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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Executive Leadership Academy Fellows

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MSU Mankato seeks applications for its third ELA Fellow

by James Figy | November 11, 2015


A brick shattered the school bus window in front of Timothy Berry. The crowd pressed against the bus. They threw more bricks. That day in 1975, Berry was eight years old. It was his first day of third grade, his first time riding the bus to an integrated school.

He had felt excited when his mother said attending this school proved he was as good as any other kid. Now he just felt terrified.Dr. Timothy Berry of Minnesota State University, Mankato

“You think you’re going to die,” said Dr. Berry, assistant professor of educational leadership. “So I was impacted from that day forward about structural barriers.”

That day followed Berry, even to the Executive Leadership Academy in March 2015, hosted by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley. Each year, the President’s Commission on Diversity at MSU selects one faculty member who desires to move into a higher education leadership role to attend ELA. The Commission is currently looking for candidates to attend ELA in either March or July 2016.

Entering its sixth year, ELA has graduated 170 fellows. They have different backgrounds and come from different states or countries, but they all desire to become a university director, dean, provost, or president. They attend the intensive five-day academy and receive a certificate in executive leadership.

“With a distinguished faculty team and an outstanding multicultural curriculum, ELA continues to prepare visionary higher education leaders to guide their institutions in an increasingly multinational environment,” said Dr. Josefina Baltodano, ELA’s founder and executive director, in a statement.

Dr. Agnes Adhiambo Odinga-Oluoch, MSU’s first ELA Fellow, said the academy provided hands-on training and knowledge about navigating into—and succeeding in—higher education leadership. Having earned an MBA a few years prior, she saw ELA as a way to learn about applying her business knowledge to higher education.

“As a teacher, I’ve come to realize there is a lot of learning that occurs in a classroom that is not captured in textbooks, and I got that opportunity by attending,” said Odinga-Oluoch, who teaches in the History Department.

Dr. Agnes Adhiambo Odinga-Oluoch of Minnesota State University, MankatoELA’s running theme is “Leading in a Global and Multicultural Environment,” which resonated with Odinga-Oluoch. Born in Kenya, she studied history as an undergraduate because the government chose students' majors. After graduation, the Kenyan government paid for a handful of top-performing students—including her—to complete master's degrees in education to succeed the country's aging academics.

"We don't call them old," she said. "We call them wise people."

She then came to the United States to complete her doctorate at the University of Minnesota.

Beginning her eighth year teaching at MSU, Odinga-Oluoch would like to move into leadership to shed a light on issues international students face.

“When I walk around, it is very different from the MSU I came to seven years ago,” she said. “I see a lot of students from around the world, which is nice, but if you’ve never lived that life, it is very hard to understand it.”

Odinga-Oluoch and Berry both strongly encourage others to apply. The most important lessons, both said, are about balance. Leaders must learn to balance the needs of students, faculty, and staff with budgetary concerns. They must learn where their own needs fit in the balance, too.

“Being in leadership in an institution is only one aspect of your life,” Odinga-Oluoch said. “These other aspects of your life—your professional affiliations, your family life, and leisure—are equally important, because that makes you whole.”

Also, be prepared to meet people and make friends, Odinga-Oluoch said. At ELA in March 2014, she met, for the first time in person, the professor from UC Berkeley who facilitated her move to the U.S. years ago, making her experience more significant.

Berry’s cohort stays in contact through email and a group on LinkedIn that includes the Fellows from his cohort and presenters.

“I’ve been emailing back and forth since we’ve been there with a few people, especially the people that have similar goals or aspirations or work,” he said.

With this experience, Odinga-Oluoch hopes to move into leadership to champion multicultural issues in higher education, which continues to grow more diverse, she said.

“If you’re going to be managing a diverse community, you might as well also have leaders who are diverse,” she said. “So I saw it as an opportunity to begin honing my skills so that when a certain opportunity presents itself, I’ll be in a position to take advantage of that.”

Please contact for more information about the 2016 ELA Fellowship.