-threatening. Africa’s climate is projected to become more variable, and extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, more frequent, according to a UN report. By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people on the continent are projected to face severe water shortages, and yields from rainfed crops could be halved in some countries. Even if international efforts keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, Africa could face climate change adaptation costs of $50 billion per year by 2050.

Climate change is transforming the global economy and the jobs that fuel it. However, current education systems are not preparing students for the careers of today and the future.

This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa, where most education systems were built for the previous era. As things stand, graduates from African universities will spend an average of five years searching for a job. Nearly half of East African employers in a 2014 survey cited a lack of skills as the major reason they did not fill vacancies. Millions of people are out of work or underemployed, but employers leave jobs unfilled because they can’t find qualified talent. The disconnect between graduates’ skills and employers’ needs will only get worse if education institutions maintain the status quo.

A New Model for the 21st Century

The world needs an innovative education model that prepares 21st-century professionals for the challenges and careers of the future. At Akilah, we’ve developed a radically different educational experience that gives students the knowledge and skills to adapt to a changing world. Our model combines education for sustainable development with 21st-century skills, personalized learning, innovation, and ethical leadership.   

UNESCO defines education for sustainable development (ESD) as the transformative learning process that allows students to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. Sustainable thinkers make decisions that balance vibrant economies with a healthy environment to create a future of abundance for all.

ESD is gaining prominence worldwide. The UN Sustainable Development Goals explicitly list ESD as an outcome target in Goal 4. In 2005, UNESCO announced a Decade for Sustainability Education. More recently, UNESCO launched its Global Action Program to scale up ESD.

By designing an academic experience rooted in sustainability, we are preparing our students to understand and address the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. They’ll apply their knowledge and skills to case studies and real-world projects that challenge them to weigh environmental, social, and economic considerations. Our model also emphasizes leadership, deep learning, creativity, and moral character to ensure that students can use their knowledge effectively once they graduate.

Just in the past year, Akilah students have developed sustainable business ideas and participated in inter-university competitions that use innovation to address climate change. Their business ideas include a company that converts waste to affordable energy and a hydroponic gardening system that can be adopted by local communities. We’ve had students participate in a UNDP design-a-thon, where they partnered with students across Rwanda to develop apps that convert soil and temperature data into actionable insights for farmers. Our new curriculum and model will encourage and increase student participation in climate-related challenges and projects.  

We’ve identified five pillars that will define our academic model and all of our diploma and degree programs. They include:

21st-Century Skills: We develop lifelong learners who are prepared for the jobs of today and can adapt and succeed in the careers of tomorrow. Our interdisciplinary approach combines subject matter expertise with collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

Personalized Learning: We recognize that every student is different. Our adaptive learning model provides individualized pathways to success to ensure each learner achieves his or her academic goals.

Innovation: We encourage students to enthusiastically pursue new ideas, challenge the status quo, and develop solutions for unmet needs. We leverage the latest technology and learning methods to craft an unparalleled learning experience.  

Ethical Leadership: We educate and inspire ethical leaders who recognize the dignity and rights of others and the natural world. We foster values that promote gender equity, civic responsibility, and environmental stewardship.

Sustainability: We deliver a transformative learning experience that equips students with the knowledge and tools to balance vibrant economies with a healthy environment to create a future of abundance for all.

Increasing Access

We’re committed to ensuring that our program remains accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Nearly 30% of our students are in the lowest socioeconomic strata in Rwanda, and 78% are first-generation college students. This fall, Akilah will have close to 1,000 students on campus and over 550 alumnae. We received over 5,000 applications for this year’s intake.

To meet increased demand and drive down our cost to serve without compromising the quality of our programs, we’ve adopted a blended learning model that leverages competency-based education (CBE). CBE measures mastery, rather than time spent in the classroom. With a CBE curriculum, students advance only after acquiring a predefined set of skills and knowledge. Students can progress through new material at their own pace, creating a personalized learning experience based on their strengths and weaknesses. Our CBE curriculum is delivered via a blended learning model that combines digital content with in-person group work, public speaking, and academic support.

