Context, Overview, and Background
The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) is an annual, invitation-only meeting of leaders from the fields of educational technology, teacher education, and education policy. Its attendees include editors of prominent academic journals, presidents and chairs of professional societies, and directors of governmental and nongovernmental agencies, philanthropic foundations, and technology corporations. During the 2-day working meetings at the summit, attendees leverage the power and reach of their organizations to address some of the most pressing technology-related issues facing American education.
Over the past few years, there has been a growing realization among NTLS attendees that the leaders who represent their organizations at the summit do not reflect the diversity of their organizations or the primary, secondary, and postsecondary students who we ultimately serve. The causes of this disconnect are various and complex, as are potential remedies. However, NTLS believes that groups of leaders can effect positive transformations, especially when those groups are more inclusive of all the perspectives of their members. So, in 2019 one of the working strands at the summit developed solutions that would begin to address this disconnect. One of the solutions that NTLS implemented was the Emerging Leaders program.
The concept behind the NTLS Emerging Leaders program is simple. It is about expanding opportunities for participation in leadership and being intentional about filling those opportunities with individuals who have backgrounds and perspectives underrepresented in leadership. NTLS organizations would identify individuals from their membership with diverse backgrounds and perspectives and strong leadership potential. Each organization will commit to supporting the Emerging Leader’s development as a leader in the organization. The Emerging Leader will benefit from the professional development opportunities afforded to organizational leaders, such as participation in NTLS, and the organizations will benefit by broadening the perspectives of their leadership groups.
The Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) was the first organization to commit to the Emerging Leaders program and in 2020 identified its first two Emerging Leaders. Each year since then, SITE has named an Emerging Leader from nominations solicited from throughout the organization.
The NTLS/SITE Emerging Leader receives an invitation to attend NTLS as a full participant. Travel to NTLS is supported by SITE monetarily, and the NTLS/SITE Emerging Leader works side-by-side during the summit with the SITE president. During the academic year following the Summit, the NTLS/SITE Emerging Leader continues to work with the SITE president in various leadership and administrative activities. Throughout the years of implementing the Emerging Leader program, NTLS/SITE has been expanding the definitions of Emerging Leaders and diversity in leadership, hoping to be more inclusive of all the perspectives of its members.
Expanding the Definitions of Emerging Leaders and Diversity in Leadership
The goal of the Emerging Leader program is to prepare underrepresented members of the associations for leadership roles through networking and mentoring. SITE’s approach to defining the Emerging Leader is to expand the parameters of both key terms. Emerging Leaders can come from different underrepresented groups and research areas. Inclusive perspectives from Emerging Leaders bring positive transformation to the association, which includes those from different minoritized groups, capabilities, gender, social class, age, and research interest groups (Haring-Smith, 2012).
Each Emerging Leader brings distinct experiences to this role and is a unique case. Emerging surpasses the mere categorization of doctoral students, practitioners, early-career, midcareer, and late-career faculty by considering different career paths and previous experiences (Curtin et al., 2016). For example, SITE has expanded the criteria for faculty rank and intentionally included midcareer and late-career faculty who may not have had the opportunity to access or pursue leadership roles within SITE or other professional associations (Canale et al., 2013). Similarly, seasoned practitioners in the field (i.e., clinical faculty, PK-12 educators, and educational technologists) also need this opportunity to be more involved in leadership roles in their professional associations and gain the power to change practices and policies.
In considering what qualifies as an Emerging Leader, SITE consciously included those without any organizational leadership experience, as well as those with some initial leadership experience. The key factor is demonstrated investment in serving the organization as a leader in the near future. For example, all four of the NTLS/SITE Emerging Leaders had leadership experience prior to participating in the program: Drs. Sumreen Asim, Yi Jin, and Shernette Dunn had been closely involved in SITE leadership by serving as special interest group (SIG) cochairs before applying for this opportunity, while Dr. Stephanie Smith Budhai has served as a theme chair for SITE Interactive. The important consideration for their selection was that at the time of their applications, they showed great interest in continuing to pursue leadership roles within SITE.
SITE has been actively working toward including more scholars from marginalized groups in the leadership team during the past 4 years. Therefore, the definition of Emerging Leaders has been expanded, especially as to how emerging and diversity in leadership are defined. More specifically, when thinking about diversity, several factors are considered. The Emerging Leaders are selected based on a variety of diverse demographics, including gender, lived experiences, backgrounds, educational aspirations, abilities, and research interests. It is important that Emerging Leaders’ voices as racialized minorities are represented and heard in the spheres of decision-making to impact decisions on education and technology for a wider audience of educators and policymakers. The following section describes in detail how we apply the expanded definitions in practice.
Putting the Concept into Practice
The Emerging Leader program description was shared with the SITE executive board at the April 2020 SITE conference, held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, SITE was to be one of three organizations to select an Emerging Leader, though to date, it is the only one to support this program. The board initially discussed whether to focus on doctoral students or early career faculty members and how to secure the funding required to support travel expenses associated with NTLS. In the end, the SITE executive director committed to supporting this initiative each year. An ad hoc committee was formed, largely out of the SITE members of the group who had been working on this project at NTLS in 2019, and a call was promoted through the SIGs and out to the SITE general membership.
