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Campus & Community

Drexel Leaders 20/20 Sets its Sights on Empowering Dragons

October 16, 2019

This word cloud represents a mix of Drexel’s competencies and leadership competencies that underpin the Drexel Leaders 20/20 program.
This word cloud represents a mix of Drexel’s competencies and leadership competencies that underpin the Drexel Leaders 20/20 program.

Since 2013, Drexel Leaders 2020 has prepared cohorts of Drexel University’s professional staff members, and some faculty, to better manage their career trajectory through assessments, workshops and building their professional networks. And it has no plans to stop doing that — although now, the program will have an updated name and a new tagline to further guide its mission.

Rebranded as Drexel Leaders 20/20 (to avoid confusion with the upcoming year of 2020), the program also has a new tagline: Focusing on Leadership at Drexel. The rebranding comes around not just when the year 2020 starts, but also when submissions are open for the new cohort of Dragons, who will be picked in December and will start their leadership development journey in January.

Over the next six months, each cohort, which can range in number from 14 to 22 participants, will attend six daylong workshops to develop their emotional intelligence and communication styles while building professional relationships and engaging in leadership development opportunities. They’ll also receive guidance in making their own individual leadership plans and have the chance to network with senior leaders within and outside of Drexel.

“Drexel 20/20 challenged my thinking around leadership and gave me a new network of colleagues at Drexel,” said Assistant Director for Cooperative Education Kristen Gallo-Zdunowski, from the Steinbright Career Development Center, who participated in the cohort in 2018. “It is really easy to stay within your area or day-to-day work. We’re all so busy. But this allowed me to understand the roles of others at the University and see how similar our challenges are. We’re all developing professionals and this gave us the set-aside time, supported by our managers and departments, to focus on our own growth. I looked forward to our monthly meetings and each topic was really well thought out and delivered with our professional development as the focus.”

Participants have included vice presidents, directors, managers and project managers. In recent years, there has been more of a push to include faculty members in the cohorts — five were among the participants last year, which was an increase from the one or two members included in previous years.

“I benefited directly about improving my leadership approach because of the diverse perspectives and roles of the participants,” said Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies and Lenfest Center Fellow Aroutis Foster, PhD, from the School of Education, who participated in 2019. “There were staff and faculty participants who had varying leadership roles and it was just satisfying to learn from colleagues and to realize that our problems are usually very similar.”

To be eligible for the program, seasoned leaders with at least five years of experience managing people or projects must be nominated by someone occupying a position of senior leadership at Drexel (like their dean or department head or senior vice provost). These candidates must also showcase aspects of leadership potential, such as showing initiative in seeking out learning opportunities, or proactively engaging in other career development activities. Drexel Human Resources (HR), which runs Drexel Leaders 20/20, will then send candidates an application to fill out. Candidates should know that there is a $1,000 participation fee for each member of the cohort, which will be charged back to the department to help defray the expenses of hosting workshops and bringing in speakers.

Every year, the final cohort is determined by a committee that guides and oversees the programs, making recommendations on everything from who is chosen to participate in the program to what topics will be offered during the program.

The current committee is composed of Assistant Vice President of Student Life Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD; Associate Professor and Program Director of Interior Design Debra Ruben, from the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design; Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship Dean and Silverman Family Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership Donna DeCarolis, PhD; Associate Professor and Department Chair of Policy, Organization, and Leadership Rajashi Ghosh, PhD, from the School of Education; Dean of Libraries and Professor in the College of Computing & Informatics Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD; Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Kim Gholston; and Executive Director of Finance & Administration David DiMuzio, from Enrollment Management and Student Success.

“There have been some promotions and movement within the University after people complete this program, but some of the best takeaways for participants aren’t as measurable,” said Kathy Choy, senior consultant of learning and development in Drexel HR, who is the team leader for this program. “It’s the ability to really grow their professional network and build professional relationships with people in their cohort, and it’s the ability to hone their skillset and extend it to others in and out of Drexel. I think people underestimate the value of a really robust professional network and it’s so much more important than people make it out to be.”

The opportunity to expand a circle of contacts was one of the key benefits for Gallo-Zdunowski, who would urge participants to use the networking possibilities offered by the program.

“This is such a great opportunity to take advantage of as a Drexel employee,” she said. “This is your time to put your day-to-day aside, for even a few hours, and challenge yourself. The network I built through this program are all people I’m in touch with regularly and that has made a great difference in my own experience here. If you have the chance to apply, I can’t recommend it highly enough!”

Additionally, Dragons will also be sure to leave the program with a different mindset along with newfound skills, according to Foster.

“You will realize that there is much you do not know about leadership and that there are different flavors of leadership style that one can adapt at certain times for different reasons and outcomes,” he said. “Through the practical experiences of the participants in the workshop and the applied theories being read, a participant will gain new knowledge and insights about Drexel and how to improve themselves as a leader. It will be a fantastic experience.”

For more information on the program, contact Kathy Choy at

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