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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Educating educators: Tufts part of ACE program

As the old saying goes, you never really understand someone until you walk around in his shoes. The same now applies to university administrators.

University deans, provosts and presidents are increasingly being eased into their dynamic and challenging roles through a premier leadership development program called the American Council on Education (ACE) Fellowship. After a rigorous evaluation process, a limited number of aspiring higher education administrators -- nominated by their home institutions -- are selected to become fellows each year.

ACE fellows are given the opportunity to spend an extended period of time on a university campus, working with leadership and personnel including the president, vice president and provost. They observe and participate in meetings and events, take on special projects and assignments, participate in three different week-long national seminars and make contact with a network of higher education leaders.

Tufts Provost Jamshed Bharucha feels that the program is useful for those seeking upper-level posts, as well as for faculty members who wish to expand their knowledge and experience.

"The [ACE] program gives the fellows an opportunity to learn about a new and different organization," Bharucha said. "It is leadership development for people who have prior experience and are interested in taking on new university leadership positions."

Tufts President Lawrence Bacow, who is a member of the National Panel of Presidents and Chancellors for the ACE, is committed to the program, and several fellows have spent a year at Tufts learning the ropes of university administration. During the 1996-1997 academic year, Deborah Winslow Nutter, the current senior associate dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, completed her fellowship at Tufts.

Tufts' fellow for the current academic year is Nancy Aries, a professor at Baruch College's School of Public Affairs. Baruch is part of the City University of New York. Aries is working with administrators from all across the university, but most closely with Bharucha.

A provost's typical day is filled to the brim. "[My day involves] lots of meetings -- including those related to budgets, trustees, academic affairs and talking with students and staff -- phone calls, e-mails, events and receptions, dealing with unexpected crises and traveling between the Boston campus and the Medford campus," Bharucha said.

But Aries' experience is not merely a replica of Bharucha's routine. In accordance with the guidelines and mission of the ACE program, she has been building her own relationships with people from all over the university by attending meetings and events and pursuing her own projects.

"We've encouraged [Aries] to get to know many different people at Tufts, invited her to many different meetings and had one-on-one sessions with her. But she is taking her own initiative -- getting to know leaders, challenges and differences in different parts of the university," Bharucha said.

"The president and the provost have given me tremendous access to learn whatever I want to about the university," Aries said. "My day generally consists of three parts: first, contacting people, learning about different people in the university and meeting people in all avenues; second, attending all levels of meetings at the university, including staff meetings, council meetings and president meetings, to see how leadership happens here; third, doing my own reading and following up on questions I want to pursue, including project work for Tufts and my home institution."

The program has allowed Aries to scrutinize what makes Tufts run so smoothly, and also to add her own insights.

"The program has made me realize how each member of the university, from professors to administrators to personnel, sees the university from their own unique perspective and how the pieces come together as a whole when you look at the institution from the top down. I have been able to see how university leadership balances and how to create a learning environment for students and faculty that makes Tufts such a special place and a clear choice for prospective students," Aries said.

In addition, the fusion of her experiences at Baruch College with those she has had at Tufts has given Aries new ideas about how a college can and should be run and has provided Tufts administrators with a helpful new viewpoint.

"A good fellow like Nancy can be a new set of eyes and ears and notice things that those embedded in the organization don't necessarily see. She brings a fresh perspective coming from an institution with a different culture," Bharucha said.

Indeed, the atmosphere at Baruch is quite different from that at Tufts. Located in Manhattan, it is part of a large public city university system that serves a primarily commuter population. In contrast, Tufts is a small private school shielded from the big city atmosphere by virtue of its location in a small suburban town. In addition, most Tufts students live on campus.

Aries contends that residential living provides students with certain opportunities and experiences that cannot be found at a commuter school, and she hopes to use what she has learned at Tufts to expand the resources available to students at Baruch.

"Tufts and Baruch are schools with very different missions and environments," Aries said. "I want to be able to give students at Baruch -- who are primarily working and commuting to school -- the same opportunities that Tufts students have. Being a full-time student and living in the residential facilities is a very special experience; you have the opportunity to hear speakers, go to plays, do internships and so much more. I want Baruch students to have comparable experiences and opportunities."

Overall, the experience of being a fellow for the ACE program has been a very positive one for Aries.

"Working with the president and provost has been a fabulous experience," she said. "It is a privilege to be included in this program and in the Tufts community."

Aries plans to return to Baruch College next year and pursue new positions in the academic programming section of the administration.

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