UMass Boston Fellows Take Honed Leadership Skills Back to Public, Private Sectors

Office of Communications | June 17, 2013
David Christensen, a sales executive at AT&T, and his ELP team worked with Science from Scientists.

Harry Brett

David Christensen, a sales executive at AT&T, and his ELP group worked with Science from Scientists.


When you think of the Girl Scouts, you probably think of cookies. Geoff Phillips and the other fellows in his Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) group have spent the last nine months making sure users’ experiences with the Girl Scouts’ website is equally as satisfying.

Fellows in UMass Boston’s Center for Collaborative Leadership’s Emerging Leaders Program presented the results of their nine-month-long projects with the following project sponsors on June 7: the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Science from Scientists, the Children’s Trust Fund, UMass Boston’s Center for Social Policy, and the Center for Collaborative Leadership. The presentations were followed by thoughts from a guest panel and a question-and-answer session with the 2013 cohort.

Phillips’ group analyzed focus group results and conversations with staff, parents, and volunteers and suggested navigation and design changes to the Girl Scouts’ website.

“The challenges that they faced with their website were not new to them. What we were able to do was basically focus their attention on the key areas of the website that they should improve first, and what areas they should do in the longer term,” said Phillips, a product and marketing strategist at Northeast Utilities Energy Efficiency Services.

Another group looked at the viability of affinity groups, groups formed around shared interest, for their project sponsor, the Children’s Trust Fund (CTF). CTF seeks to eliminate child abuse and strengthen families in Massachusetts.

“I think it’s really important relative to collaboration and also how we coordinate our efforts that best use our resources, because one of the things we find in the nonprofit sector is sometimes, although folks are well-meaning, we have folks who may fight over resources and not coordinate in the best way, so I’m really encouraged by the work that your ‘e doing in that space,” said Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, a member of the guest panel.

A third group prepared a report showing the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for Science from Scientists, a Boston-based nonprofit that brings scientists into elementary classrooms to get students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. David Christensen, a sales executive at AT&T, talked about how his group made recommendations around capitalizing on the nonprofit’s niche offerings.

Stephen Meunier, associate director of public affairs for Genzyme, which has funded both the Girl Scouts and Science from Scientists, acknowledged that getting youngsters to understand what scientists do can be difficult.

“We’re a company of scientists. I wouldn’t call them rock stars, but here in eastern Massachusetts they’re more likely to be your neighbor—the mom or dad next door. I think, how can we steer young people into a career as a scientist if they think, ‘Oh, that requires being a little bit crazy, [like a mad scientist with crazy hair and a lab coat],’” Meunier said.

“Science is no longer an internal thing done in your own lab. It’s international, it’s national. It’s networking, and so seeing that being done today was really, really cool. It’s also, I think, incredibly critical for issues today. Nothing is solitary,” added Juanita Urban-Rich, associate professor of zooplankton ecology in UMass Boston’s School for the Environment, during the panel discussion.

Cristin Monaco Shields, senior project manager at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said her group, which worked with the Massachusetts Business Roundtable to examine supply chain relationships between large and small businesses, learned to draw on and value the strengths of the team members throughout the ELP process.

“We struggled with how to we make this [team project] big enough to be exciting, yet small enough to be meaningful, so the way we battled through that was to stay in really close contact with each other, keep all ideas on the table, and work really close with our sponsor company to make sure that what we were coming up with matched what they were asking us to do,” Shields said.

Aside from the lessons learned while working with a project sponsor, fellows in the program came away with a better understanding about themselves as leaders.

“The thing that I take back to Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare is to level the playing field. Everyone, from the most experienced to the least experienced, has something to share, contribute, and lead on a team. And so I want to make sure that I empower everyone around me to step up and give them a safe space to feel like they can show off their talents and elevate themselves in a team environment,” said fellow Beth Creavin, the director of financial reporting at Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare.

“I have more confidence. I’m able to lean in a little bit more and speak up and voice my opinion, and I have more courage to take action than I did before I went through the Emerging Leaders Program,” said fellow Katie Hauser, director of publications and digital communications for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

The Center for Collaborative Leadership will be honoring its 2013 cohort at the 12th annual Changing the Face of Leadership luncheon next Friday, June 21. Kerry Healey, president-elect of Babson College and the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, is the keynote speaker. The center will also honor the memory of Joe Morrissey ’05 with the inaugural Leading the Way Award. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Marriott Copley Hotel in Boston.

About UMass Boston
With a growing reputation for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s ten colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.

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