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Working at CSU

Women leaders at CSU: Come to learn and lunch

August 15, 2013

The Women's Leadership Webinar Series at Colorado State is an opportunity to sit down with a catered lunch and engage with other emerging women leaders on campus on topics such as, 'Dealing with difficult conversations at work," Leading meetings,' and 'Breakout career moves.'

Practicing your leadership skills

Recently, a colleague asked Margaret Saldaña, Coordinator of Organizational Development, Learning, and Assessment  in the Office of the Vice President for Resarch: "Are there opportunities at CSU for women to practice leadership skills?"

Saldaña thought for a moment and said, "There're lots of opportunities to learn about leadership theory, but not as many opportunities for practice, mentorship, and networking."

Applying what we know

"Speaking for myself, I have a lot of theory in my head -- I have a master’s degree in organizational performance and change and I've taken leadership development training at CSU. We know that adult learners need to practice what they learn or they lose it.  What better place to apply it than in the workplace?”

Late last year, Saldaña, who chairs the ODLA team, began planning a leadership series for campus employees. The invitation went out to all employees — men and women.  However, the majority of attendees who responded were women.

"It struck us that there are a lot of women here in leadership roles and they may or may not have had the opportunity to prepare themselves for those roles." she said. "We felt that women could benefit from sharing their experiences and practical tips. Women who are emerging as leaders here at CSU could learn from experienced women leaders on campus."

A pipeline of qualified leaders

Saldaña contacted the Idaho-based Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc., which works worldwide with organizations that want to develop a pipeline of qualified and engaged women leaders.

Saldaña was impressed with their curriculum and was told that the training could be done in a convenient webinar format. 

“Things started to gel,” she said. “The guest speakers would be from industry and we’d invite facilitators from CSU to lead discussions and to share career and leadership tips."

Lunch or learning?

“There was one major stumbling block,” Saldaña said. “Many of the women on this campus have demanding schedules.

“We could offer the seminars over the lunch hour, but then, many would be faced with the choice — lunch or learning? Think about it – after working half a day, most of us need to stop and take a break and take some nourishment,” she said.

The solution – a light lunch would be offered during the webinars.

A mentor from “outside”

Saldaña went outside her division to Ginny Fanning, Director of Development for Student Affairs and the Provost's Office, and asked for her guidance. How could they obtain funding for the lunches?

"Businesses can write a check to CSU," Fanning said, "but sometimes it's easier for a small, local business to offer to support an effort on campus with an in-kind gift.  So we brainstormed about local restaurants that could provide lunches for the participants as their gift to CSU and Margaret set out to makes the connections.

“Margaret approached Spoons, Jason’s Deli, and Noodles and Company, all of which have a significant, local presence in Fort Collins. They all agreed to participate by donating lunches!

“My role,” Fanning said, “is to make sure that we’re good stewards of the donors and the donor companies. In return for the donation of lunches, we invite them to send their staff to the presentations. And when we see the owners of these restaurants or franchises at the webinars, we express our gratitude. We say, ‘Thank you so much for making this possible!’”

“Ginny has helped me enormously,” Saldaña said. “She was glad to mentor me. There are perhaps lots of opportunities for this kind of mentoring and networking at CSU that we don’t take advantage of because the person who could be helpful works outside our college or division.”

Three managers and their perspectives

The Women’s Leadership Webinar series is now in its second year and has been a solid success.

Mary Stromberger, associate professor and Vice Chair of the Faculty Council, has attended the webinar sessions on leading meetings and dealing with difficult conversations.

“I’ve really enjoyed the webinar series, not only for its content, but for the opportunity to meet other women on campus,” Stromberger said. “We talk about our successes and our challenges, as well as strategies for developing our careers. I’ve especially appreciated our discussions on work-life balance and knowing that I am not alone in this struggle!

“In terms of my professional development, the webinars on Leading Meetings and Dealing with Difficult Conversations have been the most helpful. I tend to be introverted, and these webinars have taught me the importance of having my voice heard, and that when conflict is dealt with in the right way, strong relationships can be built based on mutual respect.”

Farrah Bustamante, Manager of Strategic Sourcing with Procurement Services at CSU, attended the Working with Virtual and Global Teams and Leading Meetings webinars.  Bustamante said the training offered extremely helpful tips for leading productive meetings.

"We learned the importance of being organized, having objectives and an agenda, and of having the right people at the meeting," she said. "Also, to not to schedule the whole hour, but to leave time for debriefing at the end. We learned how to manage outspoken individuals or meeting 'derailers' and how to follow up meetings with notes, actions, and deadlines."

"I attended Breakout Career Moves because I thought the mention of a 'career lattice' (rather than a ladder) was interesting. You don’t necessarily have to move up – moving sideways can also add to your skill set, increase your professional value, and provide you with new challenges," said Beth Etter, director of communications for the Alumni Association.

"I also attended the webinar on Leading Meetings. One of the takeaways for me was that if you're invited to a meeting, be sure you can contribute. Prepare before the meeting and be ready to contribute, whether it’s a statement, a question, or an idea. Of course, you don’t want to speak just for the sake of speaking, but you do want to be mindful of contributing and having your voice heard."

Coming up

Sept. 10, 2013 | Breakout Career Moves

If you’re ready for your next big career move, don’t wait for it to find you. In this webinar, learn how to create opportunities to do what you’re great at and passionate about. Hear from women executives who have successfully defined their careers by creating their own high-profile projects, stretch assignments, and customized roles.

  • Kathy Thornhill, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Programs
October 29, 2013 | Take Charge of Your Career Trajectory

Someone once said: Make a plan or someone else will make one for you. This was never truer than when it comes to your career advancement. In this webinar, you’ll learn how to define the professional trajectory that you want. We’ll cover a checklist of key elements to include in your plan, and tips for negotiating development opportunities within your company.

  • Marty Welsch,  Human Resources Director in the Office of the Vice President for Research
December 3, 2013 | Ask a Male Executive

Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask a male leader but were afraid to ask? This hour-long Q&A forum gives you access to that male perspective without any of the awkwardness. A panel of executive men will candidly address a wide range of career issues and leadership challenges specific to women.

  • Maury Dobbie, Assistant Director, Center for the New Energy Economy
  • Lorie Smith, Director, Training and Organizational Development Office

Learn more

Event venue: Morgan Library Event Hall  

Note: The webinar series is open to all aspiring, emerging women leaders on the Colorado State University campus who are staff or faculty.

Contact: Margaret Saldana
Phone: (970) 491-7194