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Institute for Educational Management: Celebrating 50 Years of Higher Education Leadership Development

In 2020, the Harvard Graduate School of Education will mark the 50th anniversary of the Institute for Educational Management (IEM) – the nation’s oldest and pre-eminent program for professional development of college and university leaders.

As the founding program of the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education (HIHE) portfolio, IEM has evolved not only to keep pace with a changing educational landscape, but also to forge a new path to help senior leaders in higher education develop and refine the critical skills, strategies, and professional networks needed to address challenges related to today’s competitive educational marketplace, diversity and inclusion, emerging technology, and financial and human resources.

IEM’s strategic origins, track record of growth and innovation, and impact on the educational space have reshaped how a generation of education leaders approach the field’s most significant challenges. Through the years, IEM has welcomed 4,714 participants since its first offering 50 years ago.

“We strive to be the very best source of professional development for higher education leaders in ways that strengthen individual skills and capabilities,” says James P. Honan, Senior Lecturer on Education at HGSE and Faculty Co-Chair of IEM. “Drawing on almost 50 years of leadership development experience, IEM will make you a better leader and, in the process, make your institution a better place for teaching and learning.”

Roots of Success
When the program was conceived in the mid-1960s, its original goal was to offer college and university administrators “a broad general program of substance which would bring people together not of the same but of differing occupations within education.” By the late 1960s, with initial funding secured from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, planning and development for the program began and the first formal prospectus was finalized for the 1970 summer term.

Over a six-week period in 1970, the inaugural cohort – comprised of 57 men and six women – completed “A Management Development Program for College and University Administrators” under the tutelage of Harvard Business School (HBS) faculty.

The immersive leadership development course was designed to ground educators in four key areas, including managing the educational institution, information systems for planning and control, management of funds, and human behavior and organizational problems.  

Upon conclusion of the inaugural program – which became known in the fall of 1971 as the Institute for Educational Management – the Harvard faculty team began looking toward the future, evaluating the program’s long-term viability, course content, and support for women and participants of color.

Support around diversity and inclusion became a hallmark of IEM’s early years, and in 1972, the program launched a recruitment initiative geared toward women “in an effort to alleviate conscious and unconscious discrimination against women.” To facilitate the identification, outreach, and recruitment of female candidates, a staff member was dedicated to the task, and 18 of the 25 women who participated in the 1972 IEM session received tuition support.

Harvard also secured $60,000 in grants from the Ford and Exxon foundations to encourage program attendance by diverse candidates. The efforts proved effective as enrollment doubled for participants of color between the years of 1970 and 1973.

The work Harvard put into actively recruiting and supporting diverse candidates at the program’s inception, paved the way for the invaluable peer networks and relevant course content today’s participants experience.

A recent IEM participant reflected: “My IEM experience was a game changer, both professionally and personally,” said Kimberly P. Blair (IEM ’14), Assistant Vice President of Advancement, Virginia Tech. “Being surrounded by peers from the entire spectrum of higher education institutions afforded an unbelievable opportunity to learn new problem-solving strategies and ways to build more productive partnerships with work colleagues.”

Innovating for the Future
By 1973, program administrators began looking toward the future. Dean Lawrence Fouraker of HBS and Dean Paul N. Ylvisaker of HGSE recommended that Harvard make a “university-wide” commitment to IEM and reiterated their support for the recruitment of women and participants of color. While both HBS and HGSE would continue their joint sponsorship of IEM, HGSE would now administer the program.

As the 1970s drew to a close, IEM administrators began to see the impact of the program. By 1979, nearly 1,000 senior-level college and university leaders from more than 400 different institutions had attended IEM. This widespread diversity enabled session cohort members to establish a strong, sustainable community of practice that extended well beyond the now nine-day on-campus experience.

The strength and success of IEM resulted in the creation of additional higher education leadership programs geared toward educators with different roles and responsibility levels – which HGSE ultimately gathered under the umbrella of the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education. In 1979, HGSE developed the program that would later become the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education (MLE), which brings together seasoned college and university administrators looking to develop new skills and strategies around managing institutional change.

HGSE added another program to the HIHE portfolio in the mid-1980s – the Management Development Program (MDP) – to address the demand for the “Harvard model” of professional development directed to rising and mid-level managers in higher education.

In 1990, the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents became the fourth leadership development program in the HIHE portfolio. This program brings together first-time college and university presidents and grew out of research conducted by HGSE faculty member David Riesman and Judith Block McLaughlin, Senior Lecturer on Education at HGSE, who has served as Faculty Chair since the program's inception.

“The Harvard Institutes for Higher Education convene leaders in higher education from across the country and the world, from various institutional and professional backgrounds,” said Richard Reddick, Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement and Outreach, The University of Texas at Austin, and Faculty Co-Chair of IEM. “We strategize, plan, and recruit the most knowledgeable, engaging faculty to teach in our programs. The result is that we create an amazingly generative session leveraging the expertise and experience of our program participants with thought leaders in higher education.”

A New Generation of Educators
As IEM marks its 50th anniversary, the program has come a long way from its first cohort of 63 participants. Since 1970, more than 15,000 educators have benefitted from HIHE programs, with IEM leading the way in leadership development for higher education professionals.

“IEM is one of the best investments you can make. Expanding your professional network alone is worth the cost, but the program also enables you to see new intersections between larger higher education issues and the specifics of your job,” said Kevin McDonald, Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity and Chief Diversity Officer, University of Missouri System (IEM ’15). “You will be able to chart a new institutional course as a newly equipped change agent. Take the plunge. I promise you won’t regret it!”

HGSE will celebrate IEM’s 50th anniversary with a two-day event, October 11-12, 2019, that looks back on the program’s history, as well as explores the role IEM plays in shaping the future of higher education. Click here to learn more about the program and register today!