Yves Salomon-Fernandez, PhD
President, Greenfield Community College, Massachusetts
HERS Institute Alumna, Class of 2011
What did you value most during your time with HERS?
My experience of being with other women who were committed to helping women succeed. It was an environment to share aspirations and be encouraged to pursue them. You don’t always have that kind of space.
I really value how much I learned about the whole institution rather than my small piece of it (at the time I was in institutional research). That understanding is part of why I was able to become a president. Bronte Burleigh-Jones, for example, did some sessions on finance and budget, which I’d never spent much time on or with, that really opened my eyes to the broader organization and the impact I might have.
I also value the network I was able to build. I met my personal and professional mentor through the Institute. It’s invaluable to have her and the broader community there when I have questions or need support.
How was the HERS experience different than other leadership development organizations (or activities) you’ve participated in?
HERS is the only one that’s been women only, and I valued having that kind of space.
It was also inclusive of a variety of kinds of institutions (2-year, 4-year, etc.) and of roles within them. Because of that, HERS really helped broaden my perspective and institutional understanding as a whole. Prior to HERS, I was solely focused on assessment and institutional research; afterwards, I had a much better understanding of the larger organization and was better positioned to land my next role.
How did HERS Impact your Leadership Trajectory?
I’m a risk-taker by nature, but the Institute helped me dare to dream on a much larger scale. Before HERS, I never thought about being a president, but HERS helped me see that it as a real possibility. It really helped me find my identity around leadership and my leadership values, particularly around the need to be an advocate. It helped build confidence in myself and gave me an opportunity to build a network that opened me up to many opportunities and which continues to provide support when I need it.
How have you/have you had to adapt your leadership style to support increasingly multigenerational teams?
With so many existential threats to higher education (funding, enrollment shifts, etc.), we have to understand the needs and motivations of the various generations who are working together to help higher education live up to its full potential. This is something I’m continually having to adapt to and address. I use an active leadership approach, which helped me understand that I occupy many leadership roles (within, in front, from behind, from beside, and from the field). Using those concepts, I’m better able to adapt to the role that best empowers the person (or group) I’m working with.
Millennials, for example, tend to want to advance a little more quickly than those before them. I have to be able to help them develop depth and encourage them into zones of discomfort that can help them grow, while still empowering them to be effective and engaged. Generation Z is full of energy and are really creating their own roles, which can help higher education continue to transform, but we have to be able to harness it.
What advice would you give to a woman in higher education who wants to advance their career?
Work hard and broaden your perspective beyond your own discipline and role. Volunteer, serve on boards, and explore the perspectives of organizations and people outside your own. We create false dichotomies between teaching and administration (for example), and we have to understand each other’s perspectives in order to move forward.
Be your authentic self. It took me a long time to get there, and that’s okay, but it’s essential to know who you are and how to bring yourself to your work in order to lead effectively and authentically.
Develop your network in a deep and meaningful way. I’ve been able to develop a mentoring relationship with someone I met at HERS who has a background wholly different than my own, and it’s been invaluable to have someone to talk to who’s experience and lens are so different than mine.
Develop and cultivate cultural dexterity in yourself and in those you lead. The changing demographics (age, race, ethnicity, experience, etc.) of this country require that we all develop more understanding of perspectives outside our own. We elevate each other through understanding.
Cultivate male allies.