Forrest Helvie
Forrest Helvie, Interim Director of Professional Development, CT State Community College

As the Interim Director of Professional Development for CT State Community College, Connecticut’s 12-campus community college system, which serves over 35,000 students, Forrest Helvie understands the significance of lifelong learning and the impact it can have one on one’s career. With those values in mind, he recently received his Nonprofit Leadership Executive Certificate from Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Executive Education, after matriculating from Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change, Leading Successful Programs: Using Evidence to Assess Effectiveness, and Evidence for Equity. In addition to being a long-time educator, he is also a proud U.S. Army veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Field Artillery from 2002-06.

As someone whose daily work is so immersed in professional development, he was very thoughtful about which HKS Executive Education programs would be the right fit for his goals and career path. “In my role, I have to serve faculty, staff, and administrators from across all disciplines and functional areas,” he said. “To that end, I wanted to enroll in a program where I would not only explore strategies and approaches to best support my colleagues but also learn some new ways to look at delivering a high-quality learning experience in a remote-based modality.”

His program choices proved to be very effective, and his new skill sets can be seen throughout the projects he has pursued and implemented since returning to CT State. “I’ve put so many of the lessons into practice that it’s hard to keep track!” he said. “If you look at how I developed and began standing up the various affinity groups and professional learning communities across CT State, you can clearly see the influence of the Leading, Organizing, and Action program with Marshall Ganz. There were the two related programs on data analysis that fleshed out my program of study in Leading Successful Programs with Dan Levy and Julie Boatwright Wilson as well as Evidence for Equity with Teddy Svoronos and Zoe Marks. These two complementary programs really challenged us to become better consumers of data, and while rigorous, I found they were also quite accessible as someone who doesn’t hold an advanced degree in statistical methods.” 

The care and effort that Forrest puts into his work was recently rewarded when he received the Terry O’Banion Award (Gold Award) from the National Council on Student Development in 2023 for his work in developing and running the CT State Leadership Academy. Programs that receive these awards are noted for being highly innovative, modeling best practices in the field, and providing compelling evidence of effectiveness over time.

“This recognition means a great deal to me as the Leadership Academy is a true passion project of mine,” Forrest said. “Too often in higher education, folks are promoted into leadership roles and yet never provided training or development to ensure they’ll be successful in those positions. My hope has been to create a resource that could help change that – even if only some small way.” 

While developing the framework for what became the CT State Leadership Academy, Forrest put his learnings from HKS to good use. “Being able to develop methods of assessing program efficacy are essential, and this was something we focused on in Leading Successful Programs. We also know that our current systems and ways of operating in higher education don’t always serve everyone well, and that includes our professional community. Being able to apply an equity lens to our programs was something we really looked at through a variety of case studies in Evidence for Equity, and we will be looking at how we will be incorporating these principles into our leadership training and development programming.” 

When asked to reflect on the time he spent nurturing and growing his skills at HKS, Forrest has no doubt that he made the right decision. “It’s easy for many of us in leadership roles to be caught up in caring for others’ growth and unintentionally lose track of our own professional development. I am really glad I invested the time to complete the Nonprofit Leadership Executive Certificate at HKS, and I’ve seen multiple instances of where I’ve been able to put this knowledge to work to positively affect colleagues across our system. To me, that’s the marker of worthwhile program – one where I can find something tangible, not just theoretical, and put it to work.”