Meaningful, cutting-edge professional development for executive leaders across all education domains

by College of Education at Illinois  /   Sep 8, 2015

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Workshops, webinars, and a future book club all on the docket for College’s Executive Leadership Academy

For the last year, James Gallaher Jr. has led the Executive Leadership Academy (ELA) within the College of Education. ELA provides high-quality, research-based leadership development to address the real-world challenges of educational organization leaders in the 21st century.

ELA is collaborating with the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment and the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities to offer strategies that address the needs of learning organizations in all their complexity and diversity.

“Few organizations are attuned to the realities and needs of educational leaders and administrators,” said Gallaher, whose experience in human resources, leadership development, and competency modeling is extensive. “The Executive Leadership Academy at the University of Illinois is dedicated to the preparation of topnotch educational leaders of today and tomorrow who are capable of recognizing and addressing societal shifts in demographics, technology, economics, and culture.” 

As executive director of ELA, Gallaher qualifies as a distinguished leader himself. He earned a master’s degree in human resource development, an MBA, and a doctorate degree, all from the University of Illinois. Prior to his current role, Dr. Gallaher was assistant vice president and chief human resources officer at Eastern Michigan University, where he also served as director of training and professional development.

Gallaher also held a number of human resources positions at General Motors, including roles in global organizational capability, training and professional development, organizational development, human resource management, and labor relations.  

In late September he will travel to Orlando to lead an all-day session titled “Aspiring Chief Human Resources Officer Workshop.” The event is part of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Annual Conference and Expo 2015 and will focus on:

  • Developing a greater understanding of individual development plans
  • Exploring CUPA-HR’s Learning Framework and understanding how to use it as a guide for personal and professional growth
  • Interacting with an expert panel and discovering what institutions want in a future chief human resources officer
  • Charting a roadmap that will prepare attendees to become a chief human resources officer 

Gallaher is a member of both a regional and national CUPA-HR board and the new chair of the organization’s learning and professional development committee. The mission of CUPA-HR, according to its website, is to serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy, and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence.  

“The idea is to raise the visibility and importance of human resources within higher education and be a think tank that leads the field of HR,” Gallaher said. “A way to do that is through learning and professional development types of activities. We offer online learning sessions, webinars, and have the national conference where I’m presenting at this year. It’s become a bigger and bigger draw.”

Gallaher, who is also a board member of Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, recently received commendation in a letter to the College of Education from CUPA-HR President and CEO Andy Brantley.

“CUPA-HR continues to grow and thrive because of leaders like James,” Brantley wrote. “The knowledge and resources that we create and share, the advocacy leadership we provide in D.C. to influence legislation and regulation, and the connections we create and facilitate to link your campus with other campuses help make a tremendous impact on higher education and higher education human resources professionals.”

Dean Mary Kalantzis said Brantley’s high regard for the ELA executive director is testimony to his outstanding expertise, effectiveness and values.

“We are lucky and proud to have James among us,” Kalantzis said, “and we look forward to witnessing the ways in which he extends the College’s mission by leveraging his impressive skills and understanding of building organizational effectiveness to improve and support school leadership. James is dedicated to improving the leadership capacity and sensibilities of those serving education.”

Gallaher is looking forward to expanding ELA’s impact by offering a range of professional development opportunities, including:

  • A technology leadership session with Cisco Systems, Education faculty members, and the campus’s chief information officer
  • A session on helping leaders develop employee coaching skills
  • A workshop on leading and developing high-performing teams
  • A boot camp for school administrators focused on critical legal issues that impact school systems
  • A series of workshops on culturally proficient leadership and one in Chicago that centers on decision making
  • A locally driven book club that will offer administrator academy credits for education administrators
  • Free one-hour webinars on leadership topics, available via the ELA website
  • Ongoing leadership development planning and activities with Champaign and Urbana school districts

“We’re excited about the growth potential of ELA,” Gallaher said. “There are only a handful of organizations out there that focus on educational leadership, and ultimately, we are working toward being the go-to organization for leadership development in the U.S.”