November 7, 2016

leadership-governance-managementDear SPH Faculty and Staff:

SPH2030 is our guiding strategy to make all parts of our school as strong as they can be to meet the challenges of the future. A foundational part of that strategy is how we lead, govern, and manage our school.

Through the 2015 Employee Engagement Survey, we learned that you wanted more involvement in and understanding of school leadership directions and decisions. Your responses and comments in the survey told us that we have work to do in these areas.

We are moving forward, and we want to share with you the latest steps we are taking to continuously improve school organization and leadership capabilities. We have launched the following key initiatives and they are progressing with your help:

SPH Executive Team Composition

The school’s executive team has added faculty and staff members to improve input and decision-making regarding strategic directions in our missions of discovery, learning, and engagement. These members include:

  • Professor Karen Kuntz, Chair of the Education Policy Committee;
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Linde, Chair of the SPH Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC);
  • Donna Spencer, SPH P&A Senate Chair; and
  • the SPH Staff Association Chair (TBN).

These new members join the division heads, associate deans, and key SPH administrators on a quarterly basis. By including these representatives in leadership meetings, we hope faculty and staff will have more voice and can better engage in making decisions and setting directions.

SPH LEADS Development Program

For the first time, the school has launched a program designed to help faculty build leadership, management, and team-building skills. These are competencies that we faculty were never taught in professional and graduate school, yet are indispensable to an effective faculty career as a researcher and educator, or academic leader, if one chooses to pursue that path. The Leadership and Talent Development group from the Office of Human Resources is working with our school’s first cohort of 20 faculty members, with close involvement from our school leadership. We look forward to launching a similar leadership development program for our staff in mid-2017.

Faculty Mentoring and Support

Assistant professors from across SPH continue to meet monthly to network, discuss career advancement issues, and further their development. Assistant professors Hyun Kim and Mark Fiecas currently chair the meetings in partnership with Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research Beth Virnig. Mentoring faculty to promotion and tenure is a key focus, but so is building better research and teaching networks and partnerships across the school.

Associate professors from across SPH are meeting quarterly; they similarly network, discuss career development trajectories, and share perspectives.

School-wide Faculty-led Initiatives

SPH faculty are increasingly engaged in areas of research, learning, and community engagement that don’t fit neatly into any single division’s portfolio. Three that come to mind are Health Equity and Disparities; Global Health; and Aging. The SPH leadership team is exploring how we can foster school-wide program leadership and collaboration in these and other cross-cutting areas without substantially increasing overhead costs. The Health Equity Work Group provides one model of faculty engagement that has been successful not only within SPH but also in bridging to similar groups in other schools. A slightly different model for Global Health is under consideration. More to come on this topic!

Key Governance and Academic Guidance Documents

We are working with the school’s FCC and other governance bodies to revise our constitution. We want it to better serve our school’s governance needs and culture and we must align it with Board of Regents policies and standards. The FCC also will be reviewing our 7.12 statement that sets forth the processes and criteria for appointment, promotion, and tenure in SPH. We are trying to simplify these review processes by outlining the required revisions and highlighting the issues that governance bodies need to more fully discuss and address. Final revisions will come forward to the faculty  — and staff, in the case of the school constitution, — for your approval.

SPH Philanthropy Workshop 

As the University prepares to launch the public phase of its capital campaign in Fall 2017, we collaborated with our SPH Director of Development Louis Clark and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota Foundation to offer a philanthropy workshop to some two dozen faculty and staff administrative leaders in September. The training gave a broad overview of the principles and process emphasizing faculty’s role in articulating compelling stories capturing the importance of their work and vision and development staff’s role in growing, managing, and sustaining potential donors’ engagement.

In Summary…

Finally, thank you for your continuing commitment to our school and for your engagement. As always, your input is welcome.


John Finnegan
Professor and Dean
Beth Virnig
Senior Associate Dean
Academic Affairs & Research