Opening comments by athletics leadership focused on how the three Cs are rooted in open communication, no matter how difficult the situation or topic.  This transparency sets the tone for organizational culture based on practicing their core values daily in every decision and situation.   Each panel member gave an example of how they have fostered a strong team culture but also gave insight into the difficulties a leader faces when having these challenging conversations.

Most of the time together was focused on small, candid, authentic discussions.  Each athletics leader was paired with ten academic leaders in five roundtable discussions.  Groups shared how they manage change, benefit from making uncomfortable conversations comfortable, and effectively manage up, down, and across peers in their organizations.

Key takeaways:

  • Leadership in academics and athletics are more alike than they are different.  While our teams and organizations can vary in size, the challenges each faces are very similar, and we can learn much from each other.
  • Being authentic is critical to gaining and holding trust in our organizations.
  • Communicating regularly and actively practicing our values builds a culture requiring less management because it maintains itself in practice.
  • Showing compassion and empathy as a leader is OK, and it authentically shows how much leaders care about their teams.
  • It is crucial to develop a culture that respects every individual in the organization; this allows everyone to do their best work as part of the team.
  • Taking the time to listen is more important than being the one to talk. 

The success of this time together led to the idea of holding similar events between athletics and academic leaders in the future. Discussing critical topics and sharing best practices builds a more robust culture, develops a warm and welcoming community, and embraces common ground across our campus.

What people are saying:

Lisa Bluder

“I thought the Hawkeye Inclusive Leadership Conversation was perfect for our athletic and academic department leaders. The interaction was useful as it brought both of these areas together, and we all learned more about the challenges that each other faces.  It is plain to see that we are much more similar in our trials and goals than we thought.  It is obvious that The University of Iowa is very proactive in working on leadership styles and amiability across the campus.”

Lisa Bluder, P. Sue Beckwith, MD Head Women’s Basketball Coach 

Dan Clay

"The collaboration between athletics and academic leaders was an excellent opportunity to share ideas and best practices for building a positive and inclusive culture. I appreciated the shared successes, challenges, and open dialogue about working together to make IOWA more inclusive and supportive for our whole community. I hope we can strengthen these kinds of collaborations with athletics."

Dan Clay, Dean, College of Education


"The energy in the room was exceptional. The conversations highlighted common concerns and presented shared solutions. There was mutual respect and admiration across disciplines, and a willingness to listen and learn."

Dr. Lois Geist, Associate Provost for Faculty

New Liz Tovar

“It is rare on a college campus our size to have these leaders all together finding common ground. Some difficult discussions led to transformational ideas on how our university can move forward together.  I cannot wait to see what we do next.”

Dr. Liz Tovar, Executive Officer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Associate Vice President and Senior Associate Athletics Director, Student-Athlete Academic Services