UMES ORLD Alum, Lonnie Morris, Ph.D., Writes about Ethical Leadership


We may not always refer to celebrities as leaders, but we associate many leadership traits with their celebrity status. In recent weeks we have all watched as one of our beloved celebrity leaders was catapulted into a new starring role. This time he commands your attention as the protagonist of yet another a mind-numbing reality series chronicling the questionable social behaviors of celebrities and their faux friends. Perhaps we don’t consider celebrities leaders because we often regulate our thoughts of leadership to organizational contexts. However, leadership is a social phenomenon that can be examined in any environment with human engagement. For this Emmy-caliber series that examines the sexually predatory behaviors of a man with means, let us focus on Cosby as the leader.
Heathcliff Huxtable: Our Eight-Year Commercial about a Man Playing an Ethical Leader in a Sitcom
Heathcliff Huxtable personified ethical leadership. By definition, he regularly demonstrated appropriate behavior through personal actions and interpersonal relationships. [i] As the patriarch of the family, he navigated the seven dimensions of ethical leadership with ease. He was fair. He was a man of integrity. He provided ethical guidance. He had an affinity for people and the community at large. He clarified roles. He shared power.[ii] He operated from an ethical leadership zone – a space on the leadership spectrum in which leaders have the best interest of others[iii] at heart and positively influence others’ self-efficacy, moral identity, optimism, and social responsibility. From 1984 until 1992, we all watched the cascading effect of Dr. Huxtable’s ethical leadership as it influenced the lives of his peers, his children, their friends, and our own households.
A Spotlight on Unethical Leadership: The Real Mitches[iv] of Hollywood starring Bill Cosby
This new age Cosby reality show, did not cast a Huxtable-like protagonist. Instead, they shopped us a story of a leader endowed with wealth and power. Both give the leader access to an array people, pleasures, and resources. Yet those endowments also increase the likelihood of unethical conduct, self-serving behavior, and exploitation.[v] To that script let us add a group of participants who have thus far failed to exercise their collective voice – Cosby’s friends, hereafter referred to as the Mitch Circle. In fact, for most of us, the social learning curve relative to leadership begins long before we immerse ourselves in organizations with co-workers. We begin exploring our personal and interpersonal leadership behaviors within our networks of friends. In the leadership discourse, circles of friends are merely social networks in which no formal leadership exists. In this case, the Mitch Circle is a self-managing group in which members fluidly assume roles, responsibilities, and leadership positions.[vi] They operate against a backdrop of ethical neutrality in which moral character is assumed, but without the emergence of an ethical leader, group members simply improvise. [vii]  In the absence of ethical leadership members of the Mitch Circle engage in activities that protect their in-group status and affiliation with the star.  They withhold relevant information from the public. They deny knowledge of the star’s transgressions. They adopt codes of silence. They enact all of these pro-group unethical behaviors to avoid social exclusion. [viii] In essence, a Mitch Circle will adopt an empty group conscientiousness, enabling an unethical leader to crush the collective voice in order to protect their privilege.[ix]
The Huxtable-Cosby Continuum: A Lesson in Ethical Leadership
Leadership behavior fascinates because it lives on a spectrum. Consequently, we cannot simply characterize someone as an ethical leader or not. Individuals can exhibit Huxtable-like traits of ethical leadership in some situations and at others times embody the Cosby mitch we have come to hate. Examining celebrity leadership under the guise of ethics transforms our admiration for one man and his comedy into our lament of a Shakespearian-like tragedy. The same educated man who gave us Fat Albert, the Cosby Show, A Different World, Cosby, and the largest single donation to an HBCU of its time has also given us fifteen years of drug-induced sexual assault allegations and at least 35 faces of victimization.
Ethical leadership manifests at the intersection of the moral person and the moral persona. Connecting to your inner Huxtable promotes upward mobility in your life and the lives of others around you. Reinforcing the darker side of your leadership continuum with a social circle that enables your inner Cosby can be tragic for you, those mitches, and at least 35 others. Where do your person and your persona intersect?
[i][i] Brown, M. E., Trevino, L. K., & Harrison, D. (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 97, 117-134.
[ii] Kalshoven, K., Den Hartog, D. N., & De Hoogh, A. H. B. (2011). Ethical leadership at work questionnaire (ELW): Development and validation of a multidimensional measure. The Leadership Quarterly, 22, 51-60.
[iii][iii] Aronson, E. (2001). Integrating leadership styles and ethical perspectives. Canadian Journal of Administrative Services, 18, 244-257.
[iv][iv] Slang for a man who acts like a bitch. Term made popular by comedian Kevin Hart.
[v] De Hoogh, A. H., & Den Hartog, D. N. (2009). Ethical leadership: The socially responsible use of power. Power and Interdependence in Organizations, 338-385,
[vi] Cote, S., Lopes, P. Salovey, P. Minors, C. (2010). Emotional intelligence and leadership emergence in small groups. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(3), 496-508.
[vii] Trevino, L. K., Brown, M., & Hartman, L.P. (2003). A qualitative investigation of perceived executive ethical leadership: Perspectives from inside and outside the executive suite. Human Relations, 55, 5-37.
[viii] Thau, S., Derfler-Rozin, R., Pitesa, M., Mitchell, M., Pillutla, M. (2014). Unethical for the sake of the group: Risk of social exclusion and pro-group unethical behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, in press (1), 98-113.
[ix][ix] Walumbwa, F. O., Morrison, E. W., & Christensen,  A. L. (2012). Ethical leadership and group in-role performance: The mediating roles of group conscientiousness and group voice. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(5), 953-964.

