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Faculty Members Exchange Ideas at March Meeting of ACC Academic Leaders Network

On the same weekend that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament championship in men’s basketball was lighting up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, an altogether different kind of ACC gathering took place at Virginia Tech with a meeting of the ACC Academic Leaders Network (ALN).

The 90 faculty members and administrators who attended came from each of the 15 ACC universities: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida State, NC State, Syracuse, Louisville, Miami, UNC, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and Wake Forest.

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People smile at Virginia Tech
Duke ACC ALN Fellows Benjamin Smallheer, Cory Krupp, Iyun Harrison (standing), Steffen Bass (below) and Lori Bennear at Virginia Tech

They’re all long-time sports rivals, used to meeting on the court or the gridiron. Yet, despite a bit of friendly ribbing, attendees were far more interested in collaboration than competition.

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A selfie is taken at Virginia Tech
Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement Abbas Benmamoun (second from right) joined the Duke ACC ALN Fellows
“[ALN] is about building relationships and trust, sharing experiences and resources, and encouraging creativity and the sharing of ideas,” said Amy Hogan, assistant provost for leadership initiatives at Virginia Tech, which hosted the conference.

The ALN debuted in 2018 after ACC leaders decided to create a program that would leverage the diversity of innovation and ideas among the ACC’s many top-tier research universities. Each ACC school selects five faculty leaders — deans, department heads, associate provosts and other academic administrators — to join a year-long cohort focused on leadership development, collaboration and understanding of trends and challenges in higher education.

The March 10-12 event took place on the campus of Virginia Tech. Faculty members enjoyed a dinner with Provost Cyril Clarke, a campus tour, networking activities, and panel discussions about topics such as diversity, self-care and leading in a time of transition. They also met to build ALN communities of practice centered on common challenges in higher education, like student mental health or recruitment and retention of diverse faculty members.

In the past, the cross-pollination enabled by ALN has yielded fruitful collaborative projects, such as new models for faculty mentoring and professional development programs for postdocs. One innovative pedagogical collaboration — an undergraduate course for design thinking that was cooperatively pioneered by faculty from Virginia Tech, Boston College and NC State—came out of connections made through ALN.

Two more ACC Academic Leaders Network conferences will take place later this year at Boston College and the University of Virginia.

Text by Melody Warnick for Virginia Tech. Main image: Faculty fellows gather at the first 2022 ACC Academic Leaders Network meeting in Virginia. Photo: Leslie Sullivan for Virginia Tech