Leadership Today and Tomorrow

April
2003
Kate Clark,
Michelle Pilati,

The Academic Senate offers a summer Faculty Leadership Institute to aid new faculty senate leaders by providing them with the information they need to be more effective leaders. Participants in this valuable institute are provided with a review of the senate concerns, principles and parameters of governance (the 10 + 1), budget workshops, and strategies for working with other governance groups. Local senate officers participate in wide-ranging discussions of the issues and priorities for both statewide and local senate priorities and suggestions for how to address them; the casual but intensive retreat atmosphere also provides ample opportunities to discuss local issues and to see how others have resolved potential controversies on their campus. Clearly, this is an approach to leadership that is effective for our senate leadership and provides us with understandings essential for our governance work. It is precisely what every campus leader should have, including our students. But such a forum isn't possible for the student leaders on our campuses.

Providing these leadership skills to student leaders in the community colleges-students who are transitory, whose intensity and passion is short-lived on our campuses before they transfer or enter the workplace; students who often lack historical perspective, and who are, above all, scholar-politicians in their student senate roles- is an ongoing challenge to be faced cyclically as students move in and out of their campus leadership roles.

Many of these students may return years hence to fill future needs for apt community college leadership; thus, to enable them to serve effectively now and to prepare them for their future (and perhaps our own), we can begin now by helping community college students to develop their leadership skills.

The Fall 2002 Academic Senate plenary session offered a breakout on possible curricular offerings to develop such leadership in a classroom setting. This breakout responded to several recent resolutions: first, that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work with "representatives from the state student senate to explore ways to assist student government leaders in their efforts to reach their goals of effective participation in community college governance (20.02 Spring 2002); and that "the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges reaffirm its position that all student government advisors should be tenured faculty" (20.02 Spring 2000). It seems most appropriate that the Academic Senate explore a curricular response to these resolutions because leadership is a quality that can be instructionally nurtured, because it is our responsibility to offer a rich array of educational opportunities to our students, and because tenured faculty are less subject to the constraints sometimes imposed by college administrators.

These leadership courses, currently offered across the state, provide a benefit to students; often bestow transferable rewards (to UC/CSU); result in life-long skills, immediately applicable to other studies and future employment; teach the nature of effective leadership in a variety of contexts; and reward and value the hard work of student leaders.

The plenary session breakout began with a look at approaches to leadership in non-academic settings to determine what skills might also be honed in a leadership course. Professionals in the organizational development field who work with management (those presumably already in leadership roles) typically examine what those leaders do and then assist them in accomplishing their tasks more effectively. While students enrolled in leadership classes may or may not be currently serving in a leadership role, there are basic skills that effective leaders possess and that can be included in a leadership training curriculum: for example, effective leaders

have an understanding of themselves and of others;
have self-awareness;
have effective communication skills;
can listen, accept criticism, provide feedback;
are able to delegate and to motivate others;
can manage or resolve conflict;
have team-building skills; and
run meetings effectively in terms of both process and content.

The challenge facing faculty is to devise a course to introduce, nurture, and practice those skills.

Ideally, students who are taking a course in leadership are also engaged in activities that provide them with an opportunity to practice those skills they are developing. Two colleges featured in this breakout, Sacramento City College and Coastline Community College, used this model, though their student populations required contrasting approaches. Sacramento City College, a large urban college, offers a series of courses under the direction of a tenured counseling faculty member hired specifically to develop student leadership. Sacramento City College hopes to offer a certificate program in leadership as an outgrowth of the classes it offers.

Coastline Community College, known for its extensive distance education program, has fewer students actually on site; many of their student leaders are employed full-time and may bring to their work existing leadership experience. Coastline has created a separate, stand-alone series of four courses (3 units each) to address leadership development. Such a series might also lead to a local certificate. In this instance, students enrolled in the course are required to "participate in [student government] and practice skills taught in this course."

Another issue to be addressed in developing a leadership curriculum is where such courses should be housed and thus, by whom they should be taught. At present, leadership training is taught in such diverse fields as: Guidance/Counseling/Professional Development (Sacramento City, San Jose, Foothill and DeAnza); within single disciplines such as Political Science (Solano), Speech (Irvine Valley, Los Angeles Mission); and as a separate Leadership discipline (Coastline, Orange Coast). Colleges might also wish to combine in an interdisciplinary fashion instruction-and instructors-from counseling, political science, speech, and business management (group work, motivation), civic law, psychology (of group dynamics, personality, leadership styles), social and behavioral sciences (see Foothill College's certificate program in Leadership and Community Service). The potential is as rich as local curricular ties and faculty can imagine for their students.

Once the leadership course has been placed within the curriculum, faculty must determine whether the class will be "mandatory" or "voluntary" in its association with the student governance activity. Linking the student government-or other student leadership activity-with a class through a co-curricular link may provide certain local fiscal benefits for seeking travel or conference funds. Such a co-curricular linkage also directly associates the classroom learning and the external applications in student governance; it ensures that those who can most profit from the educational experience receive it, and it underscores the importance of learning leadership as a honed skill beyond mere native ability.

On the other hand, linking student leadership with additional coursework may negatively impact student loads, may increase non-major prep (non-transferable) units and may actually dissuade some students from assuming campus leadership. Enrollment in voluntary classes for these student leaders offsets some of these objections but cannot ensure that leaders who need assistance and training receive it; further, voluntary enrollment may result in an imbalance between leadership abilities of those who have and have not taken course. Interdisciplinary approaches, drawing on the talents of several faculty may also address other issues such as faculty availability, providing multiple models of leadership, conserving faculty energies, dividing teaching and supervisory roles, and meeting ongoing student demands in times of economic downturn.

Discipline faculty and curriculum committees will also weigh in on these decisions to offer leadership classes, wrestling with matters of scheduling, faculty availability, units (lab or lecture), course descriptions, repeatability, transferability, and the advisability of additional stand-alone courses. While it is clear that no single approach will work for all colleges or for all students, the plenary session discussion provided an excellent starting point for a leadership initiative designed to meet local needs. The Academic Senate hopes to share with statewide leaders of the Student Senate the findings of this breakout and to urge them to explore options with faculty on their own home campus.

For links to college websites and additional information about offerings of leadership courses, please visit the Academic Senate's Curriculum Website.

Foothill College: Certificate Program in Leadership and Community Service (courses in Counseling and Social Sciences): http://www.foothill.edu/programs/commservice.html

De Anza College: (Counseling 106, p. 129 of their on-line catalogue): http://www.deanza.edu/publications/catalog/2002-2003/COOP-MANDcourses.pdf

Sacramento City College: http://www.scc.losrios.edu/~lead/leadership_curriculum.html

Coastline Community College (p. 104 of their on-line catalogue) http://coastline.cccd.edu/pdf_files/2002_03cat.pdf

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.