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Leadership for disruptive times
Possible UC course tested by SGA and members of student body
In Nov. 2017 Williams along with Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Matthew Kurz and Professor of Athletic Training & Sports Medicine Lennart Johns constructed the course “Leadership for Disruptive Times: Independent Study.”
With the course created so late in the semester, Williams thought to test out the course with students in leadership positions on campus.
The course currently consists of eight students from the Student Government Association (SGA) along with students from the student body as well.
The course is currently offered as a QU 301 option, but with the QU seminars being removed from campus curriculum within the next year Williams is looking to offer the course as a UC elective, general elective or even a capstone.
“I’m not sure how it would be a capstone, there’s still parts and pieces that we have to work out,” Williams said. “I’m not yet sure what it’s going to look like. But once it looks like something else it will be open to more people than just the SGA.”
The course focuses on “inductive” learning methods such as complex problem solving and student leadership, according to the course syllabus. Students work in teams to develop new insights around the nature of leadership and leading. In other words, students will practice leadership while learning leadership.
“My QU 201 subject since I’ve started here has been leadership,” Williams said. “Over the years I’ve been refining more and more how I teach that and I’ve been finding I like the more active, inductive learning models, and so I got more and more aggressive over the years.”
William’s basis for the course comes from an Oxford tutoring model.
“My daughter had gone to Oxford and she did a tutoring model where she would get a stack of books a week to read those books and write a paper on them and them come back and sit for a few hours with her tutor defending whatever it was she decided to defend about those books or about the topic,” Williams said.
Williams began to think if he could codify this method into a course.
“So what we’re doing is sort of following the Oxford model,” Williams said. “I have students that meet me once a week and we started off just discussing things and laying out different ideas and then I gave them a stack of reading.”
Williams does this digitally with his students through Slack, a communication vehicle.
“I didn’t tell them when to read, how to read, how to discuss, all I said was ‘By the end of the week I want you to have a definition of what is leadership? Don’t tell me what leaders are, don’t tell me what leaders do, tell me what is leadership,’” Williams said.
This is a difficult question to answer because there is no answer, according to Williams.
“But there must be an answer because in order to evaluate people as leaders or to discuss good leadership or bad leadership you have to know what leadership is,” Williams said.
Assistant Dean of Campus Life Matthew Kurz started at Quinnipiac in August with the role to develop student leadership development programs here at Quinnipiac.
“My understanding is that some time ago there were a lot of leadership development programs and they kind of fell off,” Kurz said. “Part of what attracted me here is working with leadership. I’ve been working over the past semester with our team in Campus Life and trying to partner with other areas to develop both a leadership paradigm, and a model that students can use to understand leadership across their different groups.”
As one of the advisor’s for SGA, Kurz worked with Williams in introducing the course to the student government.
“This group of students is going to develop what the course is going to look like going forward,” Kurz said. “When we brought it to SGA there was a significant amount of interest. So many students wanted to do it before it was really formulated of what his course would be.”
Introducing the course to SGA first allowed Kurz and Williams to see not only what they could do, but how to get students to deeply engage in leadership or think about leadership.
Williams posed the question ‘What makes leadership so hard?’ to his class with the intention of having his students look at leadership on a global basis.
“Is leadership in Asia the same as leadership in Germany? The answer is likely ‘no’ because you have one culture that operate sin the sense of one favors harmony and one propagates this idea of the ‘rugged individual’ and that protestant work ethic,” Williams said.
The course works in phases. Students spend the first weeks defining the term leadership, then work to understand the full complexity of the leadership environment. Towards the end of the semester students test and refine their ideas by developing a leadership education program, according to the course syllabus.
“This is exciting to me,” Williams said. “I think this is a great opportunity for me and for these students.”