14:40 PM

President's Leadership Academy Graduates First Fellows


By Sheryl E. Taylor

It’s official!

The 2018-2019 inaugural class of UHD’s President’s Leadership Academy (PLA or Academy) have graduated.

Last October, 25 members—comprised of a cross-section of faculty and staff—were identified as potential candidates to serve in roles that are “critical to the institution’s mission” in UHD’s Succession Plan.

“The strength of our leadership lies in the resolve of our faculty and staff,” said UHD President Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “The President’s Academy enhances the strength of the University’s current leadership while shaping its leaders for tomorrow’.”

The intent of the Academy is to equip graduates with:

  • A heightened level of trust, understanding, innovative freedom and unity among the Academy participants.
  • Sources of accountability.
  • Focused efforts on peer-understanding to bridge generational gaps or management/subordinate gaps.
  • Clearly defined expectations of leadership and an understanding of the importance each member of the faculty and staff play at the University.

“The PLA complements the University’s Management Development Program by elevating the participants’ experience to lead and not just manage people,” said Ivonne Montalbano, Vice President for Employment Services & Operations. “The Academy speaks loudly about Dr. Muñoz’s investment in the future leaders at UHD.”

Montalbano also noted that they are gearing up for the second PLA, which will commence this October and feature a total of 12 PLA Fellows comprised of faculty and staff. The nomination and selection process will begin this summer.

“We are very proud of what we accomplished by taking Dr. Muñoz’s vision from Texas Tech and building upon it here at UHD,” said Montalbano. “For many of the Academy fellows, it was an enlightening experience. Not only were they able to collaborate with colleagues from across the University; they also learned more about themselves … professionally, personally, emotionally and psychologically to become better leaders.”

For PLA graduate Judith Quander, the experience provided a new career perspective.

“It has made me think more about what I see myself doing in the future in terms of administrative positions,” said the UHD associate professor of mathematics & statistics. “I never thought really deeply about moving outside of a professor role but I always was curious. Now, I can actually see myself in a more administrative role. I was able to identify my strengths (and weaknesses) as a leader; and what I would need to improve upon to advance in an administrative role. It seems more plausible than ever before.”

The Academy learning schedule consisted of five modules:

  • Personal Leadership: Leading Oneself
  • Financial Leadership: The Dollars and Sense of UHD
  • Personnel Leadership: Talent Management Policies & Skills
  • Inclusive Leadership: The Strength of Diversity
  • Visionary Leadership: A Plan of Action to Build

“UHD has been part of my life for the past 17 years, both as a student and in my professional career,” said Maria Estrada, assistant director of Campus Operations at UHD Northwest. Therefore, being part of the Academy was a rewarding experience because it allowed me to learn more about the University’s administrative operations and how I could continue to contribute to the overall mission. Personally, the Academy helped me create a personal vision statement, which has assisted me in reaching relevant life goals.”

David A. Miller of Cornerstone Executives served as lead facilitator. He was joined by UHD’s Dr. Creshema Murray, assistant professor of communication studies.

For Murray, the vision and mission of the Academy are crystal clear.

“The President’s Leadership Academy provides an opportunity for UHD to intentionally develop leaders,” said Murray. “As our institution continues to grow, UHD must be proactive in equipping and preparing faculty and staff to lead future generations of Texans.”

Miller echoed Murray’s sentiments, but delved deeper into the necessity of authenticity in empowering new leaders.

“The 'world' tells us today that we have to be tough…don’t look dumb…be in charge. Yet the best example of leadership is given by those who are servant leaders, giving others above and below them on the organization chart opportunities to grow and shine,” said Miller. “We have discovered that authenticity is the most powerful leadership quality a person can have. Being authentic (the real deal) allows one to be tough and tender; to add to one’s intelligence by admitting you don’t have all the answers; and by engaging and including others in decisions.”

So, what’s his overarching goal when facilitating such a paramount initiative like PLA?

“The goal is simple and it is directly tied to my personal purpose and mission statements which are:

My purpose is to have a positive, lasting impact on the lives of others. My mission is to seek, live, and share truth,” he said. “By pursuing these two statements of worth and importance, I believe lives are being transformed who, in turn, will transform those they lead and serve.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.