Eileen Abels, dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, is a participative leader who believes in the power of teamwork and communication.
What sort of leader are you?
I feel that it is important to lead by example. While I am task-oriented, at the same time, I am people-oriented. This would make me a participative leader because I value the input of others but will make a final decision when needed. Communication is key, and I believe that listening is an important component of successful leadership. We succeed as a team and not as individuals, so I value input from others. My role is to identify opportunities and to provide the faculty and staff with the resources they need to be successful. I would like to be a transformational leader and hope to become such a leader at Simmons.
If you had a day to go anywhere or do anything what would you do and whom would you bring?
It is easy to say with whom I would spend the day—with my husband and daughter—because there never seems to be enough down time. I would choose to go someplace where we could be totally unconnected – that would mean no Internet connection, no e-mail, no cell phones, or mobile devices. I think we would walk in a beautiful setting and enjoy some good food.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see for higher education?
Higher education is undergoing huge challenges at this time as all of our underlying assumptions are being questioned. One example of a challenge, mentioned almost daily in the news, is the development of MOOCs, which offer courses online for free or for greatly reduced rates to a “massively” large number of students. However, while this is a challenge, it is also a great opportunity to explore new means of delivery of education and to collaborate with others— other Schools at Simmons, other educational institutions, professional associations, non-profits, and for-profits. We cannot be afraid to take some risks.
Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from that experience.
I try to learn from all my experiences, whether failures or successes. We can always learn from the past and try to do better in the future. In general, I think it is important to be flexible and adapt when thing do not go as you might want.
What is your favorite word?
Germane. This is my favorite word not for its meaning so much as for the memories it invokes of my mentor and advisor, Dr. Paul Wasserman, who always spoke with perfect fluency and seemed to find the perfect words without hesitation. Germane was a word he used frequently when he lectured.