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An eye to the enterprise

As Etty DeVeaux prepares to begin her term as Chair-Elect of the P&A Senate, she reflects on the value of shared governance and effective leadership.

Etty DeVeaux

When Etty DeVeaux joined the college as administrative director for the departments of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, and Plant Biology in 2009, she came with ample University experience. She spent four years as administrative services director for University Services where she was helped to advise the vice president on a broad portfolio of enterprise-wide service operations that included auxiliary services, public safety, facilities management, capital planning and project management, and more. Before that she served as assistant to the dean of The Graduate School.

While she works in a collegiate context, DeVeaux maintains an active interest in the bigger picture. She is often tapped to participate in University-wide committees — she just finished serving on the 2015 President’s Outstanding Service Awards Committee and she was part of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, which advised the Board of Regents on selection of President Eric Kaler. And she just finished her second year as a P&A senator representing CBS professional and administrative staff. Now, DeVeaux is about to take on an even bigger job as Chair-Elect of the Academic Professionals and Administrators (P&A) Senate.

You just finished your second year as a P&A senator and will begin your term as Chair-Elect in June. What keeps you engaged in this work?

One of the most inspiring aspects of shared governance is that all constituents have the opportunity to participate in important decisions regarding the operations and welfare of the organization. Being a senator provides real opportunities to impact all aspects of University life. For example, I co-chair the Professional Development & Recognition Sub-Committee. To assist implementation of the University’s strategic plan, I envisioned a conversation with thought leaders from across the University of Minnesota and the greater community about contemporary trends in academic administration and corresponding competencies P&A staff will need to lead and/or support strategic leadership in the future. The PD&R presented the idea to the Senate as part of our work plan, and on May 6 held the inaugural P&A Professional Development Forum, a future-focused discussion on competence needed to meet grand challenges and support the U of M now, and in the future.

You have been at the U of M for more than a decade and spent time in both collegiate and central administration. What are some things you’ve learned about being an effective leader within the institution?

I serve on the board of advisors for Employee Strategies, a local company creating great places to work, and I’m often reminded of how similar and replicative leadership principles and competencies are from one context to another. No matter the context, effective leadership is hard but good work. Effective leaders don’t do everything right. The mistakes are fertile ground for growth. Take time for reflection and to learn from mistakes.

It's important to build a great support network; people who will be champions as well as those who hold you accountable to continue to grow. Leadership is a collective activity. All of us is better than any one of us. Actively seek out diverse opinions and feedback.

Also, learn to delegate, to set clear goals and give people space to succeed. Be intentional and deliberate about your development, and look to expertise beyond your domain to help you think about issues and develop best practices. And remember  that the “why” matters. Be disciplined in thinking about, asking about, and understanding the why. Sometimes you will need to lead with only a good question in hand.

Specific to working within the University, think beyond your position, your department, your unit. We’re an enterprise; think enterprise to help inform local work and decision making. And learn how to get local issues and successes to the enterprise level through involvement in governance and on University-wide committees. 

What do you hope to achieve in your new role as Chair-Elect and, after that, Chair?

Many of the issues that the University senates deal with are perennially complex and fast moving. One goal of the P&A Senate is to continue to be positioned strongly enough within the University to effect change. The Senate helps the administration to look at issues with a broader lens. We are an advisory board through which we convey information and make recommendations relative to the interests, concerns and issues that affect our constituency, and the University as a whole. Chair-Elect is an apprenticeship of sorts, but that shouldn’t suggest there is not work to do. I will spend considerable time working to build partnerships to advance our work, and facilitating discussions and reviews to support good decisions. I am very excited to work with the dedicated senators who are the substance of the Senate.