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Staffers become students at city hall

New Lake Oswego University program begins


Lake Oswego city staffers are hitting the books this week in a college-style course that will continue for the next two years.

The program, called Lake Oswego University, will cover everything the typical Master of Public Administration program would, including a broad range of leadership and management issues: topics like theory of motivation and persuasion and leadership, as well as “nuts and bolts” types of material such as strategic planning, project management and budgeting, said City Manager Scott Lazenby, who will be the main instructor. Lazenby, who has a Ph.D. in public administration and policy, has taught master’s courses as an adjunct faculty member at Portland State University.

Knowing it was a two-year commitment, he initially wasn’t sure what level of interest to expect from city employees. But his initial pitch generated a big reaction.

“We were blown away by the response,” he said.

By December, 70 employees had already responded — from every department and every level of the city government, he said. That’s a big enough class that Lazenby plans to split the group into smaller sections for discussions. The classes, set to begin this week, will take place during twice-monthly brown bag lunches.

While the program will cover almost everything a professional degree would require, it won’t include tests, papers or grades — or an accredited degree.

It will include homework. The staffers-turned-students can expect to read as many as 24 textbooks for the course.

Staff members will be on the hook for all of their own materials except for the first selection, “The Business of Leadership,” written by Montgomery Van Wart and Lake Oswego City Councilor Karen Bowerman, a former business school dean at California State University, San Bernardino. The city planned to provide that first text, and Bowerman was slated to help Lazenby kick off instruction this week.

In addition to offering professional development for individual employees, the program offers some side benefits, Lazenby said.

“We’ve got people from every department who don’t normally work together who will have this shared experience, this shared vocabulary,” he said. “It’s a powerful thing as far as getting people in different departments to know about each other and what they do, and it’s an opportunity to explore some issues we have as an organization using this kind of theory as a foundation.”

No one, including those serving as instructors, will be paid for their hours.by: REVIEW FILE PHOTO - Lazenby

“It’s a fair commitment for a number of us, but I think it will be a very satisfying experience,” Lazenby said.

Chip Larouche, the city’s chief technology officer, said he’s always been interested in studying and discussing issues related to leadership and management. He’s also happy to have Lazenby as the “dean of studies.” Plus, he noted, the tuition is free.

“I’m sure I’ll get a lot from this two-year adventure,” Larouche said, “and I hope to contribute to it more than I receive.”

Lake Oswego Water Treatment Plant Manager Kari Duncan said she also planned to participate.

“This offers a unique opportunity to receive and discuss leadership insights among those who are actually running a city, and I feel that this will be a great supplement to my university degrees and my own experience as manager of the city’s water treatment plant,” she said. “The opportunity to review and read new material on public policy and management and discuss it in a forum of city staff and leaders is one that is hard to pass up.”

Kara Hansen can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 107. Follow her on Twitter, {obj:2124}.




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