Honing Her Skills at the Helm

by A.J. Kleber

For Professor Ayse Coskun, Director of the Center for Information & Systems Engineering (CISE) and newly-appointed interim Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, leadership is all about having the power to make a difference.

Fresh from a 9-day intensive HERS Leadership Institute workshop, held at Bridgewater State University, Professor Coskun was feeling energized by her experience when she sat down to chat over coffee. The professor emphasized that her expectations about the experience were far exceeded. 

The HERS Leadership Institute, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is dedicated to building leadership skills, support, and community for women and gender diverse individuals working in higher education. The program is highly interactive and aimed at practical application; rather than simply attending talks, each participant shapes her/their own experience by coming up with a specific near-term project which will incorporate the skills and lessons acquired over the course of the workshop. Advanced preparation is a requirement for each talk or session, and the sessions deliberately mix and remix participants in different types of leadership roles and from different types of institutions. Professor Coskun and five other members of the BU community were selected to attend the program from among a competitive pool of nominees.

This opportunity to learn from different perspectives, while keeping the entire program rooted specifically in higher education, struck Professor Coskun as particularly enriching. She commented that she had been exposed to leadership challenges and projects in areas she doesn’t necessarily work on herself–such as university finances, increasing enrollment, or the process of an executive search–which nevertheless provided useful insight by providing a broader picture.

One of her biggest takeaways from her nine days with HERS? The importance of equity in every aspect of her work; a regular piece of any project, from hiring to planning research events and beyond. One of the important lessons she absorbed was that “my job has nothing to do with equity” is simply never true – and that as a leader, she has some power to make an impact. It’s something she’s thinking about as she considers her HERS-inspired Capstone Leadership Project.

And just what is that project? For now, she’s not telling … there are details to work out before she’ll reveal what she has in store for CISE, and for BU Engineering at large. All we can say is … stay tuned! In the meantime, she looks forward to staying connected with her new HERS colleagues from around the country–and right here at BU.