Professor Brian Dean (left) is one of 11 faculty members participating in the 2019 President’s Leadership Institute.

When Brian Dean heard glowing reviews of the President’s Leadership Institute (PLI) from his colleagues, he was intrigued. Little did he know, Dean, a professor of computing in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences would soon experience the program himself. The 14-year veteran of Clemson was over-the-moon about being selected. “I hope to learn more about how academic systems like Clemson function from a different vantage point than I typically see as a faculty member,” he said.

Introduced by President Jim Clements in 2016, each year’s PLI exposes Clemson’s faculty and staff to all aspects of the University’s operations, presents opportunities to interact with senior leaders and allows them to participate in activities designed to build leadership skills, broaden their perspectives, create invaluable networks and prepare them to pursue additional roles at Clemson.

Nominated by vice presidents and deans, the participants are at various stages in their careers, from entry-level to mid-level employees. Participants learn about Clemson, higher education, business and government and receive education and training to hone and develop skills needed for leadership success.

Along with Dean, 11 other faculty members are participating in the fourth cohort of the PLI, which began last week.

Let’s meet them:

Phebe Davis-Culler is an assistant clinical professor of accounting in the College of Business. Her research interests include social and ethical issues in accounting and managerial accounting decision-making. Davis-Culler teaches managerial and cost accounting and recently co-developed a data analytics course for accounting decision-making, which she will begin teaching this fall. She was “honored and elated” to be selected for the program and is looking forward to learning more about the University as well as herself. “I hope to gain invaluable experience in understanding my deep purpose and using that knowledge to become the type of leader I would like to be,” she explained.

Senior lecturer Tania Houjeiry hopes the PLI will help her expand her leadership skills as well as her network.

Like Dean, Tania Houjeiry heard rave reviews of the PLI from her colleagues. Houjeiry teaches a number of introductory and senior-level chemistry courses and directs the NSF-funded Chemistry Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. “When I learned that I was nominated to the PLI, I felt honored to be considered for such a prestigious leadership program,” she said. “I believe the experience will empower me with the necessary tools to become a better leader, expand my network skills and help me to achieve my future aspirations.

Hans Klar is an associate professor and assistant department chair in the Educational and Organizational Leadership Development Department, College of Education. Klar was honored to have been selected to participate in the PLI and wants to learn about the intricate workings of the University and its relationship with the state. “I look forward to learning about issues and opportunities facing Clemson University and South Carolina with other leaders from across campus,” he said.

Eric Lapin is director of artistic initiatives for the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts and a senior lecturer of music in the Department of Performing Arts. He said he is particularly excited for the chance to meet with and learn from people from all across campus.  He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in clarinet performance and a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. He regularly presents and publishes on arts administration and music history, serves as a delegate to the faculty senate, and is a featured speaker for South Carolina Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Joseph P. Mazer is a professor and chair of the Department of Communication. He also directs the Social Media Listening Center, a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research and teaching facility that seeks to monitor social media conversations from across the web and provide teaching, research, and partnership opportunities to students, faculty, collaborative research partners and external clients. His research agenda addresses communication in teaching, learning, social media and new technologies. Mazer said being selected for the PLI is an incredible honor. “I am very excited and looking forward to learning from President Clements and colleagues across campus.”

Veronica G. Parker described her participation in the PLI as “an opportunity of a lifetime.” An Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson University in the School of Nursing and director of the Center for Research on Health Disparities, Parker teaches nursing research analysis and clinical epidemiology. She has expertise in the areas of categorical data analysis, path analyses and big data analytics (to name a few) and has secured more than $10 million in collaborative research funding. Her current research interests involve vulnerable populations in the areas of health disparities/health equity, quality of life and well-being, resilience and spirituality. “I expect to enhance my communication and problem-solving skills while expanding my network regarding health-related research,” she said. “I also hope to learn more about various operations in higher administration at the University.”

Srikanth Pilla is the Robert Patrick Jenkins endowed professor and associate professor of Automotive Engineering. He is also the founding director of Clemson Composites Center and director of the Automotive Engineering Certificate Program. Pilla’s research interests are in the fundamentals and applications of sustainable and lightweight functional materials and manufacturing. His research is supported by NSF, DOE, USDA, NASA and several industries.

“Honored and nervous at the same time.” That’s how physics and astronomy associate professor Hugo Sanabria felt when he was asked to participate in the PLI. While Sanabria has built important professional relationships in his almost six years at Clemson, he is busy these days trying to establish his research program, which focuses on molecular biophysics. As he participates in the PLI, his goal is to build lasting relationships. “I believe the PLI equips a new generation of institutional leaders. Thus, I think the best outcome is the relationships that will outlast the duration of the program. Relationships will be instrumental in the future of the institution,” he said.

Associate professor Katherine Weisensee hopes to gain experience and skills to be an effective leader who can bring people together.

Biological anthropologist Katherine Weisensee is chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice. Her National Institutes of Health-funded research centers on the development of biomarkers based on three-dimensional craniofacial variation of individuals with rare diseases. Weisensee acts as a forensic anthropology consultant where she assists the local coroners with the recovery and identification of skeletons that have been discovered in the area.

“I hope to learn more about how different areas of the university function within local, state, and national contexts,” she said when asked about her participation in the PLI. “I am looking forward to meeting new people and building my community at Clemson.”

Department of Management professor Tom Zagenczyk primarily teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in organizational behavior. His research explores employee-organization relationships, employee-supervisor relationships and relationships between coworkers. Because effective leadership is tied to successful relationships, Zagenczyk is especially interested in exploring the relationships among various groups. “I’d like to learn more about how different stakeholder groups, such as the State of South Carolina, Clemson’s Board of Trustees and those involved in the Higher Education landscape affect the decisions made at Clemson,” he said, adding, ”I feel honored and grateful to be selected for such a prestigious program.”

Visit the President’s Leadership Institute web page to learn more about the program and participants.

Related: President’s Leadership Institute names participants