For the second part of our Transformative blog series, we decided to take a look beyond the personal transformations that have occurred this past year to the organizations and businesses that have had to pause, pivot, and re-adjust.
We asked ourselves, and the volunteers on our board, the following:
“How are our institutions and organizations experiencing their own transformative processes?”
Amy Bass Henry is the Executive Director of International Education at the Georgia Institute of Technology and was kind enough to take a few minutes to share with us the transformative processes she is witnessing within her organization. As Executive Director of International Education, Amy helps to run a centralized office that focuses primarily on student-centered global education for a campus of more than 35,000 students.
One of the largest shifts within the institution that Amy has observed is the repositioning to hybrid instruction and hybrid work. This shift has transformed their campus, the ways they interact with students and other stakeholders, the ways they support their students, the ways they fulfill their mission, and the ways they connect with and support each other. The impact has been monumental on Georgia Tech and the processes the institution relies on for operation.
Yet, as Amy optimistically points out, not all of the impacts have been negative. This transformative process, on a large scale, has worked to deepen their commitment to their mission, and acted as an opportunity for redoubling their educational, research, and service work. Georgia Tech even issued an updated mission statement in May of 2020 (what a great idea!). They shared:
We are committed to "developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition."
When pressed on the negative impacts that have inevitably influenced her portion of the organization, Amy shares the sense of grief that some of her co-workers in the International Education office have recently expressed. Grief over canceling international mobility programs, grief for the upheaval and disarray the pandemic has caused for international students, and grief for the transformative experiences that many had worked to plan, and many had planned to attend. So much of what they did and how they did it had to change at the drop of a hat, and that can certainly generate feelings of despair. However, their organization has worked to combat these discouraging changes through cross-training and emphasizing non-travel international learning opportunities. We loved what Amy shared about these shifts:
“Whenever there is a lot of destruction, there is also a surplus of opportunity to do good.”
We asked Amy about how she thinks the transformative experiences being encountered now will lead to other transformations in the future for her organization. Besides exposing new ways of doing business to meet students’ and stakeholders’ needs, the organization has had to assess the effectiveness of all “new” approaches, and Amy believes this innovation will surely carry forward in their future interactions to help ensure they keep the things that are better serving their students. A few of these new approaches include virtual drop-in advising (in place of the traditional physical reception/waiting room to see an advisor) and online intercultural workshops. Further, she points out, is the plus side that our current state of transformation has created a period of change in which innovation can thrive.
Leaders in any position are being tested by this pandemic. This means their decisions and leadership style may have had to shift recently. For Amy, the stressors of COVID-19 have helped her to use her “True North” to guide her decision making. She uses the mission, vision, and values of her office to keep her leadership on track. These cornerstones of the larger institution have become even more important to integrate during these times of crisis and/or change. Amy has observed her own personal leadership transformation in how she connects with and supports others in her office. She quips, “New tools and new skills are requisite for this transformation!”.
For her closing thought, Amy shared with us her recommendation for others in similar positions or those just looking to learn.
“Be flexible. Ask yourself every day: how can I be of best service to my organization?”
The Global Leadership League wants to extend a big Thank You to Amy Bass Henry for her time and shared insights! We are excited to see what opportunities and exchanges will occur in our continued dialogue about our annual theme word, Transformative. Stay tuned for follow-up portions to our Transformative blog series, and we invite all to join in the conversation with us. You can reach out to us either through our website, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
The mission of the Global Leadership League is to ignite change across the global education field by empowering, connecting, and training leaders. We invite you to reach out to us here or learn more about becoming a member.