From vice presidents to tenured professors, the Educational Leadership Enhance Program at FIU (ELEP) has been the training ground for some of FIU’s top leaders.
ELEP was created in 1993 by Betty Castor, a former Florida Commissioner of Education, who developed the program for Florida’s State University System. The purpose was to enhance the knowledge and professional development of women and minorities to make them strong and engaging candidates for senior level administrative positions in higher education.
The Educational Leadership Enhancement Program was brought to FIU in 1993 by Barbara Bader, a faculty member in the College of Education. Soon it became a sought-after leadership development opportunity for its one-of-a-kind executive mentoring component and in-depth travelling experiences. Over time, the program was coined as the “Barbara Bader program.” Twenty-six years since the creation of the program at FIU, more 180 professionals have participated in the program.
In 2016, Barbara Bader retired and passed the torch to an alumna of the program. Elizabeth Bejar, senior vice president of academic and student affairs, took the helm as director. Now two years later, Bejar with the support of Bader has revamped the program.
ELEP gets revamped
In its new iteration, ELEP is now focused on aligning training and leadership development aspects of the program with key strategic areas for FIU and finding vehicles in which ELEP alumni can contribute in helping to mentor new cohorts and aid FIU in reaching these objectives.
As part of the new program structure, cohorts for ELEP now run for 18 months beginning every two years in August and include increased state and federal higher education policy intensive sessions.
In addition, the program focuses on increased alumni engagement through networking opportunities, lunch and learns, and a new book club.
“As an alumna of ELEP, I know—first hand— how beneficial the program is to career and personal growth,” said Bejar. “We hope that in this new phase we will be able to continue with Barbara’s legacy and provide FIU’s future leaders with an in-depth experience that will help them develop the skills they need to move into upper management.”
An annual gathering
At this year’s annual reunion, more than 75 members gathered to network and learn about some of the new aspects of the program. Held every year in the spring, the meeting brings together all ELEP alumni for a chance to network and hear from a prominent speaker.
This year, they welcomed Natasha Lowell, a senior vice president at First National Bank of South Miami in Commercial Lending and a member of FIU Board of Trustees, who shared her journey toward leadership and how she dealt with many of the different situations that both minorities and women encounter in the workplace.
“The most important thing is to find an advocate,” Lowell said. “The moments I have grown the most in my career have been when I found a great mentor to show, advocate for me, and give me opportunities. Find a great mentor and they will show you how to be a great leader.”
The 2019 ELEP cohort includes:
- Almi Rodriguez, registrar, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Office of Student Affairs
- Bridgette Cram, assistant vice president, Academic and Student Affairs
- Carleen Vincent, associate chair, feld experience director, and senior instructor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Elizabeth Perez, associate director, CASE Dean's Office
- Gabriela Esteves, assistant director, Transfer & Transition Services
- Kimberly Harrison, professor, director of writing and rhetoric/WAC, Department of English
- Laura Creel, senior accreditation and quality administrator, Office of the Dean, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
- Liesl Picard, associate director, Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center
- Nashira Williams, interim director, Women's Center
- Rocio Benabentos, associate director, STEM Transformation Institute