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Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi (DC EPFP 77-78)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader: Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi
(DC EPFP 77-78)

Dr. Antoine Garibaldi is the president of University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), the largest Catholic university in Michigan. Prior to joining UDM, he was president of Gannon University in Erie, PA; senior fellow at the Educational Testing Service; Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Howard University in Washington, DC; and served as Chairman of the Education Department, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana. He was also a Research Associate at the National Institute of Education in the U.S. Department of Education, where he was a staff member of the National Commission on Excellence in Education that produced the landmark report, A Nation at Risk. Dr. Garibaldi serves on the board of several national higher education organizations, is the author of 11 books and more than 85 research articles and chapters, and holds honorary doctorates from four universities.

Higher Education Leadership in a Transitioning City

After receiving my doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota, I began my career working for five years at the U.S. Department of Education, but most of my career has been in higher education administration and leadership. I have been at Xavier University of Louisiana, in my hometown of New Orleans, as well as my alma mater, Howard University in Washington, DC; Gannon University in Erie, PA; and now University of Detroit Mercy. There are common parallels among these cities: they all have significant challenges in their educational systems; serious economic issues with respect to the employment of adults and youth; high rates of crime; and declining population.

Being at universities in each of these cities has made me appreciate even more the expectations communities have for institutions of higher learning and the role they play working with local entities and organizations to help improve the community at large. This collaborative model has proven successful in the universities and communities where I have worked.

It is important for the university administration to connect with the community to provide help and support, which is what I have tried to do in my leadership roles. For example, UDM’s largest campus is in northwest Detroit, where there are six different neighborhood organizations that work closely with the university; and each of them has expectations of us. So I began to meet with each of these organizations within my first few months to hear their expectations and discuss how we might fulfill them. In a city like Detroit, with bankruptcy, declining population, and shrinking public school attendance, we have a responsibility to work closely with the local community, and everyone — students, faculty, staff, alumni — is involved in the revitalization efforts.

Student Completion Challenges and Opportunities

The primary way for a college or university to attract more students is to prepare them for college early; thus working directly with K-12 schools and organizations benefits all who are involved. To address higher education access and completion, UDM collaborates with local schools, which includes a mixture of public, charter, and private schools. We invite students to visit our campus to see what life on a college campus is like. We also offer and host several programs for elementary, middle, and high school students, including the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), which for nearly 40 years has been holding Saturday STEM classes on our McNichols Campus for students in grades 4-11, as well as summer camps and SAT and ACT prep courses to ensure more students are prepared for college and to help them understand what they need to do in high school to get ready for college. UDM staff also go to schools and provide workshops about careers and expectations for college for students and parents. For our current students, we have student academic support programs that provide personal support, such as study skills and time management, peer tutors in almost every undergraduate subject, and counselors who work one-on-one with students who want to improve their academic averages.

Cross-Boundary Leadership

Taking the first step and meeting with organizations and other institutions to develop partnerships has been an important part of my experience as a cross-boundary leader. When I came to Detroit, I immediately began contacting many education leaders in the area, including community college presidents and K-12 leaders, as well as foundations and local government officials, to ask how we might work together or enhance our existing partnership. I believe that asking individuals to work together allows everyone to create opportunities that are beneficial to the community and to the institutions within them. And for UDM, that outreach has paid off. Colleges and universities are often seen as the “ivory tower,” but that misperception can be changed. And if the president leads that charge, then deans, faculty, staff, and students will follow.

Career Challenges

One challenging aspect of collaboration is that people can sometimes be reluctant to partner because they are unsure if they will get credit for their part of the work or if it will be beneficial to them. But if the desire to work together to improve the community is genuine and sincere, they will respond. For example, UDM is part of a partnership of four universities that received a National Institutes of Health grant in October 2014 to increase the number of underrepresented students in biomedical sciences. If the four presidents of these universities did not agree that this was a good thing to do for all of our students and for the community, then our respective faculty might not have been as enthusiastic about working on this important, and now successful, grant.

Leadership Lessons Learned

One of the most significant leadership lessons I have learned is the importance of setting clear and reasonable goals. Often, you have to assemble a good team of colleagues who will collaborate closely to achieve those goals. Only through effective teamwork will good outcomes be produced. I have also learned that it is important to not only work with your colleagues but also to treat them well. I have always believed it’s important to learn how to do as much as your colleagues do, which means everyone should know how to answer the phone and use the copy machine. Sharing in the work and being able to do the most mundane task are very important to success.

EPFP Experience and Value

I really enjoyed my EPFP experience. We had a group of about 35 Fellows in my cohort, and I quickly learned that education policy can be made informally and done anywhere—over breakfast, in the hallway, or on the phone. When a few people get together and start talking about a particular topic, they can make something happen. EPFP also made me really learn the value of networking and meeting people and learning a great deal more about them. I often think of the people who spoke with us during our weekly luncheons—Dr. Ernest Boyer, who headed the Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Leon Panetta, who was a young Congressman at the time—and how they all brought different experiences and proved that leaders come from all different walks of life.

I think the value of EPFP is as strong today as it was in the 1970s, when I participated. The program has had a significant impact on my career because of what I learned there. Through that experience, I was able to meet a larger group of people focused on national efforts and I have had good mentors throughout my career. I highly recommend experiences like EPFP to many of my students because it helps you really think more seriously about what you want to do in your career.

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