Leadership Collaboration: High School and College Environments

by: Stefanos Gialamas, Ph.D., President, ACS Athens

Published in: International Herald Tribune
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Preparing high school students for a successful collegiate educational experience must be the focus of all International schools. Students must be prepared in multiple dimensions, such as academically, emotionally, physically, intellectually and ethically to ensure a healthy and balanced individual; an individual who will need to cope with unpredictable, challenging, and unstable conditions and be collected, connected and composed in order to make the best possible decisions for the first time without the guidance and presence of his/her parents.

Secondary education faculty should be aware of college level expectations; what kind of skills their students must acquire during their secondary education studies, and what competencies they must be armed with in order to not only be prepared content wise but also be armed with critical thinking and transferable knowledge in order to provide solutions to specific problems under diverse conditions.

On the other hand, college faculty should also be aware of increasingly diverse and complex incoming student population. Students’ learning styles, life experiences, and cultural differences could become obstacles or opportunities for deep learning. Thus, when high school graduates enter college life and become successful students, they can find a bridge between secondary education experience and college expectations/college life in general.

Leadership at both ends must be at the far front. Dr. Stefanos Gialamas, ACS Athens President, defines Organizational Leadership as “the continuous act of effectively engaging member of the organization with their diverse qualities, creative ideas and authentic energies for the benefit of all constituencies of the organization.”

In the case of an educational institution, the leader must engage all faculty, staff, administration and inspire them to utilize their diverse skills, creative ideas and intellectual and emotional energies for the benefit of all students. The result will be an exceptionally rich, meaningful, and balanced educational experience for every student.

College and secondary leadership must distinguish the need of building such a bridge and devote effort, energy and resources to understand each other’s environment and to also develop relationships and collaborations in many levels; at the faculty and administration level and finally at their respective leadership.

An example of such a bridge is the collaboration with several USA universities that the American Community Schools of Athens (ACS Athens) have developed; these programs are for high school students who are taking college level courses taught by ACS Athens faculty as well as university faculty. Such a course is the “Leadership and Democracy” course, jointly developed and co-taught by faculty at the Jepson Leadership School at the University of Richmond Virginia and ACS Athens faculty.

Another example is the collaboration between the University of Mary Washington at Fredericksburg, Virginia and ACS Athens. As a result of such a collaboration and mutual respect at all levels, Dr. Stefanos Gialamas was invited to speak at the installation of the 9th President of the University of Mary Washington, Mr. Richard V. Hurley, on September 30th, 2011 in Fredericksburg, Virginia for an audience of 1,300 faculty, students, and invited guests.

Inauguration speakers included Ms. Laura Fornash, State Secretary of Education, Mr. Karl Rove, Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, and many other distinguished guests and government figures.

Dr. Gialamas and President Hurley are both members of the Board of the American Association of University Administrators and have served for many decades in senior academic and administrative positions at several higher education institutions.

Dr. Gialamas delivered his speech which was live steamed around the world with title “Engaging Minds, Serving the World.” His speech can be viewed at http://www.acs.gr/daily-blog/2011/9/30/dr-gialamas-speech-at-the-presidential-inauguration-of-unive.html.

The University of Mary Washington newspaper, The Bullet, highlighted two statements from Dr. Gialamas’ speech: “the opportunities from students attending higher education institutions are directly related to the educational experience they receive” and that “the educational experience must be comprehensive based on their academic, physical, spiritual, ethical, and social engagement and development.” Later on, Dr. Gialamas also added that “leadership without service is similar to a mother without a child.”

Developing such strong understanding and relationships between all members of secondary institutions is strengthening the guidance, motivation, and inspiration to students, faculty, staff and administration so they learn from each other and be able to think creatively always for the benefit of the students. Curricular development, delivery of this curricular, enhancing the learning process of students and inspiring them to reach their maximum abilities are the necessary foundation for student success at college life as well as the way to eventually become tomorrow’s leaders who will make their communities and the world a better place to live in.