Yenny D. Anderson
Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics at Lehigh University
HERS Institute Alumna, Class of 2015
What did you value most during your time with HERS?
I had the privilege of attending the HERS Bryn Mawr Summer Institute during the summer of 2015. During the 2-week program, I developed long-lasting relationships with strangers who had similar interests and ambitions. These relationships have evolved into a network of strong, thoughtful, and reliable women colleagues across the nation.
What I valued the most during my time with HERS was the relationship building, the camaraderie and sisterhood that I joined. I also cherished being in a safe environment where we shared our experiences, challenges, and frustrations, all while being presented with options and possible solutions. It was clear we were not alone in the process of becoming stronger leaders.
How was the HERS experience different than other leadership development organizations (or activities) you’ve participated in?
In my 12+ years at Lehigh University, I have been fortunate to attend a variety of leadership programs sponsored by the University, and all have been great and worthwhile. They have all provided concepts and skills that are applicable to real-life experiences as a leader. However, the HERS program was, for me, the most transformative of all the programs.
It was the first program I attended where I was able to focus primarily on how to align my skills and knowledge with my goals and aspirations as a leader. Learning about my personality style, identifying my strengths and weaknesses, and understanding how to work with that knowledge immediately helped build my self-confidence and inspired me to really work hard to accomplish my career goals and aspirations. I remember driving home from Bryn Mawr and feeling as if I could conquer the world from that point forward.
How did HERS Impact your Leadership Trajectory?
When I applied to the HERS program, I was required to share my career goals within the next five and ten years. Two of my boldest goals were to obtain a doctorate and secure a senior-level position, such as Vice Provost, within the Institutional Research field at any higher education institution. At the time, these two goals seemed like they would take many years to achieve.
Immediately following the HERS Bryn Mawr Summer Institute, I was appointed the interim Vice Provost for Institutional Research at Lehigh University. Although it was a temporary senior-level role, it provided me with a platform to apply the skills I learned during the HERS Institute and showcase my strong leadership skills. I approached the role with a level of confidence in my ability to lead; a confidence I gained through the HERS program and have continued to enhance since. The interim role lasted eight months. I then reverted to the Director role and immediately began a doctoral program. I was on a mission to achieve my career goals.
In September 2017, I was appointed the Assistant Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics when the office was expanded to oversee analytics and support decision-making across the university. By December 2018, I completed my dissertation and was awarded my doctorate. My hard work and dedication to my career goals had paid off. Three weeks later (January 2019), I was appointed Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics at Lehigh University. I achieved my short (5 year) and long-term (10 year) career goals, all within four years of completing the HERS Institute.
Participating in the HERS Institute increased my confidence exponentially and helped identify my leadership strengths in such a way that I decided to apply them to other aspects of my life. In the fall of 2015, I nominated myself to serve on the board of trustees of my homeowners’ association, I am now president of the board.
In summary, I would say that the HERS Institute helped me determine specific achievable career goals, then helped me develop the necessary confidence, strength, and determination to pursue those goals. The program enabled me to become a change agent for myself, as well as at my institution and in higher education. The program also exposed me to many important higher education challenges, helped develop my understanding of decision-making and change processes, and introduced me to many leadership resources that I often use and reference.
There has been a lot of news on the changing force, particularly on how managers need to adapt to support Millennials and Generation Z employees in ways that didn’t often apply to Baby Boomers and Generation X; how have you/have you had to adapt your leadership style to support increasingly multigenerational teams?
Working in a higher education environment, I have had the opportunity to engage with and work alongside many people from different generations. I tend to see individuals for who they are, their needs, and how I may help them. I do not “classify” them as being part of one generation or another. However, since you ask, I believe that my managing experiences have been primarily with Millennials and Generation Z.
Based on those experiences, I would say that Millennials and Generation Z, in particular do not like to be micro-managed. I tend to be very hands-on when training them on a new task, but once I am comfortable that they’ve got it, I let them be. They also are not afraid of self-directed learning. They enjoy taking courses online or watching videos to improve on or learn new ways to do the work they do, something I encourage because it keeps them engaged in the work they do. I also believe that both generations prefer brevity to long explanations. This is something I struggle with, since within Institutional Research it is always helpful to understand and have awareness of the institutional history. Oftentimes, when they come to me with questions and I start to provide the “institutional history” along with the answer, I can sense the explanation is not appreciated. One thing I can comfortably state is that they appreciate mentor-mentee relationships, so I am always open to the possibility of serving as a mentor if the situation calls for it. This helps build trust.
What advice would you give to a woman in higher education who wants to advance their career?
First, look to see if your immediate supervisor or your institution is willing to sponsor you to participate in any of the HERS Institutes. This would be a great starting point. If no sponsorship is available, gather the necessary information about the program, identify how the benefits of the program will make you a better employee, and present that to your immediate supervisor. Become your own advocate!!
Second, I would encourage you to be aware of your surroundings. Be on the alert for new opportunities that might align with your career goals.
Lastly, surround yourself with other strong women leaders at different stages in a given career path. Don’t be afraid to seek them out as possible mentors. At the least befriend them. Have coffee, tea or lunch with them, get to know them, and you will be surprised to learn how valuable their mentorship will be to you, as well as to them.