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Insights from CLAS Dean: Laker Club Talk on Leadership and Life

Grand Valley State University faculty and staff convened at the Laker Club on February 1 to attend the inaugural speech in a series delivered by different faculty members sharing insights from their leadership journeys. Situated in The Commons adjacent to Mackinac Hall, the Laker Club serves as an exclusive lounge for faculty members to engage in collaborative endeavors and rejuvenate.

Reflecting on her professional trajectory and pivotal life experiences, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at GVSU, Dr. Drake, reminisced about her formative years at Brown University, exploring Southeast Asia, and the profound influence of her role at GVSU on her leadership approach.

Drake emphasized the essence of attentive listening in effective leadership, attributing it to curiosity, a passion for learning, and a willingness to embrace the unexpected, as it fosters growth and development. She underscored the collective nature of leadership, portraying it as a communal endeavor that encompasses all individuals. According to Drake, leadership is a continuous practice characterized by deliberate actions and well-articulated principles.

Having completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University, Drake pursued her M.A. and Ph.D. in English at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her academic voyage has been marked by significant contributions to the field, culminating in her appointment as a Professor in the English Department at the University of Indianapolis. She has held pivotal roles such as the Founding Director of and subsequently assumed the position of Dean of the Shaheen College of Arts and Sciences at UIndy.

Drake expressed her unwavering commitment to fostering an inclusive and supportive educational environment, particularly highlighting her dedication to empowering first-generation students in honing their writing skills. Recognized as a Fellow of the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership at Arizona State University and Georgetown University in 2019-2020, Drake actively engages with feminist perspectives and endeavors to propel dialogues on gender-related issues. Her involvement in initiatives like the Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty: A COACHE Program at the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education underscores her dedication to scholarly pursuits.

Drawing from her experiences at both large and small academic institutions, Drake articulated her insights on the fundamental attributes that distinguish an institution as a proficient facilitator of skill development and career advancement. She commended Grand Valley for its unique blend of a large-scale institution with an intimate, personalized atmosphere, boasting abundant resources, stability, and diverse assets.

Looking ahead, the Laker Club anticipates hosting upcoming leadership sessions featuring GVSU’s Dean of Health Professions, Ning “Jackie” Zhang, Director of Athletics, Keri Becker, and Football Head Coach, Scott Wooster.