The Cal Turner Program (CTP) is motivated by two important convictions. First, we hold that professionals are not only well-educated experts, but also custodians of our central social institutions who need to take an active role in their development. The CTP strives to foster a deep sense of vocation within Vanderbilt’s professional students, encouraging them to identify the moral purpose and values inspiring their work. Second, we maintain that our most significant social challenges require collaboration. Problems such as poverty, homelessness or health care are not the property of any one profession. Effective solutions require partnering across disciplinary divides, and the CTP seeks to serve as a bridge, bringing leaders from various professions together to work for the common good.
We enact these convictions through our CTP Fellowship, awarded to students from each of Vanderbilt University’s professional schools, with the purpose of supporting their leadership development with a moral emphasis. In exchange for their participation, fellows receive the benefits of experience and education, as well as a CTP leadership certificate and a $1000 stipend, paid in two installments of $500 as the following responsibilities are met.
CTP Fellows are required to participate in a Leadership Retreat held at the beginning of the academic year. During this weekend event, Fellows will explore professional values, leadership capacities and consulting skills through guided discussions and group work. Readings and exercises will be supplied before the retreat in order to best prepare us for thoughtful conversation.
NONPROFIT PROJECT WORK
CTP Fellows employ their leadership skills by working on interprofessional teams with local nonprofits. These nonprofits serve as our Community Partners for the academic year. The Fellows are to serve as students of, and consultants to, their Community Partners while providing service during the academic year. Fellows are divided into teams composed of three to four students, each from a different professional school, in order to practice interprofessional collaboration. Community Partners each receive one team to assist them with a discrete, well-defined project initially identified by the Partner, in which the Fellows will act as consultants rather than simply donating volunteer hours. In other words, they are encouraged by us to practice “adaptive leadership.” This approach recognizes two kinds of problems, technical problems and adaptive challenges:
Technical problems (even though they may be complex) can be solved with knowledge and procedures already in hand. [For example, replacing a faulty heart value during cardiac surgery is a known solution that can be implemented by current technical expertise.]
In contrast, adaptive challenges require new learning, innovation, and new patterns of behavior. In this view, leadership is the activity of mobilizing people to address adaptive challenges—those challenges that cannot be resolved by expert knowledge and routine management alone.
Adaptive challenges often appear as swamp issues—tangled, complex problems composed of multiple systems that resist technical analysis and thus stand in contrast to the high, hard ground issues that are easier to address but where less is at stake for the organization or for society. They ask for more than changes in routine or mere preference. They call for changes of heart and mind—the transformation of long-standing habits and deeply held assumptions and values (Sharon Daloz Parks, Leadership Can Be Taught, 10).
Our hope is that the CTP Fellows can help their Community Partners tackle adaptive challenges, especially those requiring changes in heart and mind, or moral development. At the Leadership Retreat, we will learn about three phases of consulting: 1) entry and contracting with the client, 2) data collection, diagnosis and project identification, and 3) project planning and implementation.
In Phase 1, entry and contracting, Fellows and Partners are to ‘contract’ with each other at their first meeting by determining the parameters of their shared effort and setting clear expectations. When will you meet and where? Meetings at which everyone is present are to be held at least twice a semester—it is likely that you will need to meet more than that to perform effectively. A schedule for the year should be created, so that all involved can commit to time together. Who will the Fellows be working with at the Partner organization? Lead contact? To what other stakeholders may they have access? Clients? Board members? How exactly does the Partner want the Fellows to interact with the organization? Specifically, in preparation for phase 2, how does the Partner want the Fellows to assess the organization’s situation and needs? We encourage Partners to allow Fellows to perform a strategic analysis, in order to provide the most thorough learning experience. However, we respect that some Partners may need to limit the Fellows’ access or involvement; and we ask them to consider exactly what would work best for their organization and communicate that clearly. Given the parameters established, what type of data collection would benefit the organization or a particular project within it? What data will inform a ‘diagnosis’ leading to a useful project?
In Phase 2, data collection and diagnosis, Fellows perform the data collection as agreed upon with their Partner. Further, we ask that Partners educate the Fellows on the moral issues at stake. What are the organization’s values and how are they enacted in service? What ethical questions or moral dilemmas does the Partner face in working toward its mission? What values conflicts might the Fellows face in the course of their project? What moral action might be required? And what moral awareness do the Fellows contribute from their particular professional perspectives? When collection is complete, all data is to be synthesized into a diagnosis of what needs to be done by the Fellows team. Is the project initially suggested by the Partner still the best way to proceed? Does it need to be changed in any way? Or does the data point to another effort as a more pressing need at this time? How do moral considerations refine the project plan? Project identification becomes a joint process shared by the Fellows and Partners, yet the final decision belongs to the latter as they know best what will serve their organization.
In Phase 3, Fellows and Partners collaborate to design and implement the project agreed upon. This project is to be a discrete effort for the interprofessional team, meaning that they are not to be subsumed in a larger effort by the organization (like volunteers might be). The Fellows are to bring their individual professional expertise to bear on the work, yet in concert with the contributions of their team mates. In other words, they are to mesh their different disciplinary perspectives into an interprofessional approach. A project plan should be created including a timeline, overarching goal, objectives, activities and assessment measures. As the project progresses, meetings should focus on questions such as: How well is the project advancing according to the timeline set? What obstacles need to be overcome? What gains can be celebrated and perhaps amplified? When will assessment be performed? At the end of Phase 3, the Fellows team will prepare a concluding report and presentation on the project, including recommendations for the future.