Marketing’s Soni Receives Nicholas Hardeman AwardPublished: September 1, 2009
Praveen Soni recently crowned 18 years of service to CSULB as a professor of Marketing and as chair of the Academic Senate with the Nicholas Perkins Hardeman Academic Leadership Award.
Although distinction is nothing new to Soni (he was named the outstanding professor by MBA students and was presented with the Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award in 2006), he finds the Hardeman to be special.
“I am honored to receive this prestigious award which rewards publicly significant contributions to the principle and practice of shared governance,” he said. “Currently, I am privileged to serve the institution and the CSULB Academic Senate for my fourth year. I am also one of three CSULB senators to the CSU system-wide Academic Senate which represents all 23 universities of the CSU system. In addition, I have held key positions in university and college-level councils and committees. In all my positions, I have tried to demonstrate leadership and to contribute to, as well as advance shared governance.”
Soni believes one reason for his accolade is his commitment to the university. “I feel really fortunate that I can, and have, contributed and continue to contribute to institutional success at various levels of the university and to be helpful in making significant and critical decisions for the benefit of the students, faculty and the university,” he said. He feels proudest of increasing and promoting inclusiveness in decision making, openness and transparency in all governance matters, as well as the promotion of grassroots involvement and opportunity for participation in shared governance by the campus community.
“In addition to streamlining Academic Senate meetings and encouraging open discussion and debate on the Senate floor, I pioneered the creation of an Academic Senate blog for instant feedback by campus constituents to their duly elected senators on policies and issues under consideration,” he recalled. “The blog has been a great success and constituents like the idea of being connected, involved and empowered–-the key to practicing shared governance.”
Soni represents the Academic Senate on many university bodies, including the President’s Cabinet, Senior Management Council, the Resource Planning Process, the Vice Presidential Campus Goals Group, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Steering and Implementation Committees, the Accessibility Technology Initiative Steering Committee, the Information Technology Leadership Council, the Veterans Initiative Steering Committee and the Advisory Council on Enrollment Management.
He was instrumental in forming the WASC Outreach Committee charged with promoting WASC themes to the campus community and increasing faculty and student participation on various accreditation research projects. He also created the campus Academic Calendar Committee and task forces on advising and writing assessment.
His commitment to service reflects his belief in a higher goal. “I want to help move the university in the right direction,” he said. “Without that commitment, service in a position like chairing the Academic Senate isn’t a good fit. Plus, working on these committees has provided me with a broader view of the campus. Knowledge of different areas can be utilized to make better decisions. The commitment comes from within. It comes from a desire to do the right thing for the good of the institution.”
Dedicated to increasing student success and involvement, Soni has worked to enhance student participation in Academic Senate councils and committees and initiated making the president of Associated Students, Inc. a member of the Academic Senate Executive Committee.
One of the most important qualities of leadership to Soni is the ability to listen. “That is especially important in a university setting,” he said. “It helps in leading the decision-making process. Listening is one way to arrive at an understanding of what might be a reasonable, logical solution to whatever the problem might be.”
Soni earned a B.T. from the Indian Institute of Technology, an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He also worked as a production executive and as an export executive in a large multinational corporation.
A big part of his skill set is experience. “You need to be at a university for a significant period of time for this kind of job,” he said. “I have years of participation and leadership in governance at the department, college and university levels. It’s a way of demonstrating to your peers that you have the qualities associated with leadership.”
Interpersonal skills are also important. “In this job, you talk a lot with individuals,” he said. “That doesn’t mean speeches, although every now and then you have to give one. It means being able to interact with individuals and understand what they are saying. Leaders have to know not only what is being told to them, but what is not. If a leader has that, there is no stopping that person.”
Soni encourages faculty members, students and staff to think about taking a bigger leadership role on campus. “The idea is to increase independent involvement in shared governance,” he said. “It’s a matter of seeing that things could be better and that anyone can help. That help can come in a task force, a committee, a council or the Senate. There are processes in place. It is just a matter of reaching out.”