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Public affairs professor to learn about academic leadership from the inside as Watts College's 1st Dean's Fellow

Angel Molina will spend 9 months working with current leaders, conducting projects to advance college's mission

Portrait of Angel Molina, ASU School of Public Affairs assistant professor.

Associate Professor Angel Molina of ASU's School of Public Affairs is the first Dean's Fellow in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Photo courtesy ASU

August 26, 2022

College deans are administrators by definition, but they are educators first, who earlier in their careers decided to pivot into academic leadership.

While many knew what they were getting into, other potential leaders may not be aware of the opportunities and the challenges associated with such a path, says Dean Cynthia Lietz of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Lietz established the Dean’s Fellowship program this fall to “create a stronger pipeline to leadership positions for faculty members who seek to know more about service in college administration.

Faculty members chosen for the fellowship will exhibit a commitment to the college’s mission as well as have an interest in leadership, Lietz says.

“They do not have to have demonstrated experience. This is for those who have had little to no exposure already,” she says.

For the inaugural fellow, Lietz said she selected a mid-career Watts College professor who will spend the next nine months becoming better oriented and informed about “what leadership looks like from a day-to-day perspective.”

During the fall semester, Assistant Professor Angel Molina of the School of Public Affairs will shadow the college’s executive leadership team and learn about many leadership roles and responsibilities, Lietz says. In the spring semester, Molina will manage two to three projects to help further the college’s mission to build more vibrant, healthy, equitable communities.

“Dr. Molina is a talented faculty member who aspires to move into leadership as he progresses in his career. He is interested and open to learning more about leadership, committed to the mission of the college and passionate about equity and inclusion,” Lietz says. “All of these things would be expected of future fellows. I am excited to work in collaboration with him this year as we develop the program together.”

Lietz says that while Molina serves in the fellowship, she will learn ways to best structure the pilot program in the future, when other mid-career faculty from across the college will have the opportunity to apply for the fellowship.

Molina said administration in higher education is something he has always wanted to learn more about.

“It’s always fascinated me, not from a research perspective, but from a practical perspective,” he says. “I’ve always thought about how I might want to contribute in that way.”

Molina said while at ASU he has had several opportunities to interact with the college leadership, primarily in service opportunities in areas such as inclusion.

To transition from faculty to administrator is a foundation-building experience, Molina says.

“Ideally it’s a chance to develop a soft foundation, so that when the opportunity comes up in my career to enter administration, I’ll be better positioned to hit the ground running,” he says. “I’ll have more perspective. To me, that’s the beauty of the opportunity.”

Molina said that for him, being a leader means having the chance to more deeply fulfill his mission of public service.

“If I’m ever given the opportunity to take on a leadership position, it will be for me to have some sort of positive impact on our college, ASU and the broader community the university serves,” he says.

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