The Importance of Leadership Guiding the Institution for Lifelong Learning
Fostering the future of higher education starts with strong leadership, which for today’s learners requires seeing the value in lifelong learning. Every year, senior-level higher education leaders from diverse backgrounds are selected to participate in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI), a premier leadership development program designed to diversify the American college presidency by supporting traditionally underrepresented senior academic and administrative professionals in higher education. In this interview, Latoya Jenkins discusses her MLI experience and the importance of supporting inclusive pathways to leadership in higher education.
The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why did you want to be part of the Millennium Leadership Initiative?
Latoya Jenkins (LJ): It felt like it was right in my career to explore next steps and what it would take to be ultimately the president of a university. For me, as someone who considers themselves a lifelong learner, it felt like the organic next steps to get a better understanding of what it takes to be a president.
Evo: Can you tell me a bit about your experience as a lifelong learner and the value you see in lifelong learning?
LJ: My lifelong learning journey started at home. My family really highlighted the importance of putting my education first. As a New York City inner-city kid, I was able to go to the University of Maryland College Park. It was there that I honed my communication skills and begin as an admissions representative student worker. I realized I could close the gap between access and opportunity—close the gaps for students seeking more information.
I got my undergraduate degree then a master’s degree to expand my understanding and knowledge. Now I sit as a second-year PhD student embarking on a great professional development experience through MLI. I’m continuing that lifelong learning journey.
Evo: How as MLI shaped your career in higher education?
LJ: This is an opportunity for me to advance my expertise in student affairs and organizational leadership. MLI will make me a better leader by allowing me to hone my skills while being my authentic self.
Evo: What are some of the obstacles or opportunities you see on the horizon for higher ed?
LJ: There’s an opportunity for leaders to help foster a better future for higher ed by being their authentic self. We live in a society where people often want to fit in. As leaders, we are faced with difficult decisions, and our contributions are what will shape the future pipeline of academic arenas and make a difference.
MLI has allowed me to tap into my authentic leadership style, knowing that my qualifications, skill set and diverse experiences allow me to make an immediate impact within the workplace.
Evo: What advice would you share with other higher ed professionals that want to be a part of MLI and begin transforming the future of higher ed?
LJ: Lean into who you are and know that some opportunities will translate with students, faculty staff and audiences you’re trying to reach. We all come with strengths and have ways in which we want to develop ourselves. Regardless of where we are on your leadership journey, embrace who you are and contribute your best daily. Your leadership will help reduce the barriers of enrollment and increase social mobility.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.