For the final year, I attended the Archives Leadership Institute as a Steering Committee member. The Steering Committee consists of archivists (Rachel Vagts, ALI Director) from Berea College as well as representatives from New York (Geof Huth), Massachusetts (Beth Myers), Ohio (Dan Noonan), Oregon (Terry Baxter), Virginia (Brenda Gunn), and North Carolina (Tanya). Funded by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), the goal for the Institute is to “bring to tomorrow’s leaders the insights and understanding necessary for increasing public use and appreciation of archives.” This was the 6th and final year of two three-year grants totaling $478,777.
Our curriculum remained similar to years past and Rebecca will share more about that aspect of ALI. In 2017 NHPRC funding paid for an assessment study of the program, and I thought some of the selected results might be of interest. The report, completed by Dr. Rob Smith (Director of Academic Assessment, Berea College), addresses results from a preliminary outcomes assessment of the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) conducted between November 2016 and August 2017. Dr. Smith provides a number of recommendations for further development. This report will be shared with the next iteration of the Archives Leadership Institute, which will be hosted by Purdue University.
The assessment involved the following:
1. Consultation with ALI Steering Committee to identify expected outcomes
2. Review of ALI material (instructional and participant artifacts)
3. Construction and distribution of an ALI participant survey constructed around the three identified ALI outcomes and sent to 218 past ALI participants
4. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of 134 survey responses (a 62% response rate)
Language from the report:
“While participant feedback has routinely been sought as part of each iteration of ALI (hereafter referred to simply as “the Institute”), this is the first attempt at formally assessing specific learning outcomes expected of each participant who completes the Institute.
Assessment of Outcome 2. As with outcome 1, to understand the extent to which ALI participants achieved the first outcome (“Demonstrate increased leadership abilities, responsibilities, and/or roles at their institutions and/or in their profession”), respondents provided a global rating using a 5-point Likert-type scale with 1 being “not at all achieved” and 5 being “completely achieved.” Overall, 76% of respondents reported having achieved this outcome to at least a moderate extent. These ratings were again fairly consistent between ALI sites, with Madison participants indicating a mean rating of 2.92 (SD = 1.28; modal rating = 4), Luther participants indicating a mean rating of 3.04 (SD = 1.31; modal rating = 4), and Berea participants indicating a mean rating of 3.10 (SD = 1.17; modal rating = 4). A qualitative analysis of the types of changes or enhancements experienced by these respondents revealed six prominent themes. These themes and their rate of occurrence are found in Table 2.
Table 2. Prominent responses regarding the ways in which responsibilities and roles have increased or been enhanced:
Elected or appointed positions 24%
New leadership positions 23%
Increased responsibilities 15%
Increased mentoring activities 14%
Leading new initiatives 8%
Professional presentations/publications 7%
Summary & Recommendations
Centered around the three pillars of professional leadership, personal development, and institutional leadership, the primary goal of ALI has been to help grow tomorrow’s leaders in the archives profession. After nine iterations, this initial assessment suggests that this goal is largely being met. Respondents generally gave high marks for all three specific outcomes and their comments were overwhelmingly positive regarding their experience with ALI. While there is always room for improvement, it is clear that ALI has carried out a high quality leadership development program that has positively impacted many future leaders in the professional archives field.
Central to any leadership development program is the desire for participants to put to use those skills they have learned/developed. The Archives Leadership program, as reflected in its first outcome, is no exception. While the original plan to directly assess the practicum projects of past participants was not able to be carried out yet, the range of topics and descriptions of ongoing and completed projects clearly suggests that a great many participants are, in fact, using the knowledge and skills gained from the Institute to transform the profession in practice, theory, and/or attitude. Over half of respondents felt that they had achieved this outcome either to a large extent (≈33%) or completely (≈34%). In particular, the wide array of topics described in the practicum projects, spanning from technical skills involved in creating digital archives to interpersonal skills necessary for leading a staff and collaborating with others to intrapersonal skills necessary for effectively managing one’s time and interests, reflect both the need for ALI and the ability of ALI to reach a broad audience of archivists.”