Education - Page 2 - Building leadership skills in graduate programs

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Building leadership skills in graduate programs
Courses focus on critical thinking, entrepreneurship and ethics

By Emily Parks, Contributing Writer

Graduate students take courses such as financial analysis, communication and economic theory to obtain a firm grasp of the topic and material. In addition, these students who are often middle managers in their workplace often excel at their area of expertise whether it’s accounting, marketing or information technology. But if leadership, critical thinking and management skills aren’t a strong part of their skill set, professional growth can stall, and the strategic direction of the organization will falter. Leadership is a critical characteristic for professional growth, and area universities are taking steps to make sure the innovators and business leaders of tomorrow have the leadership and critical thinking skills to ensure successful entrepreneurship and growth of an organization.

One such program is the master’s of professional studies: entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership program within the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC.) UMBC is committed to focusing on the critical role that innovation and leadership play in driving an entrepreneurial vision. The program centers around three pathways, entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and socialpreneurship. Most are familiar with entrepreneurship, which is moving an idea forward usually with a profit motive, while intrapreneurship has more to do with thinking creatively within an organization to either develop new products or improving internal processes. Lastly, the motive of socialpreneurship is moving organizational efforts towards a social good.

Gib Mason, COO, vice president of finance and administration at UMBC as well as executive director of the school’s Center for Leadership and Innovation, values how the program teaches students critical thinking skills, helping them understand the paradox regarding innovation and leadership. “Leadership and innovation are inextricably linked,” he says. “You can’t lead without innovating and you can’t innovate without leading.” Skills learned in the program address the paradox regarding innovation and leadership, which refers to the challenges surrounding unleashing the creative capabilities of an organization while harnessing that creativity toward innovating to an outcome of financial or social gains. He sums it up best with a quote from the book, “Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation” – “the unavoidable paradox at the heart of innovation is the need to unleash the talents of individuals and, in the end, to harness those talents in the form of a collective innovation that is useful to the organization.”

Stevenson University shepherds its students into the field of technology with its master’s in business and technology management program. This degree program is online, which serves its student population well, as many of whom are full-time professionals in the workforce. The program has two tracks: emerging technology, which provides students with knowledge about the development of current and future technologies, and innovative leadership, which provides students with managerial training in negotiation and critical thinking skills. Steve Engorn, M.B.A, assistant professor of information technology, as well as program coordinator of the program, notes how the innovative leadership track was designed on the basis that people are the most valuable asset of an organization. Students receiving a strong foundation in technology provided by the program is a confidence builder, which leads to greater contributions by them as an employee.

“The program itself is designed to take individuals who don’t have a technology background and provide them with a skills set to get a job as a project manager with an information technology (IT) component,” he says. “My goal is that they have this skill set from this track to be the chief information officer of companies in charge of making sure technology is used correctly and successfully.”

While it’s implied that actions and behavior in the workplace should be ethical, Notre Dame of Maryland University takes it one step further and ensures ethics is the thread woven throughout coursework and projects in its Master of Arts in leadership and management. That ethical base is critical to preparing students to be leaders and to affect change. Heather Carpenter, Ph.D., chair and assistant professor in the business and economics department at the school, notes how the emphasis on ethics in the program is part of the school’s overall mission to educate men and women to become socially responsible leaders.“We start the program with discussions on ethics in an effort to provide that foundation,” she says.“We have ethics embedded in every course topic.”

She notes how students write case studies revolving around leadership challenges with valuable guidance from faculty, who are active members of Society for Case Research. Cases published by faculty add special depth and interest to these graduate courses. Students also benefit from skills gained as part of a capstone course, where they research, prepare and analyze original cases.

Jazmin Greene is currently enrolled in the program at Notre Dame of Maryland University, as well as working as an admissions counselor at the school. As Greene received her undergraduate degree in philosophy, she values the ethical aspect of the program.One of her favorite courses was the course titled Leadership’s Dark Side, which looked at dark leaders and also evaluated the followers as to how they contributed to dark leadership. She also appreciates how the program has made her look closely at her own leadership skills and evaluate her professional challenges through an ethical lens.“I am more critical of how I lead as I supervise student ambassadors,” she says. “I’m more aware of how I can be a better leader and am more conscious of how I interact with others in an effort to improve my leadership skills.” •

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Above: Students in UMBC’s entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership program collaborate on coursework.

Area leadership graduate degree programs

Master of Arts in Leadership and Management at Notre Dame of Maryland University

Learning Objectives:
1. Create holistic, systems-thinking approaches grounded in leadership and business principles
2. Express critical thinking through strategic, ethical, socially responsible, well-reasoned action and communication
3. Integrate scholarship into personal and professional leadership capacities that transform individual lives, organizations and society

Online Master’s in Business and Technology Management at Stevenson University

Students can select from two tracks of study based on their personal interests and career aspirations:

Emerging Technology: Provides students with knowledge about the development of current and future technologies. Students will learn best practices in system planning and design and IT project management.

Innovative Leadership: Provides students with managerial training in negotiation and critical thinking skills. Students will learn how to motivate employees to achieve superior performance and production through building upon the principle that employees are the most valuable asset to an organization.

Master’s of Professional Studies: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Leadership at University of Maryland Baltimore County

Shapiro Case Study: As part of a graduate course called Design Thinking, posed the question: “How can we enhance the employee experience at Shapiro? We recognized that Shapiro was starting from a good place and looking to make their employees experience even better. Over the course of the semester, the class made six visits to Shapiro’s Baltimore office to connect with Shapiro employees. Students used a range of design thinking tools to do ethnographic research to gain understanding of employee experiences at Shapiro. Group exercises were conducted throughout the semester and included Shapiro employees and students enrolled in the course. Students in the class worked with Shapiro leadership to develop solutions based on data/information collected along with the client. Class participants used journey mapping, mind mapping, value chain analysis, assumption testing, rapid prototyping and other tools. Shapiro put together a committee to go through a 100-plus-page report and develop recommendations for Shapiro leadership from the process. •