Higher Education Academic Leadership (HEAL) Program


The HEAL Fellowship program provides opportunities for faculty to identify and study an important problem or challenge facing higher education and propose a scalable and impactful intervention that ultimately supports the success of students, faculty, staff, or the university.

This program is focused on executing a high-impact project and on developing the fellow as a leader in higher education. Through structured reflective exercises, readings, meetings and other experiences, fellows will connect their growth as leaders to successful implementing their projects. Fellows will work with on-campus mentors and foster and develop relationships with external mentors.

Teaching Release. Participating faculty members can be released for up to 4 credits of on-load activity for one or two semesters (sometimes longer) to focus on an issue of importance to higher education. The successful fellow will be mentored and supported by the Provost’s office (and beyond), and focus on understanding, addressing, and impacting an issue.

Current HEAL Fellows

2024-25 Cohort

Alicia A. Broderick, Teaching and Learning:  Disrupting Institutionalized Neuronormativity through the Development of an Institute for Neurodivergent Innovation & Leadership

Dr. Broderick will use the HEAL Fellowship to develop an Institute for Neurodivergent Innovation and Leadership here at Montclair.  This three-pronged initiative is designed to cultivate and nurture a more neuroinclusive culture at Montclair; to platform and amplify neurodivergent talent, innovation, and leadership on campus; and to curate and support the production of vanguard neurodivergent scholarship at Montclair and beyond. The Institute’s aims will be addressed through the development of a community Neurodivergent Safe Space Training program, and through collaboratively exploring and building partnerships with existing entities and initiatives on campus–for both students and employees–that might recognize, value, and develop neurodivergent leadership on campus.

Christopher Donoghue, Sociology: Enhancing Student Belonging & Resilience in Higher Education: A Competing Demands Framework
Dr. Donoghue is engaged in a longitudinal survey of student sense of belonging and its connection to academic success. An important part of the project is understanding the needs of students, their physical and mental health status, and the competing demands in their lives such as work and student activities. The goals of the project are to develop baseline information on student needs and belonging, identify groups of students that are in the greatest need of support, and to develop an informed strategy for enhancing academic success.The project is informed by feedback from students, faculty, administrators, and staff from across the campus community.

Livia Alexander, Art and Design: NextGen EduVerse: Innovating Higher Education with Customizable Immersive Media and Game-Based Learning Tools
As a HEAL fellow, Dr. Alexander will be leading a project responding to shifts in higher education prompted by Generation Z students and the COVID-19 pandemic. Its core aim is to integrate game-based learning into curricula, enhancing student engagement and outcomes. By leveraging gaming methodologies, the project offers a fresh approach to learning for digital-native students. Through research, collaboration, and phased development, Dr. Alexander seeks to create a modular gaming engine tailored to higher education needs. Workshops, surveys, and pilot testing will inform the creation of a robust framework for game-based learning at Montclair State University.
Past Cohorts

January 2024 Cohort

Jennifer Bragger, Psychology: Soaring with Collaborative Service-Oriented Development and Design Thinking: A Needs Analysis to Redesign the Leadership Development and Civic Engagement Minor

Dr. Bragger seeks to redesign the Leadership Development and Civic Engagement Minor to better align the learning and experiences within the minor with student preferences, organizational needs, and the strategic direction of Montclair. Through redesigning the minor, Montclair can be uniquely positioned to lead the charge of developing students to lead through serving others in their community. HEAL Proposal 2023 – J Bragger

Blanca Vega, Educational Leadership: Toward an Equity Minded Faculty Development Model

Dr. Vega will use this fellowship to explore, develop, and implement a set of initiatives that would inform an equity-minded faculty development cycle model by drawing on research and practices advocated for by Gina Garcia and others and encapsulated by the phrase “servingness” to include a set of organizational practices that move HSIs away from simply enrolling Latine students to supporting them (Garcia et al., 2019). These indicators and structures (Garcia et al., 2019). Within this model, faculty development is an important structure to consider as Montclair State strives to enact critical and sustained support for all its students. My goal is to enact servingness by providing support to faculty throughout their development cycle with knowledge, skills, and dispositions in equity-mindedness.

September 2023 Cohort

Milton Fuentes, Psychology: Understanding the Heterogeneity in the Latine Community and Assessing our Readiness for the Seal of Excelencia

This project focuses on two primary areas: exploring the heterogeneity of the Latine student
population at MSU (1) and assessing the readiness of MSU for the Seal of Excelencia awarded by Excelencia in Education (2). In the first area, he will survey undergraduate students to understand how other identity variables such as country of origin, racial-ethnic identification, skin color, and intersectionality inform their academic lived experiences.

