North Central College - Naperville, IL

Challenging New Leaders

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Graduate students enrolled in the new Administration of Higher Education class are learning their lessons from a real pro. Preparing these aspiring future leaders in higher education is Gary Ireland, now director of student development and assistant dean of students.

Formerly the College’s dean of students, Ireland is now sharing his 25 years of experience by teaching graduate-level classes and mentoring graduate assistants. Most of the students in his fall term class are specializing in the new higher education leadership track within the master of leadership studies program.

“Many have worked in higher ed and this class gives them a framework to understand and talk about what they already intuitively know,” Ireland says. He’s also found out that some of the younger students in the class, like recent college graduates, really don’t understand what terms like “tenure” mean.

In addition to drawing from his own vast experience, he’s using textbooks and syllabi from other similar courses. “This is not a ‘pop management’ class,” he states. “The curriculum is drawn from higher education research and theory and the readings can be challenging.” For winter term, Ireland will undertake another new course, College Student Development. He’ll also oversee graduate students who are embarking on a practicum experience that’s required of all leadership studies degree candidates.

Teaching graduate-level courses is a new challenge for Ireland, who in his previous role worked with the Student Government Association, oversaw residence life and handled disciplinary situations. “I love it,” he says of his classroom role. “Most of my students have already put in a full day so you have to keep them engaged over four hours and come up with different activities.” Ireland draws inspiration from professors who mentored him at Loyola University. “They really helped me appreciate higher education as an area of study. You have to merge theory, research and practice so that it becomes something meaningful for a student.”

He’s also excited to be filling a niche in graduate studies that’s attracting new enrollment. “This is a unique program for the suburbs and I’m excited to be a part of it.”