Our Graduates

Our graduates gain the skills necessary for professional success in the 21st century and, at the same time, develop the mindset to build climate resilience. They lead critical conversations and push forward ideas that promote women’s empowerment, climate action, clean energy solutions, smart city innovation, and more. They drive change in their families, communities, and countries.

The workforce needs them. Human adaptation to climate change is projected to create 60 million new jobs worldwide by 2030. Those include 1 million jobs in off-grid solar lighting in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, some 2.5 million African engineers and technicians will be needed to improve access to clean water and sanitation. This is just a small sampling of the career opportunities open to them.

Our students learn to think critically, acquire new knowledge, solve problems, take initiative, and lead in the workplace — skills necessary for success across a wide swath of industries.

The Future of Women’s Education  

Today girls’ and women’s education is increasingly seen as an economic and social priority. However, the quality and type of education matter. ESD offers a compelling answer. We’re excited to be at the forefront of sustainability education in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve long prided ourselves on adopting innovative models that put our graduates ahead. With ESD, we’re preparing our graduates to understand and address the effects of climate change, while gaining the skills to succeed in the future economy.

We are rapidly expanding our student body in Rwanda and launching in Uganda in summer 2019. Sign up for updates at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

meet Elizabeth :

International Women’s Day – Women Changemakers around the World

Paula Cordeiro and Guest Blogger Maxie Gluckman

Paula on a field trip to the African continent

This Friday is March 8 and we will be celebrating International Women’s Day. In honor of the day, the Global Ed Leadership team (Paula & Maxie) is happy to introduce a new multi-part series that highlights women leaders as changemakers around the world.

Maxie Gluckman

International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated on March 8th each year, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, and political achievements of women. This day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. It was first celebrated in 1911 during a gathering of over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, however, has roots as far back as the Socialist Party of America, the United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, as well as within many other groups who have campaigned for women’s equality.

The 2019 IWD campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter building on the idea of collective action for a gender-balanced world. This theme centers on the ideas that gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive and that collective action and shared responsibility is key to achieving this goal.

As shared on the IWD official website, Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist, and activist once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

In a global call to action, IWD shared this vision through a social media campaign asking individuals to Strike the #BalanceforBetter pose with your “hands out: and to do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women everywhere.

If you are interested in learning more about IWD and engaging in this important work, some of these conversations are included here:

@womensday #BalanceforBetter #IWD2019 #genderequity. In addition, if you are planning to organize an event or want to find out what more you can do, IWD has shared some wonderful resources.

From the Global Ed Leadership community, we plan to engage in this work year long, with the launch of your new multi-part series: “Women Changemakers around the World.” You will have an opportunity to hear from women leaders in Pk-12 as well as higher education.

Included here are some of the posts to look forward to throughout 2019. If you have any ideas for additional content we also welcome your support and feedback.

Women in Global Development: How to “win ugly” through the tradeoffs of family, career, and life

  • The journey’s we take that lead us to what we love: Karen Sherman’s story
  • Q&A: The top 5 questions asked by women about working in international development (we welcome you to submit your questions to us via email)
  • Introduction to Global Ed Development work through a personal memoir: BRICK BY BRICK: Building Hope and Opportunity for Women Survivors Everywhere

Students from Akilah’s women’s leadership program take on global challenges through a Global Social Innovation Challenge

  • The Akilah Education model: What set’s us apart
  • The road through their eyes towards this summit hosted at the University of San Diego’s by the Peace and Commerce Center in June, 2019
  • San Diego and beyond: Akilah students in action for global change
  • Moving forward: Reflections from the GSIC and on our roles as global change leaders

We hope you enjoy the series and look forward to sharing more and to building a better world through #BalanceforBetter.

Paula and Maxie

Meet Paula A. Cordeiro

Meet Maxie Gluckman
Photos courtesy of © Photograph: Jorge Oviedo / EyeEm