The “Next Generation of Women Leaders in Higher Education” program was launched in January 2017. It was developed for women working in the field of education: scientists, professors, managers and experts of various departments. Its task is to facilitate the development of leadership skills and promote projects aimed at development of higher education, developed in collaboration with international partners.

Staff from UCLA and ITMO University took part in this year’s pilot project. The program lasts six months and consists of three stages. The first stage is project planning, which took place in Los Angeles in January. Over the course of five days, an international team attended lectures on the specifics of project planning and practiced dealing with unexpected situations that can arise during the completion of a scientific project.

For the second stage, each participant worked on a project schedule and its real-life implementation. Their work was overseen by a mentor and project managers. The third stage entails presentation of their projects’ results. During a visit to ITMO University, the eight participants presented their projects.

Participants of the "Next Generation of Women in Higher Education" program.

ITMO University was represented by: Natalia Lukovnikova, head of ITMO’s Center for Science and Technology Foresight; Daria Denisova, Deputy Director of the Center for Science Communication; Lyudmila Nadtochiy, associate professor at the Department of Applied Biotechnology.

Ms. Lukovnikova’s project was dedicated to the creation of a development strategy for ITMO University’s Center for Science and Technology Foresight. Ms. Denisova’s studies concerned the career opportunities in science communication and development perspectives of this profession in Russia; she also worked on a book about the current issues and challenged faced by those who are starting out in science communication and PR in science. Ms. Nadtochiy spoke about the implementation of the first course of interactive lectures “Edible Science” that was launched by the International Research Center “Biotechnologies of the Third Millennium” this February, as well as about the plans for October, when ITMO University will launch the “Autumn Schools” for young biotechnologists, ecologists and engineers. In autumn schoolchildren will also have the opportunity to attend the open lectures course “Edible Science”.

The American side was represented by Lisa Audish, Student Affairs Officer in the Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures at UCLA and Devin L. Horton, Associate Director of UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center.

Lisa Audish (middle)

Ms. Audish’s project involved the development of an all-encompassing social network for UCLA’s administrative staff. The main purpose of such a network is to exchange information among the staff and provide opportunities for growth, work and education. As Lisa Audish noted, such a form of interaction solves a wide range of issues. Firstly, it aggregates the information spread out over the various sections of the university’s website in a single place and lists the standards for record keeping and techniques that are instantly available to all newcomers who won’t have to spend time on compiling certain reports and documents – after all, as the project author notes, all the needed info is already in the database. In addition, the network provides new ways for department representatives to communicate and inform each other of any relevant changes or new programs.

The project is currently still in development. As Ms. Audish notes, she has already created its core – a team of volunteers who will soon be ready to implement the project goals and provide a technical platform for the project. The author herself is focused on her work at the Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures – a small department of only 30-40 students, but with potential for growth, she emphasized.

“I wanted to take part in this program mainly because it provides a variety of great opportunities. In particular, a trip to Russia is an experience for further development. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring my current project to fruition because I’m too occupied with my new position right now. But I really want it to be put to use in the future. It will certainly help the university. Those who will continue working on it will also gain a great opportunity for self-development,” – says Lisa Audish. 

Devin L. Horton (left) and Lisa Audish (right)

Meanwhile, Ms. Horton’s project was dedicated to the development of an educational and teaching partnership center at UCLA. The initiative is a response to the events surrounding the EPEP (Educational Preparation and Educational Partnership) programs – these are implemented with the support of UCOP (University of California’s Office of the President) and aim to provide equal access to education to students from all demographics. All of these programs are active at UCLA and the university’s structure includes an executive board, each member of which is responsible for a certain program. However, about a year ago, according to Devin L. Horton, a decision was made to decrease funding for some of these programs.

That is when, the project’s author states, she first had the idea to expand the executive board into a center to collect up-to-date data on all of the current programs. In addition, it would help the board members structure the data submission and handling processes, as well as helping the smaller programs’ organizers to better evaluate their efficiency.

The project is still being fleshed out, but Ms. Horton is already working on another initiative. Its core idea is to encourage Bachelor’s degree students to teach schoolchildren. As the UCLA representative explains, the program would be beneficial to both: the students would learn how to teach, while the schoolchildren would gain an understanding of actual scientific research. Ms. Horton still needs to fully develop the strategies for interaction between students and children, which she intends to do after her return home from Russia. She notes that such collaborative programs are a great opportunity to exchange experience and lay groundwork for future partnerships.

“Taking part in the “Next Generation of Women Leaders in Higher Education” has given me an understanding of how much difference there is in our cultural values and how fascinating it is to study it and develop cultural exchange programs. For instance, if we’re talking about approach to education, Russians are much faster at understanding what they need to do next, how to develop themselves and where to go – and that’s good. As for the future prospects of this program, we need to focus on our goals. I think that cultural exchange is something that we need to keep doing,” – concludes Devin Horton.