The Leading Change Institute Catalyzes Action That Supports Value and Relevance

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In June 2017 I joined a group of 33 library and IT professionals for the week-long Leading Change Institute (LCI), sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and EDUCAUSE, to learn about and reflect on leadership qualities, challenges, and opportunities faced by the higher education community, and ways in which we can broaden our perspectives to shape our future. Deans Joanne Kossuth and Elliott Shore designed the curriculum and led our discussions, and I also learned from many higher education leaders and my cohort. I had received EDUCAUSE's Diane Balestri Memorial Scholarship, which allowed me to attend LCI.

LCI generated energy and excitement for the variety of leadership opportunities that higher education provides. At the same time, it presented a wide-ranging analysis of the many challenges leaders in such multifaceted institutions must tackle. Throughout the week, we explored these problems through a variety of lenses, frequently returning to the notion of value within higher education: LCI challenged us to reach beyond our own silos to examine and better express the value and relevance that we, as library and IT leaders, assign to higher education, using a variety of lenses to make better decisions, develop and sustain partnerships, and shape our future. Speakers provided perspectives ranging from library director and CIO discussions to the application of user experience principles on decision-making processes (a particularly interesting discussion), funding and economic challenges (a sobering discussion), board and institutional governance, and national and state trends that affect everything from application numbers to graduation rates. Our cohort unpacked these discussions throughout the week, engaging in thoughtful exchanges and practical exercises to address these challenges and how we can lead from within to make positive changes.

Taking the Lessons Home

The idea of value continued to resonate with me at my home institution, where I lead our library technology team in providing technical solutions for a broad range of services, from systems that enable discovery of resources to development of generative environments that express and support digital scholarship. It is a role about which I am passionate. I know that my LCI colleagues feel the same way about their work and their institutions, as they demonstrated their own passions throughout the week. But LCI challenged us to examine critically the perspectives of those outside our silos, starting from our library and IT worlds and moving to wider lenses. It began by challenging my own perceived strengths and weaknesses. From my StrengthsFinder assessment,1 required before arriving at LCI, I learned what I always knew: my strengths tend to lie in analysis and empirical decision-making processes. But my LCI cohort taught me that they also saw a significant amount of compassion and that my analyses often reflect a desire to help others when making decisions. Additionally, we don't always have all the information we might want when we need to make a decision. The LCI speakers often widened their perspectives to get a better picture of the situation; waiting for the perfect information is not always possible, but using a variety of lenses is. These insights helped me view my own campus experiences and my work beyond the frame of my institution. I began to challenge myself to view projects and initiatives through the arcs of value, relevance, and compassion, identifying ways to reach out and make substantive differences. The result is that partnerships I have forged across campus and multi-institutional collaborations were improved by my LCI learning, helping me clarify and better articulate their goals and the best directions to take. Within my organization, for example, I have taken the small first step to renew partnerships with central IT's user services group to improve technology experiences from the user perspective by finding solutions together, clarifying roles, and improving communication. And my work with a multi-institutional collaboration that I helped found to allow smaller institutions to adopt and sustain open-source repository solutions has been significantly improved by my LCI experience, as I work with my partners to establish funding models and documents that address different organizational concerns for potential new partners. The ability to question value assumptions helps articulate better goals for the group, with stronger outcomes: we are in a much better position to incorporate a wider set of libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage organizations into the group.

One of the most important and challenging aspects to this work will be the ability to bring a variety of voices to the decision-making table: While our lenses from LCI are powerful, they are not useful if we cannot apply them to — and be challenged by — a greater variety of people, ideas, and exchanges participating equally to make our work the best it can be. In each of our discussions, we recognized that LCI itself could be one way in which to make inroads into one of the most pressing challenges of higher education: making a diversity of voices, institutions, and experiences possible through additional funding sources, structures, and opportunities to increase participation. (See Joshua Kim's article "4 Privileges of Participating in the Leading Change Institute" for a great summary of these thoughts and his ideas.2) At my own institution, I feel privileged to participate in a variety of initiatives seeking the same possibilities. For example, I plan to use many of the ideas and experiences from LCI in my work with my institution's engaged pluralism initiative, a multiyear, campus-wide initiative to help reshape and reimagine learning environments (including the library) to serve all members of our community. Beyond campus, I plan to use my LCI experience to help broaden perspectives in my continued work to develop a type of technology experience that more quickly on-boards newcomers and creates an environment of mutual respect and learning. This multi-institutional initiative will be introduced more broadly this fall, and I plan to use my experience (and my cohort!) to inform this rollout.

Final Thoughts

The Leading Change Institute was an intense, useful, and challenging experience. I left the LCI with great ideas and a clearer path to follow to bring them to fruition; a cohort of colleagues and friends from across the country; and even an excellent reading list. I feel energized to make positive change at my institution and within the higher education community, recognizing opportunities for partnerships and collaborations in each. I feel proud to be part of such an amazing group of LCI and Frye Institute participants, colleagues who continue to shape my own ideas. I would encourage anyone interested in ways to shape the future of higher education, libraries, and IT to apply for LCI and find their own ways to articulate their leadership experiences and passions into increased value and relevance for higher education.


Many thanks to deans Joanne Kossuth and Elliott Shore, our speakers, and to EDUCAUSE's Joan Cheverie and CLIR's Amy Lucko for providing such a positive and informative experience and for continuing to coordinate and foster discussions even after our week ended. Thank you also to EDUCAUSE and the Diane Balestri Scholarship for supporting my own participation.


  1. For a nice overview of the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment tool, see Ashley Priant Lesko, "How Do You Lead the Pack? A Resource to Develop Personal Strengths for Students and Practitioners," Journal of Management Education, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2016).
  2. Joshua Kim, "4 Privileges of Participating in the Leading Change Institute," Inside Higher Ed, June 18, 2017.

Joanna DiPasquale is head of Digital Scholarship and Technology Services at Vassar College Libraries.

© 2017 Joanna DiPasquale. The text of this blog is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.