As many of you know, the fabulous Kimberly White sat down with ACPA President and Master of Higher Education Administration and Doctorate of Education Program Director at New England College, Gavin Henning and had a great conversation with him on Google Hangout about his journey in Student Affairs and advice he has for graduate students and new professionals which you can find here: #SALEAD AND ACPA.
As well, the awesome Dustin Ramsdell recently chatted with Gavin on the Student Affairs Spectacular Podcast about his journey in ACPA, some of his current projects as ACPA President and what he does for fun.
So, with such great conversations already had with our ACPA President, I wanted to really pick his brain about leadership. Being one of the most visible leaders in our field, I figured he would have some great insights and experiences on leadership, and he did not disappoint.
The first question I asked the Michigan State alum was what was leadership to him. His response was quick and clear: “The ability to make things happen; to be able to have a vision, get people involved and to be able to execute”. One of the most resonating and empowering comments he made was about the difference between personal vs. positional leadership; That a person did not need to have a title or position to be a leader. For me I have always supported this and was thrilled to hear that of the shared philosophy.
My next question was more about Gavin and inquired into how and why he considers himself a leader. He responded humbly and referred to his steps he previously mentioned of “making things happen”. He and I chatted then about the upcoming Presidential Symposium and his ability to have a vision, get people involved and able to get it executed. And by the way, definitely check out the symposium! There is a really interesting new way to become engaged with the program on your own campus during the symposium! he goes into great detail with it in Dustin’s Podcast.
From there we journeyed down a conversation of more personal leadership and what he found the most difficult in leadership. We chatted about self-awareness and self-reflection and the need to be aware of your own personal strengths and weaknesses whether it is in reference to cultural competence, skills and practices, etc. I found it great that he was self-aware to know and take ownership of his strengths and weaknesses and proactively worked to learn and educate himself. I think we all strive to do this, but it is a struggle and it is great to have a leader at the helm who examples this so well. We briefly went on a tangent into an area that I’ve been thinking about lately; in that no one is perfect and that life is all about the learning. No person on Earth, stops learning and that it is what we do with our education and new perspectives that help us “make things happen” and become leaders.
One of my final questions to him was what area did he hope to improve on with ACPA’s help? We began chatting about the difference between globalization and internationalization, basing our conversation on a piece by past ACPA President Dennis C. Roberts where globalization is at its basis transplanting something or someone from one area to another while internationalization is the integration of lives and practices from one area to another. It was fascinating listening to Gavin reflect on this during our chat.
My final question was a fun one and I closed with asking him what his favorite things about being ACPA President has been thus far. And in a heartbeat he said “the people”. The ability to interact and meet people from across our field and beyond has been what he has enjoyed the most; from meeting the Chinese delegation at the 2015 ACPA Convention to working with Erik Qualman to having the honor of writing forewords as ACPA President for professionals in the field.
Before I knew it, we were signing off with the traditional Michigan State University salutation and farewell Go Green!
Reflecting on our conversation, the significance behind the phrase “the ability to make things happen” is not only empowering but allows for ownership and the opportunity for each of us to take a part in leading our field, our campuses, our families and even our individual lives regardless of titles or positions. Its about the actions and not the positions.
It was so great to be able to chat with Gavin, a leader, in many ways, in our field and to have the opportunity to learn about and understand leadership even more so from our ACPA President.
Thank you, Gavin, for taking the time to chat and chuckle with me at 9:00 AM and for providing such great insights and perspectives into leadership!
Until next time!
Peace, Love and Pandas!