UCCS’ Bell wins Excellence in Leadership Award

More than 150 ELP alumni attend 10th annual event

Excellence in Leadership Award-winner Megan Bell with UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy.

Megan Bell, executive director of Community Learning and Assessment and assistant professor at the College of Education at UCCS, received the annual Excellence in Leadership Award given by the university-wide Excellence in Leadership Program (ELP).

The award was presented Nov. 30 during the 10th annual Excellence in Leadership Luncheon and Lecture at Denver’s Brown Palace, with more than 150 program alumni in attendance.

ELP provides opportunities for CU faculty and staff to become more effective leaders who can successfully address the challenges of a dynamic university. More than 600 fellows have completed the program since 2000. Each year, the luncheon and lecture brings together program alumni to foster continued collaboration, networking and leadership development.

President Bruce Benson made a surprise luncheon appearance, offering his congratulations to Bell and stating his admiration for the program.

UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success Carlos Garcia presented the award to Bell. Garcia began by noting Bell’s commitment to students and her determination to help solve issues CU faces.

“She truly cares about college students and about the university,” Garcia said. “As we know, simply caring about something is different from actually doing something about it. That’s where Megan really differs and really shines. She always puts into action the things she cares about and offers suggestions on addressing issues that present the university.”

Bell manages a $16 million budget and oversees more than 30 staff and 145 student employees in Residential Life and Housing, Family Development Center and other units.

One recent challenge the university faced: Freshmen who lived in university housing had lower retention than commuter students. To address this, Bell led a cross-functional team to increase academic engagement for this group. Several new housing programs were created to tackle this issue: an intensive residential housing curriculum, the Academic Learning Commons, as well as living learning communities. This academic year, housing freshmen had a higher retention rate than commuter students.

Reddy presented the ELP award to Bell, describing her as a first-generation student and an effective leader who practices the techniques she teaches students.

“Megan is humble but is not afraid to speak up when she sees a concern or does not agree. She is going to speak up because she cares about this organization and cares about our people and students,” Reddy said. “She is creative, collaborative, uses strategic initiative and a style of leadership that practices inclusivity.”

In accepting the award, Bell described her appreciation for the Excellence in Leadership Program.

“What I value most about this program falls into two main themes: reflection and connection,” Bell said. “I really appreciated being given dedicated time each month to reflect on my own leadership. I also really love the chance to connect with all of you and to have dialogue about the challenges of leadership in higher education with such talented and motivated colleagues who share my passion.”

Felicity O’Herron, chief human resources officer and associate vice president of Employee Services, introduced this year’s leadership lecture keynote speaker, Pam Shockley-Zalabak. The former UCCS chancellor and emerita communications professor is president of CommuniCon Inc.

Shockley-Zalabak’s lecture, “Building Trust in Turbulent and Uncertain Times,” emphasized what it means for leaders and organizations to have trust and why it matters.

“The data across our nation revealed a remarkable decline in trust in most institutions and individual leaders,” said Shockley-Zalabak, who described five practical actions leaders can take to increase their trustworthiness, including genuine concern for employees, openness and honesty, self-identification of mistakes, reliability and competence.

Shockley-Zalabak credited the ELP program with building strong leadership, saying “(it) truly is one of my favorite programs that the University of Colorado does. Developing leaders on all four campuses and having the kinds of experiences and interactions that you have in this program is fundamental to a healthy organization.”

The event was partially sponsored by TIAA.