The group received more than 40 applications and met to select an applicant based on (a) bringing a diverse background/perspective to NTLS, (b) showing interest in becoming a leader in our field, and (c) having been involved in and/or having an interest in getting involved in SITE in the future. When the group found a final decision between applicants challenging, it was decided that because the NTLS 2020 was held online and did not require travel funding, the top two applicants could be selected. Starting in 2021, SITE’s Consultative Council chairs (an executive board group of experienced SITE leaders) led the initiation of the call and formed a selection committee that included the 2020 Emerging Leaders. Both 2021 and 2022 saw robust numbers of applicants.
At the SITE 2022 and 2023 annual spring conferences, the Emerging Leaders, SITE president, Consultative Council chairs, and NTLS chair went out to dinner to promote group cohesion and mentoring. In 2023, online “socials” with the SITE president were initiated. Now with having four Emerging Leaders selected, the group is large enough to function as a small community where the more experienced members can mentor newer Emerging Leaders.
The program continues to evolve and refine its processes and focus. While the Emerging Leaders have been specifically invited to be part of leadership events, from being a poster judge to participating in the online 2021 leadership retreat, the sustained mentorship by a distributed group of senior SITE leadership is yet to be formalized. Ideally, the Emerging Leaders are mentored by a community that includes experienced SITE leaders and earlier Emerging Leaders. Currently, three of the four Emerging Leaders sit on the SITE executive board, an indication that the program may be achieving its goals. In the next section, we provide a few recommendations for other professional associations that are interested in starting such a program.
Recommendations for Professional Associations
This type of Emerging Leaders program can help professional organizations organize more focused and intentional plans to engage identified participants to be a part of a solution to bring diverse voices to decision-making spaces. The SITE Emerging Leaders program has started the process of looking critically at how the association can diversify their leadership. The founders of this program have been intentional and reflective on the processes, which is leading to some positive outcomes. We suggest other associations that participate in NTLS could also consider the approach of setting up an Emerging Leader program. This program starts with selecting and sending diverse individuals to NTLS and supporting their leadership capacity within their organizations. We have three overarching recommendations in consideration of continuity and accountability.
Considering the complexity of Emerging Leaders’ professional lives, we should personalize the mentoring and support each Emerging Leader’s needs. For example, initiating a pre-NTLS conversation helps the association make a plan for the networking and mentoring activities the participants will benefit from. Another recommendation is to match the participants with a designated mentor of similar research interests prior to NTLS and/or the annual meeting.
Embedding means of assisting, connecting, and expanding mentoring to include one-on-one guidance will help offer growth mechanisms that would be valuable for the Emerging Leader in developing a support system as well as comfortability to voice their concern and ideas for improving the experience of marginalized individuals. People in positions of leadership come from a place of power and privilege. Allowing for relationship-building benefits both the mentor and mentee to manifest and impact the people with different social identities to solidify a professional organization’s commitment to preventing isolation, invisibility, and unheard voices.
Continuity in Developing Emerging Leaders
Similar to any professional development, one-time experiences of attending NTLS or annual conferences might not be sufficient enough to develop relationships and engage in leadership activities. Emerging Leaders should continue to participate in the annual meetings of their professional conferences in leadership roles, which lets them continue to receive the benefits of networking and mentoring and could afford the opportunity for continued participation at NTLS. Valuing the newly selected Emerging Leaders, we should continue to nurture them by offering opportunities to engage in multiple aspects of the association, such as journal editing and publication, conference planning, and leadership within the associations.
Accountability at the Organizational Level
In creating a program such as the Emerging Leaders program, professional organizations are committing time, energy, and resources to allow for actively constructing a space that includes diverse Emerging Leaders for leadership opportunities in their associations. It is important that Emerging Leaders are supported by the members and leaders for their growth and leadership within the organizations they represent and NTLS at large.
The Emerging Leaders program is a possible approach for inclusivity and preparation of underrepresented members for leadership through networking and mentoring. We recommend that organizations wishing to implement a version of this program provide these Emerging Leaders with support for attending NTLS in their year as an Emerging Leader as well as ample opportunities for leadership within their associations. Moreover, they should be given opportunities to contribute to creating policies and procedures that share and lead their associations.
Contextualizing the vision for the Emerging Leader program in each association, tailoring mentoring to Emerging Leaders’ needs, being conscientious in making sustainable changes by inviting diverse voices to be heard, and letting Emerging Leaders be a part of the future vision of professional organizations ensures a space-making that will help with ongoing positive changes.
Authors are listed alphabetically.
Canale, A. M., Herdklotz, C., & Wild, L. (2013). Mid-career faculty support: The middle years of the academic profession. Faculty Career Development Services, the Wallace Center, Rochester Institute of Technology, 10, 1–9.
Curtin, N., Malley, J., & Stewart, A. J. (2016). Mentoring the next generation of faculty: Supporting academic career aspirations among doctoral students. Research in Higher Education, 57, 714–738.
Haring-Smith, T. (2012). Broadening our definition of diversity. Liberal Education, 98(2), 6–13.