A Cultural Reflection on Servant Leadership: Pope Francis and His Fiat

Some folks say he rocked his fall 2015 visit to the east coast in a small black Fiat.  In addition to several symbolic cultural acts and gestures regarding Pope Francis’ reign, his car speaks volumes about why organizational leaders should consider the representation of his servant leadership in the 21st Century.   Tenets of servant leadership within organizational leadership scholarship serve as guidance for understanding Pope Francis’ influence.  For instance, the virtuous perspective on servant leadership emphasizes the importance of agape love, humility, trust, empowerment, and service when considering leader-follower exchange.  This ORLD blog discussion interprets the role of trust through Pope Francis’s cultural expressions shared with his followers and those interested in the value of diversity and cultural awareness.  A culturally-relevant perspective of trust and servant leadership provides an opportunity for broadening an understanding of why culture is critical to building community and partnership.  Furthermore, understanding a leader’s cultural insight can facilitate a more sensitive approach to illustrating a servant’s interactions with followers.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the first Hispanic Pope and he represents several cultural “firsts” for the Papacy.  He is the first Jesuit Pope, the first from the southern hemisphere, and the first from the Americas. In terms of building trust, it’s clear the potential for his reach to followers has expanded beyond the audiences of former Popes.  While trust in the Papacy may have existed among these audiences previously, the formal representation of this Pope means honoring and elevating Catholic traditions and practices within these assemblages in new ways.   The cultural background of this Papacy reflects a wider appeal to followers; translating the value of diversity within servant leadership like never before in the Papacy.

The notion of trust could be considered to reflect on the importance of the Papacy’s role in sustainability; or commitment to the ecological capacity to maintain resources in an effort to support and protect communities.   Some might argue this capacity speaks to the type of resources used; and the way they are used.  In a society where less could be seen as more, Pope Francis’s small black Fiat makes an enormous statement about his leadership.  His vehicle demonstrates that leaders can make choices about their resources to reinforce notions of care, love, stewardship, innovation, and style.  Ultimately, Pope Francis’s small black Fiat demonstrates how careful limitation can facilitate deeper connections with followers that legitimize their sustainable choices and value systems.

Pope Francis’s broader appeal also creates opportunity for establishing trust through mutual collaboration.  As a religious/spiritual leader, one of his primary roles as a servant is to encourage others to make connections with God through Jesus Christ.  Many of his followers request his support and leadership through prayer.  In addition to responding to these requests, Pope Francis embraces his service and stature to model trust as a collaborative process as he encourages his followers to pray for him as well – demonstrating that trust is part of a valued partnership.  One of the more profound examples of this partnership is the exchange between Pope Francis and follower John Boehner, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.  During Pope Francis’s fall 2015 visit to Washington, D.C., Mr. Boehner requested the Pope pray for him, and in response, Pope Francis requested Boehner also pray for him – prompting an emotional response from Boehner (with his resignation from Speaker of the House soon to follow this exchange).

