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Case Study: Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship

Woodrow Wilson Foundation Uses BEI to Identify Competencies in High-Potential Leaders

Challenge

The Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership program recruits and prepares outstanding leaders for schools and districts in participating states. The Fellowship seeks both to prepare leaders who can bring all American schools up to world-class levels of performance and to develop a new gold standard for preparing education leaders.

To reach these goals, Program Director LeAnn Buntrock needed a Fellow selection process that one, could be applied consistently through the interview process at all participating universities; and two, included a way to calibrate data objectively in order to show, at the end of the day, impact in the field.

To solve this challenge, Buntrock turned to ClearView Consulting.

Process

Created in 2012 by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the WW MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership seeks to address the gaps in current school leader preparation programs. Typically, universities with education programs offer an M.Ed, but fail to teach school leaders the skills inherent in classic MBA programs – skills vital to being a world-class school leader.

According to Buntrock, business schools have become adept at teaching organizational behavior, change leadership, and project management, etc., but these skills are missing in the education sector.

The Fellowship program is unique in that it marries the needed skills and abilities of successful school leaders with the proven models of industry-leading MBA programs. The program today involves six universities and three states.

Previous to her position with Woodrow Wilson, Buntrock served as Executive Director for UVA’s School Turnaround program. Based on the research UVA did in conjunction with ClearView Consulting, Buntrock and her colleagues learned that high-potential school turnaround leaders exhibit four competencies: Conceptual thinking, impact and influence, commitment to student learning, and focuses on sustainable results.

For the Woodrow Wilson MBA program, Buntrock wanted to select the Fellows who exhibited these competencies. After speaking with a number of organizations and business schools, Buntrock learned rigorous selection processes did exist; what was lacking, however, was any research or indicators that these processes were having an impact in the field.

To ensure accuracy of the Woodrow Wilons’ Foundation’s research data, and the results of the MBA Fellowship and its impact, Buntrock wanted a validated selection process – one that also included a way to objectively calibrate the data. The only one existing was ClearView Consulting’s BEI – or Behavioral Event Interview.

Potential WW MBA Fellows are first nominated to the program by their school district. Once nominated, potential Fellows must meet admission standards – as well as undergo the BEI.

“Each university program is a little different, as is the leadership and the people who apply to the program,” says Buntrock. “Due to my previous work with ClearView, I knew the BEI process had been validated and that it offered calibration of data. I knew that if we added it to our selection process, we would add much needed consistency across all partner universities.”

As Woodrow Wilson’s partner, ClearView Consulting trains the people at the universities (those participating in the Fellowship program), to conduct the BEI, and then to objectively evaluate each candidate.

The goal is to create a consistent, evidence-based selection process that will allow Buntrock and her colleagues to compare apples-to-apples as Fellows move through the program and out into the field.

Results

According to Buntrock, because substantial time and effort has gone into ensuring the BEI is a consistent and objective-based process, it has rigor, and thus provides more accurate data.

By looking at BEI data, Buntrock and her team can tell which Fellows are struggling in a certain area and why – and can then ask the question “is it the program or the Fellow?” The BEI gives an indication of where to look, says Buntrock, and it’s helped the Woodrow Wilson team eliminate some of the variables and biases that go into working with people from multiple backgrounds and experiences.

“What’s been great about working with ClearView,” she sums up, “is that we can trust their work to be top quality. Dennis and his team take a huge worry off my plate. I turn over the interview training process to them. They pick up the ball and run with it by working directly with our University partners, scheduling the interviews, etc. Their work is world class, and they provide the best, most professional training in the world, bar none.”