In area two, he will key review components from the Excelencia framework, such as data, practices, and leadership at Montclair to see how well we are serving our Latine students.

Brigid Callahan Harrison, Political Science: Creating the First Gen Faculty Initiative

Dr. Harrison will be undertaking the First Gen Faculty Initiative which is a new volunteer initiative among MSU faculty (and staff and administrators) who are themselves the first in their families to graduate college, and who hope to improve the sense of belonging, efficacy, retention, and graduation rates among First Gen Montclair students (who constitute about 45% of our student body). These students are more likely to be retained less than non-First Gen students.

She is working with various offices and departments to form individual and group mentorship cohorts, create programs for current, prospective, and incoming students to increase their sense of belonging and ease the transition to higher education, and discover best practices being used at other colleges and universities around to the country to serve the needs of First Gen students.

Jeff Strickland, History: Data-Informed Curriculum Reform and Course Redesign for Equity and Student Success

Dr. Strickland has begun a student success initiative that has three interrelated goals. First, he will implement data-informed curriculum reform to create equitable student pathways to success using Curricular Analytics.

Second, he will create and implement a plan for course redesign of general education courses
that supports teaching, learning, success, completion, and retention.

Finally, he will evaluate student assessment practices in courses to improve equity and success in general education courses. Together, the aforementioned goals will foster a more equitable curriculum aimed at serving our racially and ethnically diverse students. HEAL Proposal 2022 – J. Strickland.[/column][/row]

Call for Proposals

Call for Proposals 2024

The Office of the Provost is seeking proposals from faculty to participate in the Higher Education Academic Leadership (HEAL) fellowship program.

Priority will be given to projects that hold the most potential for sustained positive impact to the University and are aligned with the strategic directions and plan of the University, which evolves given the rapidly shifting challenges facing public higher education.

Deadline for the next cohort: December 18, 2023 at 4:30 pm.

Applications will be assessed based on the following:

  • Identification of an issue, challenge, or problem in higher education with a discussion of the relevance and significance of it to the Mission and Goals of Montclair State University;
  • Innovation in approach to the question or methods to be used;
  • Feasibility of the project and its implementation components;
  • Potential impact.

Applications should include:

  • Current CV
  • Letter of Support (no more than one page) co-signed by the applicant’s chair/director and dean indicating enthusiasm for the candidate, project and support for the requested one-course per semester release.
  • Statement, of no more than 3 single-spaced pages in length, that addresses the following:
    • Why are you interested in the opportunity?
    • What topic do you want to explore and why is this of interest or important to you? No more than two areas of interest.

Possible areas to explore:
        • Student success
        • Faculty excellence
        • High impact educational practices (e.g., undergraduate research, honors program, other experiential education such as service learning)
        • Innovations in academic programs/curriculum, delivery modes, and assessment
        • Global Reach
        • Other ideas and issues.
  • Why is this issue of importance to Montclair and its strategic direction?
  • Provide a brief description of a proposed project and its primary aims for an area of interest.
  • What project outcomes and metrics for success are consistent with your proposal? Sketch out a timetable, necessary resources, and principal offices or individuals that would be helpful in supporting the project.
  • Applications will be reviewed by the Provost and his designees, as well as external reviewers. Finalists will be invited to interviews.

    Submission Guidelines

    The HEAL Fellowship applications will be available via Interfolio.


    • To request an application template for the HEAL Fellowship Program, contact Jessica Montesdeoca at 973-655-4280 or montesdeocje@montclair.edu.
    • For questions about the fellowship, you may contact:

    Ken Sumner at 973-655-4667, or by email at sumnerk@montclair.edu, or
    Mary Colon at 973-655-7636, or by email at colonm@montclair.edu.


    Information Sessions

    Information sessions are offered in the month prior to deadline.

    Successful applicants shall:

    1. submit mid-term and final reports according to a template and/or written guidance from the Provost or designee;
    2. give a presentation at the conclusion of the fellowship at an on-campus venue determined by the Provost in consultation with the Fellow;
    3. meet at least twice a semester with other Fellows (and sometimes national experts in the field) to discuss learning, progress, approaches, and ideas;
    4. gain insight into leadership skills and progress in becoming a leader;
    5. attend a national conference with direct relevance to the Fellow’s project and/or to learning in higher education academic leadership.