Pope Francis’s visit reminds us how cultural reflections teach us critical aspects of organizational leadership.  Leaders make important choices about the uses of their resources, time, and voice.  This blog discussion only scratches the surface of what these choices mean to his followers.  Subsequently, deeper examination of servant leadership and trust could uncover additional valuable aspects of this important leader-follower exchange.

Written by Pamela P. Felder, Associate Professor, ORLD

Transitioning from Coursework to Independent Research: Reflections of Teaching the UMES ORLD Doctoral Capstone Course

During the summer of 2015, faculty in the UMES (Ph.D) Organizational Leadership Program offered its Doctoral Capstone Course, Advance Seminar in Theory and Methods (ORLD 624).  Similar to most capstone courses, it’s designed to be a culminating learning experience for doctoral students; transitioning from coursework toward the process of independent research.  Independent research consisting of preparation for comprehensive exam, development of the dissertation proposal, and writing the dissertation itself.  Students are introduced to a variety of learning outcomes that involve moving toward greater sophistication in scholarly writing and research.  While many of the components of the course may align with the capstone experience in many doctoral programs across the country, in this discussion we offer several observations about the capstone course relative to mid-career doctoral students within weekend-format program within an HBCU context.

Typically, capstone courses are experiential in nature, whereby students apply what they’ve learned in courses (theory) to a real-world setting (practical application). Oftentimes capstone projects within a course are new projects students develop within the course – drawing on previous course to identify projects within their disciplines.  What’s unique about the UMES ORLD program is the experiential project is the development of research proposal.  While students have different projects and content areas, the unifying experience is the process of developing the dissertation proposal for the very first time.  For doctoral students in a weekend format doctoral program, the process of transitioning to independent research also poses some unique challenges for students.

First, students typically spend two years, at a minimum, in course work, attaining relevant knowledge within various fields of organizational leadership.   Students’ content interests vary from history, government, community development, social services, and education and they bring varied perspectives of knowledge as well as diverse practical experiences to the course.  Their appreciation of knowledge and curiosity about their content area contributes to an interesting platform for learning. Yet, students may be reticent in moving beyond the process of attaining knowledge towards building trust about their own observations about this knowledge.  Transitioning to independent research involves knowing how and when to take a stance in your work and students in our capstone course may need support in this process. This course is designed to provide this type of mentoring and coaching.

Second, one of the underlying tenets of the capstone course is making the connection between theory and practice.  While students may have reviewed key theories in their coursework, understanding the applicability of these theories in support of new observations made during the development of their proposals may evolve in new ways.  For example, if students are interested in advancing theories based on their practical experiences or identify a gap in the literature based on their understanding of practice, writing about this connection may be challenging.  Within the course context or pedagogy, building in exercises for collaborative discussion and activities can support new discoveries and the process of building scholarly confidence.

Finally, writing for specific audiences may be new to students.  During the transition to independent research the audience shifts for students moving from the key audience of professors and student colleagues to specific constituents who may have a vested interested in the student’s work.  A major part of the UMES ORLD capstone experience for students is identifying with the audience for their research and why it’s important to build relationships.  Therefore, a key learning outcome for many students is understanding their role in connecting with this audience.

Students with various backgrounds, educational and work experiences engage in research by connecting the dots between theory, application, and scholarship. They draw from each other’s holistic experiences to augment their own knowledge as they not only navigate the capstone, but also strengthen relationships developed during their tenure in the program. The capstone is more than a course to be completed in order to satisfy a requirement for the ORLD program.  It’s a life experience that shapes the lives and futures for all of us.

Written by Drs. Pamela Felder, Tyrone Chase and Prince Attoh, faculty members in the ORLD PhD program and instructors for the UMES ORLD capstone course.  For more information about the UMES Organizational Leadership Program and the capstone course, please visit our website.

