Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Integral Multidisciplinary Leadership Learning

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Integral Multidisciplinary Leadership Learning

Article excerpt


In this article we map intersections of theory and practice that arose through collaborations among three professors of leadership and one student. Our descriptions of this collaboration cut across distinctive professional orientations, yet result in a shared framework of insights. Both our collaboration and resultant framework illuminate how deep integration across departments and divisions enhances both student learning and faculty development.


Despite the balkanized learning environments prevalent on most college campuses, many students still manage to experience their education as an integrative whole. Students integrate disparate opportunities for learning, whether educators do so or not. The collaborative story that follows is the result of an array of inter-connected experiences that arose among a student and three leadership educators who serve the university in distinctly different roles and contexts. David Cowan is Professor in the School of Business and frequently teaches undergraduate leadership courses. Judy Rogers is Associate Professor in the School of Education and teaches within a graduate leadership program. Denny Roberts is Associate Vice-President for Student Affairs, a position that involves coordinating campus-wide cocurricular leadership programs and includes serving as the advisor to student government and other student groups and organizations. The student who became the linking pin within this collaborative experience is John Newell. As an undergraduate student at Miami, John served as president of his own fraternity and then as president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, which oversaw the affairs of 27 fraternal organizations at the University. After his graduation in 2003, John joined Marsh USA, Inc. in Chicago, and presently serves as their Midwestern Higher Education Sales Leader.

The purpose of our article is to outline interconnections of theory and practice that arose through myriad interactions among these three professors of leadership and one student leader, John. Our story and its resultant insights are meant to illuminate how mutual collaborations can enhance the learning and development of individual students. In addition, they are meant to embody current emphases in leadership theory for boundary spanning and interconnectedness, as well as the higher education reform reports' call for seamless learning environments for optimal student development (e.g. The Student Learning Imperative, American College Personnel Association, 1994; American Pluralism and the College Curriculum: Higher Education in a Diverse Democracy, Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1995; and Greater Expectations: A New Vision of Learning as a Nation Goes to College, Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2002). Many of the discoveries leading to the framework of premises that we present near the end of this article definitely involved some synchronous serendipity (e.g., Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, & Flowers, 2004) as described in Jean Lipman-Blumen's model (1996) the "connective edge." We begin with an explanation of forces that came together to enable this experience to occur. We then provide a brief excerpt of John's story about being at the center of this collaborative learning experience. In subsequent sections, we explain theoretical underpinnings that connect our three faculty approaches to leadership development, specific ways that we each engage students in learning, and shared premises about leadership development and learning that emerged from our collaborative efforts. We see our work as an example of how integration and boundary spanning across divisions, disciplines, and levels of a university can enhance student learning as well as faculty development.

Setting the Context

A single student, John, and a serendipitous reading were perhaps the initial conditions in bringing together a School of Business Professor, David, and an Associate Vice-President for Student Affairs, Denny. …

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