Making an impact on society’s biggest, toughest challenges – from climate change to global poverty and sustainable development – requires innovative, multifaceted solutions.
To get a head start in doing exactly that, University of Virginia students have created a new leadership fellowship program that brings together students and professors from three U.Va. graduate schools – law, business and public policy – to practice cross-sector collaboration in the face of real-world problems.
Over a series of six sessions, guest speakers and U.Va. faculty from the three schools will lead the students to investigate a real-world problem, think critically about current practices and propose new solutions.
Currently, the program does not provide academic credit, said Lisa Stewart, director of Darden’s Institute for Business in Society, which administers the program, but it might prompt students to pursue an independent study on a topic they encounter.
Monday’s inaugural session of the new Tri-Sector Leadership Fellows brought together about 20 graduate students drawn from the program’s three sponsoring schools: the Darden School of Business, the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the School of Law.
Led by U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan, the group gathered at the Law School to focus on the topic, “Principles for Better Government Design and their Application (or Not) to Public Universities.”
During the 90-minute meeting, featuring lots of back and forth with the students, Sullivan touched on a variety of different topics to illustrate her points, including the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the U.S. census, the search for missing student Hannah Graham, U.Va.’s strategic planning process and the University’s new financial model, and how state funding and regulations impact the University.
“The real value added for these students is the opportunity to interact directly with a leader like President Sullivan, who has dealt with issues on so many fronts, giving them an inside look at the intricacies of effective decision-making,” said Marc Ferzan, a professor at the Batten School and one of the program’s three faculty facilitators.
Sullivan discussed how a public university draws on perspectives from both the business and nonprofit sectors, said Darden professor Mary Margaret Frank, another faculty facilitator. The president underscored the importance of fiscal discipline through budgeting, investments based on expected returns and incentive alignment stressed in the business sector.
Frank added that Sullivan “equally stressed understanding the importance of defining returns to investment in broader ways than simply profit, the ability to motivate others to achieve greatness when profit is not a defined objective, and the power of community engagement – all of which leaders in the nonprofit and government sectors practice every day.”
“I think the Tri-Sector Leaders concept is important because it lets you look at something from more than one perspective,” Sullivan told the group. After giving specific examples of how professionals from each sector could benefit from knowing about the others, she added, “All of you together share those skills and learn from each other as much as you can.”
Annie Medaglia, a second-year M.B.A. student and president of the Darden Business & Public Policy Club, was instrumental in creating the new program. She brings perspective from her own cross-sector U.Va. education, as a 2009 graduate of the Batten School master’s program, and a 2008 graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, with a double major in Spanish and foreign affairs. “Effective public and private sector leaders need an integrated toolkit to address situations – economically, financially, socially, politically, legally and sustainably,” she said. “Tri-Sector Fellows will be much better prepared to do so as a result of this new program.”
Future sessions of the program will be led by diplomat Carlos Pascual, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Ukraine; Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross; and Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), House minority leader in the Virginia General Assembly.
The program is facilitated by professors from each of the three schools: Ferzan of the Batten School, Frank of the Darden School and Julia Mahoney of the Law School. The student fellows are selected through a competitive application process in each school.