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Chesler graduates from ELATE program

Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Naomi Chesler recently completed the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology and Engineering (ELATE) Fellowship program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

ELATE is a year-long leadership development program designed specifically for women in academia in STEM disciplines. The national, part-time program combines weeklong leadership sessions with assignments fellows complete at their home institution. Their tasks range from drafting and assessing a departmental budget to interviewing and shadowing campus leaders.

It is the variety of leadership training tasks that offers learners like Chesler a holistic view of academic departments and institutions. “I think I have a broader, more collaborative perspective on how things work in academe,” she says. “And that collaborative perspective is informed by a deep respect for all the different roles people play within a department, college or university.”

Chesler says the new perspective has changed her philosophy, and that now her focus is on building departmental capacity. “Building capacity doesn’t mean everybody does more, it means everybody is empowered to do better,” she says. “And that everyone is enabled to do better by having better infrastructure, organization and communication.”

Since ELATE is a national program, the fellows were able to compare the infrastructure and organization of their home institution with that of peer institutions. “You tend to get tunnel vision when you’ve been at one place for a long time, and I think it’s good to be reminded how different types of institutions function differently,” says Chesler. “A lot of that really made me appreciate the resources, opportunities and people we have at UW-Madison.”

Ultimately, Chesler says, the program helped her recognize that anyone can be a leader. “No matter what my title is, my department, college and university benefit from me being more effective at the initiatives that I lead,” she says. “For the leadership roles I choose to take on in the future, whether in curriculum redesign, research collaboration or mentoring, this experience will help me be more effective.”

John Steeno
4/29/2014