Leadership programs at MSU: moving forward

This is the final article in a three-part series focusing on the Leadership Institute. See previous articles in the March 6 and Feb. 27 editions for background information.

ASMSU recently faced a breach of their constitution after an administrative override of the budget for ASMSU’s Leadership Institute. In response, ASMSU and the provost’s office seek to implement administrative changes to support the growth of the Leadership Institute and to avoid future miscommunication.

When asked if ASMSU has a system in place to deal with breaches of its constitution, former Director of Operations Brandi Higgins said, “They do have the [Constitutional Audit] Committee, but other than that not really. It doesn’t happen a lot that we’re breaking the constitution; I know there were a lot of issues with the bylaws which is why the rewrote them and updated them. As far as what happens if we’re in violation of the bylaws, it gets brought up by one of the councils, admin, executive, we discuss how we’re breaking it, what we can do to fix it.”

Both offices feel that the overlap of Leadership Institute programming and the Leadership Fellows Program curriculum warrants combined oversight, and in order to accomplish this, they suggest that the Leadership Institute be moved under the authority of the provost’s office.

According to ASMSU President Lindsay Murdock, informal discussion about combining these two leadership programs has been going on for about a year and a half. Increased communication continued after ASMSU encountered problems at the end of the fall 2013 semester relating to their contract with Leadership Institute Director Carmen McSpadden, who also has a contract through the provost’s office as the director of the Leadership Fellows Program. This led to official discussions beginning right before winter break.

If this change occurs, the Leadership Institute will operate under university funding in addition to the student fees which it already receives. It would become a fee-based program through ASMSU, meaning that rather than funding being allocated each year from the student fee, each full-time student would pay a fee each semester designated specifically to fund the Leadership Institute. This would not necessarily create a fee increase; money would simply be pulled from the student activity fee and assigned its own category.

According to Murdock, supplemental university funding would allow for the Leadership Institute to continue to grow. “Eventually the Leadership Institute will outgrow ASMSU,” she said. “I think that’s a testament to us doing our jobs right and to the people there doing a good enough job for it to outgrow the funding that we can give it and to be able to hand that on to the university.”

Administrators within the provost’s office are engaging in this process as well. “The Leadership Institute is something vibrant and we want it to be more,” Provost Martha Potvin said. The provost’s office has been conducting research to examine how leadership programs operate at other institutions and how that can be applied to program organization at MSU while deciding how to best combine the Leadership Institute and the Leadership Fellows Program.

If this change occurs, the Leadership Institute will move under the oversight of the university rather than that of ASMSU. In order for the program to remain student-driven, an advisory council will be established which will include student representation. The goal of this advisory council will be to continue to receive student input while allowing the curriculum and programming to operate more smoothly being tied together under the same office.

ASMSU and the provost’s office hope to create a Memorandum of Understanding which will ensure that the university will contribute money comparable to student funding and to outline the importance of having an advisory council. The ASMSU Senate has drafted a resolution supporting the combination of programs, and they will vote on the resolution Thursday, March 20.

“Any time you have change, you’re never quite sure how it will all go, but I’m hopeful,” McSpadden said. Nothing has yet been finalized, but a consensus will be reached as ASMSU finalizes its budget for the 2014-2015 academic year this spring.