Book Review: College Organization and Professional Development: Integrating Moral Reasoning and Reflective Practice

St. John, E. P. (2009) College organization and professional development: Integrating moral reasoning and reflective practice. New York: Routledge.

In College Organization and Professional Development: Integrating Moral Reasoning and Reflective Practice, Edward P. St. John makes a provocative argument for integrating the reflective tools of educators into the professional development managed professionals. St. John views the professional work environment as beset by a fundamental moral problem: the distance between our beliefs and our actions. He sees professionals as uniquely suited to address the major moral issues of our age due to their extended time in training sequences and professional stature in large human service organizations. By integrating moral reasoning into professional educational and development, organizations could become staffed by people who are equipped to deal with the precarious moral condition of our age. This text addresses specifically addresses issues that face educational professionals who work at the front lines of educational access and opportunity.

Incorporating reflection is necessary because the there are few easy answers in the “post-progressive” era. For St. John, our condition is one in which the possibility of a “progressively better state of affairs [evolving] is likely false” (St. John, 172). For St. John, post-progressivism is a by-product of modernity where the costs of progress are growing increasingly high. Material progress comes with increasingly high environmental costs and growing affluence is coinciding with increasingly high disparities in wealth. Resistance to taxation has hampered the government’s ability to address many of the aforementioned challenges. Accordingly, St. John seeks to give us intelligent responses to the growing costs of modernity since it is unlikely that there will be any simple solutions. Since eliminating problems outright is a fait possibility, St. John argues that we will fail or succeed based on the extent to which managed professionals can integrate moral reasoning into their practice.

St. John grounds his theory of moral reasoning in the language of communicative action since the fundamental problem that besets educational professionals is the distance between beliefs and actions. For professionals this means returning to the non-commercial and service values that professionals have traditionally been associated with and increasing our awareness of moral problems created in the course of being a practicing professional. St. John begins the text with a broad overview of the history of many “ideal type” professions such as education, medicine, and law. St. John seeks to help professionals incorporate critical or spiritual reflection in their work but leaves the specific moral tradition up to the reader.

St. John succeeds in problematizing many commonly held assumptions about professions. While developing a fully articulated argument, he shows that conventional practice can lead to the perpetuation of injustice. Relying on traditional dimensions of professional success such as expertise and authority can actually represent a missed opportunity to work for social justice. The major challenge for professionals working for social justice is to arrive at “post-conventional” practice. St. John is deeply indebted to Kohlberg’s model development theory throughout his text. Like Kholberg, St. John sees individual professionals’ moral development continuing on an arc proceeding from Pre-conventional(emphasis on rules and regulations) to Conventional(applying rules consistent with ethical codes) to Post-conventional (using existing methods to address major moral challenges). Much of St. John’s work is to adapt this theory for professionals in a way that accounts for the diversity of moral traditions and challenges that professionals encounter. His primary focus is to get away from mere obedience moral codes and move toward building a situation-based moral reasoning with specific reflective exercises.

St. John’s post-convectional, post-progressive views are most clearly articulated in chapter 8. In this chapter, he introduces the idea of “Critical Social Challenges” or situations where conventional thinking leads to injustice because taken-for-grated assumptions may be in conflict with certain moral aims. Thus applying the rules in a pre-conventional way actually contributes to injustice. For instance, traditional merit scholarships have lead to increases in educational disparity since assumptions about academic merit do not account for lack of opportunity faced by various marginalized groups. For St. John, Critical Social Challenges always lurk where convectional thinking is extant. To rectify pre-conventional and conventional reasoning, discursive space must be offered to educational professionals so they may reflect on how to address inequality. To illustrate the value of discursive space, he offers three case studies involving college professionals who want to address inequality by increasing access to under represented groups.

