Workshop: Strategic Doing

Getting Started on Your Complex Challenge

Applications are now closed.

Every department - every institution! - seems to have a complex problem that people want to fix, but aren't really sure how to get started. Eventually, everyone just stops talking about it. 

This workshop gives you a foothold that gets you past talking and into taking action: Strategic Doing fueled by entrepreneurially minded colleagues.

Getting Started on Your Complex Challenge: Strategic Doing


University of St. Thomas and Engineering Unleashed

Getting Started on Your Complex Challenge: Strategic Doing is an online workshop facilitated by the University of St. Thomas that will run the week of March 28, 2022, with some asynchronous pre-work and periodic follow-up coaching. 

The synchronous components are: 

  • Two 90-minute presentations with discussion by guest experts in systemic change 
    • Sessions will be held on March 28 and March 30, 2022, 3:00 p.m. Central
  • A three-hour Strategic Doing workshop
    • Session will be held on March 31, 2022, from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Central 

Application Process

Who is this workshop for?

The program is open to cohorts of 4-6 from KEEN partner schools. The ideal cohort participant is a faculty, staff, or administrator who is a current or emerging leader in entrepreneurially minded learning at your institution.

Your institutional cohort will form the initial core team addressing your own complex, systemic entrepreneurial mindset (EM) challenge, though the makeup of the core team may change over time, and this group will not be doing all the work. After all, this is a process for building collaborative capacity! 

What is the time commitment?

All cohort members must commit to participating in the 3-hour synchronous Strategic Doing workshop (or sending an enthusiastic stand-in in the event of a conflict). This is because the range, diversity, and vitality of the ideas and plans generated at the Strategic Doing workshop depends on having 4-6 participants from an institution at the (virtual) table together. 

How do we apply?

An institutional cohort wanting to participate in the program will be asked to complete a single, short application, including names and roles of the participants and a description of a complex, systemic challenge the cohort wants to address. The idea is to point toward a desired institutional entrepreneurially minded learning (EML) future without presuming what the specific solution might look like. 

The application page will provide additional guidance and examples of how (or how not to) construct this description. For reasons that will be explained in the workshop itself, the phrasing of the challenge matters. 

Strategic Doing

Applications are now closed.

Dates: March 28 & 30, 2022, with a follow-up session on March 31, 2022 

Location: Online 

Cost: Sponsored by Engineering Unleashed

Application Deadline: Thursday, February 24, 2022

Key Deliverables

In addition to enabling your cohort to begin work on a complex, systemic entrepreneurial mindset challenge, the program will also develop participants’ skills in leading complex collaborations generally, informed by systems thinking and able to generate and leverage theories of change.

Your institutional cohort team will leave the session with:

  • A "Big Easy" they’re thinking of
  • A shorter enroute experiment (e.g. 30-90 days) they’re going to try first
  • Individual next steps they’re up for taking in the next ~30 days
  • A scheduled status and course-correction meeting: the “30/30.” 

Following the three-hour workshop, your cohort will enjoy monthly coaching over the following 3 months on applying and adapting the Strategic Doing process in your own institutional context.

Meet Your Workshop Team

Doug Dunston

Host: Doug Dunston

Doug is the KEEN Program Coordinator at the University of St. Thomas and a Certified Workshop Leader in Strategic Doing. He will be guiding the 3-hour workshop and coaching the institutional cohorts as they make the Strategic Doing process their own. 

Doug is Emeritus Professor of Humanities at New Mexico Tech and has been designing and leading EML retreats and workshops with the University of St. Thomas team since 2015. 

An experienced orchestral conductor, he has directed music ensembles in the American Southwest, Austria, and Hungary.

Liz Nilsen

Presenter: Liz Nilsen

Liz is the Associate Director of the Agile Strategy Lab at UNA, following four years at the Agile Strategy Lab at Purdue. She started her professional life in the fund development arena, including developing proposals for federal, state and private funders – discovering along the way the power in using theories of change, logic models, and program-based budgeting as starting points.

