Middle Leadership Academy: Frequently Asked Questions

June 2021


The CSU Student Success Network’s Middle Leadership Academy is a year-long professional development opportunity that brings together campus-based teams of CSU faculty, student affairs staff, researchers, and students in a collaborative and supportive environment to work on common issues related to student learning, engagement, progression and completion.
Now that Academy applications are open, the Network answers some frequently asked questions about our program.

Question: What is the Middle Leadership Academy?

Answer: The Middle Leadership Academy is a year-long leadership program that empowers participants to forge deeper relationships with colleagues and develop skills for making change from where they sit. The Academy brings together campus-based, cross-role teams in a collaborative and supportive environment, with a peer facilitator from another campus, to work on issues that support equitable student success. Together, team members identify common challenges faced by students at their campus, develop a shared vision to improve practices, and communicate about what works (and what doesn’t) for students on their respective campuses.

Q: What is the expected time commitment?

A: The Academy consists of three multi-day sessions. In 2021-22, we are planning a hybrid approach with virtual sessions in the fall, and in-person sessions in the spring. The virtual sessions will be on October 28, 29 and November 5, for 2.5 hours each day. If it is safe to resume in-person sessions in spring 2022, they will be full days (and some travel time depending on where you are located) that are scheduled for February 24-26 and April 14-17.

This time commitment will vary by each team, but in our experience, teams typically meet multiple times to further their work, sometimes with other stakeholders from their campus.

All travel costs are reimbursed by the CSU Student Success Network, following travel guidelines.

Q: Teams consist of a maximum of six participants. Can we add additional team members?

A: Due to budget and facility limits, six people is the magic number for our in-person sessions. However, teams may make a case for an additional person during the application process. Keep in mind that part of the project implementation process is establishing a “home team” that does not travel but is highly engaged in the work of your campus team (other stakeholders)—this is a great way to get additional colleagues involved!

Q: Where are in-person meetings located?

A: When it is safe, in-person meetings are held at a conference site that includes lodging, with preference for CSU facilities such as Cal Poly Pomona’s Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel. All  travel costs are reimbursed by the CSU Student Success Network, following travel guidelines.

Q: The theme of the Academy this year center’s racial equity  and the pandemic – two large topics. Are there suggestions for how teams can address these topics?

A: Given the uniqueness of each campus, we support “home grown” thinking about the inequities your team seeks to address through this experience. Projects can be based on your perspectives and experiences in understanding, adapting, and innovating to respond to and reduce racial inequities at your campus during (and beyond) the pandemic. For inspiration, view a list of previous teams and topics here

Q: What kinds of data or evidence should we use to develop our campus project?

A: We encourage you to base your project on data or evidence that illustrate inequities at your campus. That may include, but is not limited to, direct or indirect qualitative or quantitative data. For example, if your project is centered around advising and time to degree, direct data could include information related to each specific student following an academic course plan and information on deviations from the plan. Using the same example, indirect information could include the number of advising sessions, when advising sessions occurred relative to registration, and information covered during the advising session. As you develop your campus project, think both about what you know and what you still need to learn with respect to the inequity(ies) you are seeking to address.  

Q: What is the best way to develop a team and apply? 

A: We encourage teams of middle leaders—such as CSU faculty, student affairs staff, researchers—to come together in a collaborative and supportive environment to work on common issues related to equitable student success. Teams can be initiated by any middle leader and should include team members who serve in a variety of roles across campus; we highly recommend engaging a student as part of the team. An identified or self-selected team lead would then work with their team to submit an application. 

Team members may know each other already, or may meet for the first time through this experience. If you are thinking of developing a team, but do not know who to reach out to, you can check in with an administrator who can connect you with other middle leaders interested in equity-driven work. 

Team projects come together in a variety of ways. We encourage you to use data or evidence that identify inequities at your campus as a basis for your project. Please note that this year, we are looking for projects that seek to address the implications of two pandemics—COVID-19 and racial injustice—in contributing to campus inequities, and explore approaches to address these inequities.

View this year’s Academy application here.

For more information, please visit our Academy page.


The CSU Student Success Network is facilitated by the Education Insights Center (EdInsights) at Sacramento State University. For more information, email studentsuccessnetwork@edinsightscenter.org. or visit the EdInsights and Sacramento State websites.

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