St. John assumes a certain degree of collegiality and the existence of tenure in his reflective and discursive exercises. The well curated cases he uses to illustrate how his methodology include plausible conversations between professionals and how these could be reflected upon in order to arrive at a superior moral course of action. However, not all organizations with managed professionals have a collegium which circumscribes the applicability of these case studies. While St. John rightfully described asymmetry of power between professionals and non-professionals, scant attention is paid to intraorganzational power dynamics. The organizations he describes are, to an extent, apolitical and appear to be staffed by agreeable and well-meaning professionals. Overall, these cases would be improved if they addressed how reflective practice might look in more typical environment with numerous asymmetries in power. This is especially important as the institution of tenure is eroding and more of the instructional activities at colleges are carried out by adjuncts. For a text so thoroughly indebted to Marxist critical theory, an omission of power is a curious but not fatal omission.

While the text is ostensibly about moral reasoning the book is relatively light on any philosophical groundwork for the need for moral reasoning. Thus St. John offers us a text about how to go about reasoning morally in a professional context but few clues as to what the correct moral position would look like. While there is a extended discussion about the foundations of western moral reasoning, the exact picture of social justice is underdeveloped. Is the reader to believe that all people have moral beliefs and if we could just act on them the world will be a better place? The text makes clear that the lack of access to human services such as heath care and education is deeply troubling for the author but there are few clues as to why this is troubling. The text is rich with moral strategies for professionals can work for a more just world but reliance on conventional ideas about equality would make his argument more articulate.

College Organizational and Professional Development is a highly novel look at the state of our professions. St. John draws richly from philosophy, religion, and the social sciences to create a comprehensive critique of the current state of educational practice. St. John shows that few professions are reaching their capacity to ameliorate inequality and demonstrates how frequent reflection can raise the overall quality of the human services. Overall, St. John tells young professionals and educators alike that conventional rule following may lead to practices that are inherently unjust. By reflection and post-conventional reasoning that we can escape the confines of conventionality. While many of the examples are drawn from other professional spheres, St. John believes that improving professional development can promote social justice due to the wide array of areas that professionals work in. The long training sequences of professionals present an opportunity to inculcate a more robust moral foundation. Putting the educational bias aside, the text is relevant to many other professions. While philosophical and intellectually sophisticated, the books diagrams and exercises neatly summarize complicated and multi-dimensional arguments about moral development. Given how deeply personal and idiosyncratic reflection is, the many case studies and dialogues experiences are helpful in allowing the text to relate to a wide audience. On balance, St. John has shown the world how important it is that we close the link between professional aims and outcomes. As he presents it, professional action has a particularly robust moral dimension and this text offers a particularly compelling way to realize our professional charter. Ultimately St. John writes as a service to all of us who entered professional life to promote equality and justice but seek assistance in realizing our charter.

Book review written by:

Pamela Petrease Felder, PhD, Associate Professor, UMES, ORLD Ph.D. Program

Timothy Shanahan, M.S.ED, Independent Researcher

Celebrating Graduate Education Week at UMES

Graduate Education Week is being celebrated this year from April 18-24. The Organizational Leadership (ORLD) doctoral program at UMES, the only ORLD doctoral program housed at an HBCU in the nation, is honored to participate in Graduate Education Week activities on campus and beyond. Students and faculty alike are engaging in activities to honor the critical role of Graduate Education in our world as a force for the development of high quality scholars, professionals and leaders. This week allows us to pause and reflect upon the many contributions of our students, alumni, faculty and staff to serving this mission of Graduate Education.

The role of graduate education within the context of HBCU environments is essential to understanding the experiences of marginalized students and the development of their academic success within higher education. HBCUs have contributed greatly to the graduate and professional degree completion of students of color; particularly in fields where they are underrepresented like STEM. At UMES we are fortunate to support the doctoral process in the fields of Organizational Leadership, Educational Leadership, Food Science Technology, Marine-Estuarine Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Toxicology.

The UMES ORLD program has produced almost 100 graduates since its founding in 2002, including many individuals who have gone on to admirably serve in higher education, government, the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, and in their communities. These individuals have applied their program training to serve as organizational leaders and participants, inspiring and leading new initiatives and the development of organizations, and also supporting the enhancement and growth of existing institutions.