Liz is a former senior program officer at VentureWell, where she provided leadership to the Pathways program for the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter), which guided 50 colleges and universities in redesigning undergraduate engineering education.

Prior to joining VentureWell, Liz led STEM initiatives at the Penn State Center – Pittsburgh, was the southwest regional coordinator for the Pennsylvania STEM Network, and served as Director of Outreach and New Economy Program Development at the Institute of Advanced Learning & Research, a Virginia Tech initiative. 

Liz earned her BA from Stanford and an MBA from Northeastern University. Her passion is for creating programs that nurture the next generation of thinkers and doers, particularly through the development and growth of innovation and STEM education ecosystems. 

Liz is a co-author of Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership (Wiley, 2019).

Rick Martin

Presenter: Rick Martin

Rick has been a senior consultant with the Organization and Leadership Effectiveness group at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, since 2009. As a consultant and coach he works with deans, chairs, vice provosts, vice presidents and senior vice presidents. He advises on leadership and change, executive transition, communications, organizational design and effectiveness, and team development. 

Rick is known for his ability to synthesize complexity that fosters insight and enables action. He is adept at applying analytic, diagnostic, and interpersonal skills to support leader effectiveness, organizational productivity and business objectives. 

Rick brings a broad strategic and systemic thought process together with both rigor and compassion as a coach and consultant to foster excellence, in people and organizations. With more than 25+ years of professional experience, Rick has worked with large national and multi-national companies, mid-sized local and regional organizations as well as very small companies and non-profits. He has worked with dozens of organizations and coached hundreds of leaders in a wide variety of settings. 

Throughout his career, he has worked in accounting/finance, including public accounting, manufacturing, banking, retail and higher education. Rick’s volunteering includes work with non-profit boards and he has served on several, in roles as president, vice president and treasurer. He earned a master’s degree in Organization Development from Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH) and his BSBA in Accounting from the Ohio State University (Columbus, OH).

Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman

University of St. Thomas Team: Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman

Brittany is an Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in the School of Engineering, where she has been since 2012. She is also the Director of the Materials Science and Engineering Interdisciplinary Program. She is a Co-PI of the KEEN Institutional Grant at UST.

Kundan Nepal

University of St. Thomas team: Kundan Nepal

Kundan is Professor and Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of St. Thomas. He teaches courses in areas of Engineering Design, Electronics, and Embedded Systems, and his current research explores power efficient testing, error detection, and avoidance techniques in digital integrated circuits. 

In addition, his work also seeks the democratization of the exciting field of embedded computing and the Internet of Things by bringing these technologies to solve problems identified by traditionally under-served communities. His research has led to multiple student co-authored, peer-reviewed conference and journal papers. 

He is a Co-PI of the KEEN Institutional Grant at University of St. Thomas.

The Story Behind the Workshop

Strategic Doing Workshop story

Once upon a time...

There was a KEEN partner school with a few entrepreneurial mindset (EM) champions, some faculty starting to engage in entrepreneurially minded learning (EML), and then some other faculty, who preferred to do their work the way it had always been done before. 

Every day, one or another of the EM champions or engaged faculty members would have a fleeting thought of how EML could truly resonate with the school and its DNA, but then another dozen emails would come in, and the thought would fade. 

One day, a handful of entrepreneurial mindset leaders and incipient leaders participated in a synchronous virtual workshop together, “Getting Started on Your Complex Challenge: Strategic Doing,” where they learned how to build their capacity to collaborate by doing small experiments together in a strategic way. 

Because of that, the group started implementing some experiments on day one, racking up some small wins quickly and learning the adjustments they needed to make to their big EML idea for the school. 

Because of that, other faculty took notice of the small but provocative successes and started joining in, contributing in their own, individual ways to the big EML idea. 

Until finally, the big EML idea, having evolved over the course of many small experiments and with the aid of many hands doing what was doable, simply became part of how the KEEN partner school identified itself. 

Strategic Doing workshop story

And ever since that day, when the KEEN partner school’s faculty and administrators look at each other, they see that they are all EML leaders and EML champions, in ways that makes sense for their school, for their community, and for themselves individually.

Find out more about Strategic Doing.