Course Topics - Leadership
What are some of the changes happening in your discipline that you find particularly interesting?
In the discipline of business, we’ve learned to view change as a constant – something that is sought out and embraced, not avoided. The old model was to treat change as something that could be managed or controlled. Change management was about unfreezing a process, making adjustments, then institutionalizing the new process. Today, we see change leadership as a much more organic and evolutionary practice.
What will you focus on with the students?
One of the leaders I will be featuring in my section on leading change is Yael Cohen, CEO of the organization FCancer. A true millennial leader, Yael was determined to make a difference in fighting cancer after learning her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Working from the knowledge that most cancers are treatable if diagnosed early, she built an organization that activates her generation to engage with their parents about early detection.
In a recent article for the publication FastCompany, she shared two of her key leadership lessons: (1) Your style isn’t the only style, and (2) You don’t always have the best answer. Her leadership philosophy is an example of what we teach our students at Sonoma State - that that there is “no one size fits all” model of leadership.
What do you want them to learn about your field?
I want students to realize the need for and have opportunities to develop their own personal approach to leadership that builds upon their unique gifts and skills, and is a match for the leadership challenges they are facing.
On Pedagogy and Collaboration
University 222 presents many opportunities for the campus, faculty, and students, from the GMC venue to the class size, from your collaboration as deans to the subject matter itself.
Given all of the above, what pedagogies will you employ to engage students and achieve your learning objectives?
We will expose students to a handful of leaders who have made a difference in the organizations where they worked, and the communities in which they live. They will hear from Sandy Weill, the former CEO of Citicorp who grew the company into the largest financial institution in the world and whose philanthropic gifts are making a difference in medicine, the arts, and education.
They’ll participate a live interview with Mark Nelson, the former CEO of Nelson Staffing, who grew his company into one of the foremost agencies that provided the talent which fueled the dot com boom. Mark will share his insights into how your career is the ultimate start-up experience, and the leadership skills necessary to succeed as the CEO of your career and your life.
And they will work on a live “case study” with Matt Martin, the CEO of Social Advocates for Youth, an organization focused on addressing the problem of youth homelessness.
In addition to the aforementioned activities, we will run all 700 plus students in this class through a ropes course experience where they will work together to accomplish common goals and objectives as a team. Leadership can’t be completely learned in a classroom. We can teach some key leadership principles, and we can bring in some engaging leaders to share their stories, but true growth in leadership must be learned by actually working with people.
Through active roles in challenging activities, the students will develop strengthened relationships with each other, and explore their personal characteristics, limits, and strengths while taking on situations that mirror real world problems and issues. The ropes course activities focus on leadership, teamwork, problem solving, communication, trust, creativity, cooperation, confidence, decision making, effective feedback, conflict resolution and self-evaluation.
What’s it like teaching to 750 students?
The goal is to make sure the class reaches each person on an individual level. So it is not teaching to 750 students, it is teaching to 1 student 750 times. We can do that by personalizing the experience. In my subject of leadership, students are taught that there is no one-size-fits-all model of leadership. They are encouraged to develop their own approach to leadership that fits their circumstances, and capitalizes on their unique strengths and experiences.
Weill Hall is such an intimate facility that when you are on stage, it feels as if you can connect with each person in the room. The natural lighting, the soft wood, and the shoe box design all help contribute to the feeling that we are not sitting idly in a lecture, but rather are at a town hall community meeting debating the key issues of our time. As faculty, we often leave the stage and get out into the audience, looking for opportunities to make instant connections.
And it is important to note that the class takes places not only in Weill Hall, but also around the entire campus. Students participate in a low ropes challenge course in small teams. They learn from a volunteer project that has them hosting high school students on campus. They participate in on-line discussion boards, wikis, and blogs. One of the class sections is taught entirely on-line and students meet virtually for a two-week span. Another has them exploring library resources and research technologies.