How to Be a Great Boss: Drexel HR Program Provides a Road Map

Graduation celebration

If you perform well in your job, it stands to reason that you may be promoted to a management role.

But that means that you’ll no longer be doing your old job, that one you were so good at. Being a boss may be a different job entirely.

This is a big reason that Drexel Human Resources offers its Supervisory Certificate Program, a series of courses designed to help relatively new managers — or people who hope one day to be managers — develop the skills, knowledge and tools needed to effectively manage people.

“Many people are promoted into management because they are excellent individual contributors,” said Suzanne Noll, director of learning and development for Human Resources. “However, being an individual contributor is a very different role from being a manager. You don’t just learn it by osmosis.”

One of several learning and development programs offered for Drexel employees, the Supervisory Certificate Program (SCP) has been around for about three years — long enough to develop a pool of graduates who sing its praises and encourage others to enroll.

One of those is Helene Engel, an administrator for the Department of Performing Arts in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. She found the program so helpful that earlier this year she became one of a growing number of people to write notes to the HR team expressing their thanks.

The fact that Drexel made such an effort to help her develop made her extremely grateful, Engel said, and made her value her work even more.

“I think it’s wonderful that Drexel makes that investment in its employees,” Engel said.

She enrolled in the program after a colleague spoke highly about it, and she said she benefitted in many ways: learning about managing different personalities through a role-playing exercise, becoming more familiar with her own personality using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and just networking with people from different corners of Drexel whom she may have never met otherwise.

“We’re such a large university that it’s really hard to do that, to meet people outside of your own little bubble,” Engel said.

About 300 people have taken part in the SCP since it began, and 77 have graduated in the annual summer ceremonies. But with nearly 5,000 employees at Drexel, there are plenty more potential participants. And the program is open to any employee, with the only requirement being a letter of recommendation from the participant’s supervisor. The program will benefit people who aspire to be supervisors as well as managers with all levels of experience, said Kathy Choy, a senior consultant for learning and development in Human Resources.

“To really be a great boss, you need to continue to grow and learn,” said Choy, who oversees the SCP. “You’re never done.”

That’s certainly the philosophy of Jay Rappaport, systems administrator for Westphal College. A veteran of education and professional development programs, he said he found the SCP tremendously helpful.

The lessons he learned from the program included to focus on information and tasks that are truly important, incorporating other people’s perspectives and adhering to a methodology called “prep, do, review.” That method, he said, helps him remember to step back occasionally from the busy pace of life and Drexel to take time for reflection and evaluation.

“Sometimes I feel like being busy is good,” Rappaport said. “But sometimes I think I’m stuck in the ‘do’ of the task and never doing the thinking.”

The course’s curriculum, which participants can take largely at their own pace, is based on material from the Harvard Business Review with substantial evidence behind it. Participants take a series of required courses, including “Proactive Performance Management” and “Managing Within the Law,” and also pick at least two elective courses from choices that include “Delegation,” “Productive Conflict” and more.

Stephen Rupprecht, an assistant dean of students in Student Affairs, said he took something valuable away from every session. The “Managing Within the Law” course, he said, helped him learn about some especially important legal issues. He said he’d recommend the program for any supervisor.

“Once you start thinking that you know everything, I think you’re in trouble,” Rupprecht said.

For more information on taking part in the program, employees can visit the SCP webpage or send questions via email to