As our nation’s demographics rapidly shift toward increased racial and cultural diversification, particularly among graduate students, supporting the expansion and growth of graduate programs and doctoral education at HBCUs will become increasingly important. In a previous post on this blog (, the ORLD faculty noted that we are engaging in a quest to define the role of organizational leadership in our practice as researchers, teachers, advisers and colleagues, as we recognize that organizational leadership is not yet defined as a discipline in higher education in the way that psychology, sociology, chemistry, biology, economics, history and many others are presently defined and structured. This definitional and structural work presents a double-edged sword of challenge and opportunity to those of us who work or study under the umbrella of “organizational leadership.” An important part of that quest requires us to reflect on what has already been done in this program and in other areas under this umbrella, which has been attempted in brief in this posting. We must learn from our past successes and mistakes, and those of other disciplines as they developed, so that we can best serve our overarching goal of producing high-quality scholarship and fostering the next generation of leading scholars and practitioners of organizational leadership.

Written by:

Todd L. Matthews, Associate Professor, Organizational Leadership, PhD Program, UMES

Pamela Petrease Felder, Associate Professor, Organizational Leadership, PhD Program, UMES

Squishy and Stubborn Retention at a Mid-Atlantic Historically Black Institution

A study of a Mid Atlantic Historically Black Institution (MAHBI) examines cognitive, social, and institutional factors to identify those that are most critical in contributing to the steady decline of the rate of student retention for this institution and others with similar characteristics. Secondary source data pertaining to three cohorts (i.e., 2,854 students) of first-time, full-time students were used and a regression analysis was preformed to determine the likelihood of student retention for the variables in the matrix. While the Odds-ratio analysis confirmed significant potential for increasing retention by increasing the amount of financial aid, in-state tuition status, fall semester GPA, and taking Math 101 (i.e., Intermediate Algebra), a 1-point increase in the spring semester GPA for a student at the MAHBI increases student chances of being retained by 453%. These results have serious implications for student academic support services at the MAHBI.

Student retention or persistence in higher education continues to attract the interest and attention of many researchers, educators, and the public. It is not surprising that amount of financial aid has a significant effect on retention given that over 80% of the MAHBI’s students receive one form of financial aid or another. This factor indicates that for every $1,000 increase in financial aid amount the odds for retention increase by between 6.5% and 29.4% In-state tuition status and living on campus have significant positive predictive effects on retention. Gender plays an important role in predicting spring retention rates for men, while race for White/Caucasian students increases the odds of not being retained. Counterintuitive results included the fact that students with high High School GPA (i.e., 1-unit increase) and high SAT Composite Score (i.e., increases of 100 units) were less likely to be retained, suggesting that such students may leave MAHBI for other institutions that may have been their preferred choices in the first place.

Based on this study, it is clear that the strongest predictor of student persistence/second-year retention for the MAHBI is spring semester cumulative GPA. Students who improved their fall semester cumulative GPA are more likely to feel academically integrated with the MAHBI environment and if they live in campus accommodation they might also be socially integrated. In addressing the MAHBI retention issue, close attention should be given to the academic support services unit to help students enhance their cumulative GPA, especially during the spring semester. Other important factors uncovered by this study include financial aid, amount of financial aid, and whether students’ needs are being met. For students who are economically (i.e., 47% as measured by the Expected Family Contribution) and educationally (i.e., 50% first generation college students) disadvantaged, the amount of funds available to them can be a deal breaker for their persistence. This study helps the MAHBI administrators, faculty, and staff to identify factors on which their interventions should focus. If current interventions are not producing the intended outcome of increasing student retention, a careful review of the interventions should be undertaken and appropriate enhancements made that take into consideration the MAHBI’s specific environment and other circumstances. Meanwhile, it bears note that the models in this study have a high percentage of correct predictions (i.e., between 66% for fall 2005 cohort and 79.4% for fall 2004 cohort) and provides a solid basis for designing or strengthening interventions to address the elusive retention problem at MAHBI and other similar HBCUs.

