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Rochester University and Oakland County team up to educate leaders

Oakland County leaders Jennifer Floyd, Mary Blumka and Dominique Holmes
present on their recommendation to support Oakland County’s Strategic Goal of Healthy Residents. Photo by Alyxander LaBranche

Oakland County selected Rochester University in 2023 to co-create its Oakland Leadership Academy, an initiative that provides an opportunity for mid- and upper-level county managers to explore leadership from multiple perspectives.

The first cohort, which runs from August through December, includes 21 Oakland County employees who were selected by their managers for the educational opportunity. The academy focuses on the development of leadership training skills and emphasizes themes of greatest importance to the county, including leadership style, effective supervision of employees, interpersonal communication skills, human resource policies, project and time management and ethics.

“Our partnership with Rochester University will enable our employees to gain the skills and management tools they need to become emerging leaders as they chart their career path at the county and beyond,” said Sunil Asija, human resources director for Oakland County. “One of the strategic goals set by Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter is organizational excellence and providing a pathway to learn and grow is just one way to ensure we are fostering a positive and inspiring working environment for county employees.”

RU’s Jaymes Vettraino, chair of the Department of Management and assistant professor of business, worked with county leaders to create the educational offerings, teach the seminars and coordinate guest speakers. “Our goal is for the leadership training to advance the career goals of the individual, which in turn will provide increased value to the county and its residents,” he said.

A key aspect of the program is its focus on the county’s Strategic Goals: a skilled and educated workforce; livable neighborhoods; public safety and fairness in the criminal justice system; environmental sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion; healthy residents; and a thriving and inclusive economy.

These topics were covered over nine sessions with each class offering three components:

  1. A focus on one of the county’s strategic goals presented by an Oakland County executive leader.
  2. Content developed by RU, based on best leadership practices, and presented by the senior leaders and faculty from the university.
  3. Content developed by Oakland County Human Resources based on the unique management practices of the county and presented by county human resources staff.

Vettraino said participants learned through lectures, interactive experiential learning, out-of-class readings, reflection assignments and peer team learning. Graduates of the program will receive a RU Leadership Badge and a certificate of completion from Oakland County. The program is facilitated by RU in cooperation with the Oakland County Department of Human Resources. The academy will be offered biannually for at least three years.

Dr. Brian Stogner, president of Rochester University, encourages Oakland County Leadership Academy students as they wrap up the course. Photo by Alyxander LaBranche