School of Social Work Professor Kim Strom-Gottfried helped expand UNC’s reach into the Middle East this spring with a visit to Saudi Arabia, where she conducted training for women who are leaders in higher education.
Strom-Gottfried, the Smith P. Theimann Jr. Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Professional Practice, presented workshops over four days in April in Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia and in Dammam near the Persian Gulf. The training, which attracted more than 60 female deans, vice deans and chairs from various Saudi universities, is hosted regularly by the Ministry of Education’s Academic Leadership Center.
The visit is believed to be the first for a UNC School of Social Work faculty member. Jeffrey Buller, dean of Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University, has helped organize these workshops for the last seven years and tapped the UNC professor for the presentations.
Strom-Gottfried’s workshops, which focused on “Authentic Academic Leadership” and “Developing and Supporting Academic Leaders,” included discussions around mentorship, resources and best practices for preparing faculty for leadership, and common pitfalls for new academic leaders.
“Among the things we talked about included identifying what our values are as leaders and the opportunities to be steadfast in upholding principles,” said Strom-Gottfried, whose scholarly interests involve ethics, moral courage and social work education. “Being an authentic leader requires self-awareness, continuous learning and sound counsel. So, for example, take a trait such as being task-oriented. What are the issues when that is overused, and what are the issues when that is underused? How can that trait be a career limiter? When is it best employed? So a lot of what we focused on involved our own self-knowledge and skills.”
Participants also contributed to additional discussions, Strom-Gottfried said, by raising questions about ways in which leaders can build trust within their organizations and ideas for managing a work-life balance. Such issues are common in and outside of academia and “transcend geography,” she added.
“The way that their society is structured can be a challenge but is so much more insignificant as compared to the things that are common to us as leaders in academia and as women leaders, especially around the challenge of having hard conversations and finding time for your scholarship amid your administrative role,” Strom-Gottfried said. “So there were a lot things that united us that facilitated conversation and mutual problem solving.”