While this study has provided many insights on addressing the retention problem at MAHBI, future studies are needed to investigate further the effects of factors on retention presented in this study that have been found counterintuitive. The counterintuitive results in our study go against conventional wisdom and therefore strongly support the need for further investigation of retention factors at MAHBI. In addition, institutional and social characteristics that were omitted such as parents’ educational attainment, student commitment to the institution, household income, student engagement in activities that support academic success, student satisfaction with academic and other services provided by the institution to support student goal achievement, etc., should be included in the models for future studies to enhance confidence in study findings. Future studies should also track student cohorts on a longitudinal basis to insure that students who do not return for their second year are genuine dropouts and not stop-outs.

A related question to the retention issue for future research which was not the subject of this study is how the graduation rate at MAHBI can grow and be sustained. Retention and graduation rates will continue to be strong measures on an institution’s quality, credibility, and financial stability and will, therefore, continue to attract interest among postsecondary institutions, researchers, educators, students, and the public. The ultimate goal for all these stakeholders is student personal development and graduation to build a better career, a better life, and a better future for the student.

Reference to the full article:

Nyirenda, S. M., & Gong, T. (2010).  The squishy and stubborn problem of retention: A study of a Mid Atlantic historically Black institution with a Land-Grant mission. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 11(4), 529-550.

Embracing Faculty Collaboration: Exploring the Role of Organizational Leadership in an HBCU Doctoral Program

To support continued efforts in our commitment to our students and our scholarly interests, the Organizational Leadership faculty at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are engaging in ongoing discussions about our role as the only PhD organizational leadership program at a historically Black college and university (HBCU).  We are committed to defining the role of organizational leadership in our practice as researchers, teachers, advisers and colleagues.  We are in the early stages of developing a case study exploring the interdisciplinary focus of an organizational leadership Ph.D. program.  We are striving to identify features of our teaching and scholarship that promote and/or hinder key programmatic efforts designed to support doctoral student success.

To develop this case study, we are engaging in critical reflection of our contribution to program goals, support of our students, service to our institution, and the broader fields we represent, along with utilizing our individual and collective response to Hyatt and Williams’ 2011 article entitled “21st Century Competencies for Doctoral Leadership Faculty.” Questions posed in this article have framed our discussions about the priorities we focus on regarding our professional competencies and the ways these competencies take shape in our day-to-day contributions to our program and the long-term strategic visions for program development.  Three questions were drawn from the article for particular focus:

  •  What issues will faculty who teach in doctoral leadership programs face in the future?
  • What competencies will faculty who teach in doctoral leadership programs need in the second decade of 21st century?
  • What are the primary competencies ranked by doctoral faculty who teach in leadership programs relative to the predominantly evaluated categories of teaching, advising, scholarship, service, and colleagueship? (Hyatt and Williams, 2011)

To address these questions, we have embraced a Delphi-type method of data collection to co-generate dialogue and faculty collaboration through an iterative process of communication and exchange of ideas about what we deem important in our work.  While an underlying goal is to strengthen our collective knowledge about how our ideas and actions shape our practice and program delivery, another intended outcome is to contribute to the body of knowledge of on faculty competencies where “there is a paucity of research specific to competencies necessary for faculty” (Hyatt & Williams, 2011, p. 53).  Furthermore, we embrace the notion that organizational leadership is interdisciplinary, representing multiple fields of study with varied interests and priorities.

Understanding the boundaries evident among disciplines is a priority in our work along with identifying issues common among disciplines and relevant organizations.  These common issues are addressed across five broad organizational leadership themes (but not limited to):

Features of our program:

  • Key program functions
  • Significance of our program within our institution, field, and higher education broadly
  • Exploring the contested nature of their role as student versus consumer
  • Exploring both the short-term and long-term effects of our program (Note: The short-term effects address specific annual goals and outcomes we set as a faculty. The long-term goals focus on what we potentially face in the future regarding how to satisfy the demand of students that become more diverse not only demographically, but also by representation of disciplines and professions).

We will post updates about these efforts as move forward. We also welcome your feedback about this project, or posting on other issues of relevance to organizational leadership!


Hyatt, L. & Williams, P.E. (2011).  21st Century competencies for doctoral leadership faculty, Innovative Higher Education, 36, 53-66.

Written by the faculty in the Organizational Leadership Ph.D. Program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.