Moving from Site Lead to an Intermediary Role

By Mitzy González, Program Manager, USU and APLU Office of Urban Initiatives

In my current role as an intermediary for the APLU segment within the Frontier Set, I leverage my past experiences, relationships, and assets to create new insights and opportunities. Prior to my current role as an intermediary, I worked alongside student-affairs professionals, senior administration, faculty, and students as the Frontier Set site lead at the University of Central Florida. Most recently, we saw the topic of student experience elevated in national conversations, specifically surrounding President Biden’s selection of Miguel Cardona as the U.S. Department of Education Secretary. Cardona will now leverage his many years of experience working with students, teachers, and communities to influence national education policy. Ultimately, this selection sends the message that experience matters, especially when filling roles with the potential to have great influence and require coalition-building.

Artwork by Gabriel D’Elia, Instagram: @g.delia.paint

My success as a site lead was greatly dependent on the strength of my relationships with leaders across the institution. Through relationship-building, listening, and collaboration, I was able to gain a better understanding of both the challenges and opportunities for institutional transformation. I regularly shared what I was experiencing and hearing on the ground with my intermediaries and peers in the Frontier Set network. I felt deeply connected to the work and was actively participating in advancing transformation for my site. However, as I transitioned to the intermediary role, I quickly realized that my relatively easy access to leaders across the institution would look different in my new role.

Although I no longer work for one institution and am not deeply entrenched in one site’s day-to-day student success efforts, I still feel connected and able to drive positive change.

My experience as a former site lead proves valuable, as it allows me to gauge what questions I ask and, more importantly, how to advocate on behalf of the people who serve our students. I also understand the culture and structures in which our staff and university leaders exist. While those cultures and structures are hard to change, they do evolve, and as an intermediary I now share my understanding of institutional change from my personal and collective experience with other intermediaries across the network. My recent connection to serving at an institution is critical to helping the network understand the challenges our institutional leaders are facing. Our site leads also know that our segment is part of their team, understands their reality, and wants to see their organization and student success efforts excel.

Cardona’s appointment and my experience both highlight the value of having people in positions of influence who have both personal and professional experience that ties them to the mission of the work. The experience not only adds credibility, but opens the door for trust-building with stakeholders. An intermediary is only as strong as their relationships with their site lead and organization. There is great benefit when you elevate and amplify the experiences and ideas of those who have a deep understanding of what is happening on college and university campuses.

Mitzy González serves as Program Manager of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In this role she primarily works on the Frontier Set project, which looks at the role of transformation in closing attainment gaps, more specifically for underrepresented students, by elevating the institutional stories to more broadly inform the project and the field. Prior to joining APLU, she served as an assistant director in the Center for Higher Education Innovation, and as a University Innovation Alliance Fellow at the University of Central Florida.