North Central College - Naperville, IL

A formula for great leadership

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Innovation and responsiveness represent the hallmarks of North Central College’s graduate programs in education, including the master of arts degree in curriculum and instruction and master of arts degree in leadership and administration. The College has had a hand in grooming hundreds of leaders in education, who transition into department heads, assistant principals and principals, fulfilling a continuing demand for school leaders today.

“North Central’s graduate program teaches you how to be a good leader, which applies to any industry,” says Brian Waterman M ’04, a first-year principal at Hinsdale South High School. “The program allows you to reflect on leadership principles and your leadership style.”

Waterman was previously an assistant principal at Glenbard North High School following four years as a classroom teacher. “One of the top characteristics of North Central College is that the faculty is willing to adapt to the needs of administrators in the field. The education environment is constantly changing.”

After graduation, Waterman and other area principals continually volunteer to return to North Central to review the final portfolios of master’s candidates and more importantly, give feedback to the education department staff. It’s one of the strengths of the program, says Kristine Servais, assistant professor of education and coordinator of the master of arts program in education.

“We’re always seeking feedback from the field as to what’s working and how we can improve—it helps shape what we do,” says Servais, who has co-authored a book on leadership, The Courage To Lead: Choosing the Road Less Traveled.

“Leadership in schools is a service role,” says Servais. “A leader is willing to be responsive to his or her constituency and is always looking for opportunities to make a difference by asking ‘What are your needs? How can I respond to help you grow and develop as a leader?’”

The State of Illinois is currently assessing requirements for certification of school administrators and will likely require more internship-type, hands-on experiences within the schools, says Servais. North Central has pioneered a degree-program format that would likely respond to the state’s field experience and partnership requirements. During 2007-2008, 10 master degree candidates in leadership and administration spent 18 months in a cohort program that required mentoring by their building principals and implementation of projects at their schools. “Adam Ferguson M ’08 from Kennedy Middle School in Lisle, IL, was mentored by his principal, Don Perry, which represented a great example of a principal playing an active role in recruiting and preparing future leaders,” says Servais.

“When it comes to educating leaders, we can’t do it all from here,” says Servais of the need for mentoring from principals. “We also need training from real pilots, not the people who are working on the ground.”

North Central NOW Winter 2009