Jaime Lester and Samaine Lockwood participate in HERS Leadership Institute

by Anne Reynolds

Two faculty leaders from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences are spending a portion of summer 2022 honing their leadership skills by taking part in the HERS Leadership Institute in Philadelphia, PA. 

Samaine Lockwood, director of undergraduate programs and associate professor in the Department of English, and Jaime Lester, associate dean of faculty affairs and strategic initiatives, and professor in the Higher Education program, are taking part in the nine-day intensive program.  

Founded in 1972, HERS seeks to build and support a network of women leaders in higher education, working towards gender equality in higher education leadership. The HERS Institute presents a series of leadership experience programs designed for women in mid-to-senior positions at their respective institutions, with a goal of strengthening the participants as individuals and building the tools that will foster a meaningful career trajectory.  

“Academic leadership development opportunities are a priority for CHSS,” said CHSS dean Ann Ardis. “We want to continue to find ways to recognize and support the leadership potential and career aspirations of our faculty in programs that are internal and external to Mason.”  

The institute focuses on three main areas: institutional awareness, networking, and self-knowledge. Participants are drawn from across the United States and Lockwood looks forward to introducing Mason to an expanded audience. “Every time I participate in one of these professional development experiences,” she said, “I am personally and professionally reminded of how great Mason is. It’s a unique institution. These experiences allow me to bring Mason to other people’s attention and to better understand Mason in the larger landscape of institutions in the United States.”   

Lester, too, appreciates the opportunity to work within and learn from a cohort of educational leaders. “I’ve served in a lot of different roles on campus,” she said, “as a Presidential Fellow, a Faculty Fellow with the Provost’s Office, with the Stearns Center over the years. So coming into this I feel like I’ve had a strong foundation to build from. But in doing the work, it’s very hard to find opportunities for personal reflection and growth.”  

Through noncompetitive collaboration, members of the group form supportive relationships that can guide them throughout their careers. “As you make choices as to when and how to move into leadership, or change the role that you have in terms of leadership and your career, or … come upon a major issue that you really need some counsel on, you have other women across the nation in like positions who are part of your network and can support you,” said Lockwood. “It’s about getting perspective.”   

Importantly, the institute offers its participants the opportunity to learn about their own identities as leaders. Lester appreciates “being able to reflect now, after being in [the associate dean role] for two years and say, well, this is what this job is. I’ve had to craft it as the first person in it...understanding where I’ve grown as a leader and where I need to go in terms of my growth, I think, will be really helpful.” 

The program is intentionally inclusive, welcoming all participants who identify as women. HERS emphasizes diversity and works to include insights from participants of different ages and levels of experience in higher education, as well as diverse racial and ethnic groups, nationalities, veteran and disability statuses, and religious identifications.   

“It’s going to enable me to be much more intentional about how I craft my career,” added Lockwood. “I’m looking forward to hearing from women leaders in higher education and learning about HERS research … on the ways that gender shapes our perceptions of university leaders.”  

Lester hopes to support leadership development for her colleagues throughout the college. “Having this opportunity to model putting my own effort into this, taking time away. Based on other people’s experiences, I’m going to learn a ton, and try to bring that back.”