Doerr Institute spearheads leadership education effort

Coalition seeks to define criteria for great leadership programs

What’s the purpose of developing graduates who can lead in society?

That’s one of the key questions discussed by 32 leadership experts who gathered recently at an event hosted by Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders. But their conversation wasn’t just a philosophical exercise.

The group is trying to establish the standards that higher education institutions should meet within leadership programs. The goal is to provide a framework for institutions to be recognized for exceptional commitment to teaching leadership; teaching not only the tactical and application skills, but also abstract and conceptual knowledge through the lenses of multiple disciplines.

The Doerr Institute, together with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, hosted the Jan. 27-29 conference that brought together institutions from across the nation, including Claremont McKenna College, the United States Air Force Academy and Yale University.

“We’re developing this classification because there is a societal expectation that higher education prepares our next generation of leaders for public purpose, and that expectation is not uniformly met,” said Tom Kolditz, director of the Doerr Institute. “We can’t rely on the business, government or the social sectors to provide employees with their first taste of leader development, as is often the case. With this classification, we can encourage all institutions to cultivate leadership education and development. This way, not just a single institution advances, our entire enterprise of higher education advances.”

Discussions at the meeting were broken into three groups — research, education and development. Among the questions discussed were “How do you define leadership; is it formal or informal?” and “How do you measure impact?”

At the end of the three days, the groups came together to create an in-depth classification proposal to present to the Carnegie Foundation, which has established an elective classification for its community engagement initiative.

“Leadership is a skill that for years has been thought to be unteachable,” said Rice president David Leebron. “I believe it can be taught, but it is challenging. We believe that everybody has leadership capability. And it’s our job educate them and give them every opportunity.”

The Doerr Institute is a large-scale, leader-development enterprise committed to the belief that leaders are made, not born. Its mission is to elevate the leadership capacity of Rice students and to elevate the practice of leader development in higher education.

The institute’s efforts toward this classification directly align with Rice’s emphasis on planning for and adapting to the future in a rapidly changing world as stated in the Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade (V2C2).


About Avery Ruxer Franklin

Avery is a media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.