Eric K. Kaufman

Associate Professor

  • Leadership Education

Ph.D., Agricultural Education and Communication, 2007, University of Florida, Gainesville FL

M.S., Agricultural Education and Communication, 2004, University of Florida, Gainesville FL

B.S., Agricultural Education, 2000, The Ohio State University, Columbus OH


Major Awards:

  • Outstanding Practice Paper. 2012. Association of Leadership Educators. Recipient team: Kerry Priest, Eric Kaufman, Kelsey Brunton, and Megan Seibel.
  • Rising Star Award. 2012. Association of Leadership Educators.
  • Teacher Fellow. 2012. North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.
  • Faculty Land Grant Award. 2012. Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, Virginia Tech.
  • Outstanding Teaching Award. 2011. Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, Virginia Tech.
  • Outstanding Extension Program Award. 2010. Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, Virginia Tech.
  • Outstanding Research Award. 2009. Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, Virginia Tech. Recipient team: Eric Kaufman, Richard Rateau, Keyana Ellis, Holly Kasperbauer, and Laura Stacklin.
  • Outstanding Faculty Poster. 2009. Association of Leadership Educators. Recipient team: Eric Kaufman, Richard Rateau, Meghan Kuhn, and Sarah Swenson.
  • Mary Merrill Memorial Award for Outstanding Feature Article in The International Journal of Volunteer Administration (IJOVA). Designated article: “Leadership development for local volunteer leaders: A case study of andragogy in practice,” by Eric K. Kaufman, Hannah S. Carter, Rick D. Rudd, and Donna M. Moore.

The nature of leadership is changing: The challenges are becoming more complex, there is a greater reliance on interdependent work, and leadership is increasingly being viewed as a collective process (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009).  The emerging eco-leadership discourse and related theory are shifting the focus from individual leaders to shared leadership (Western, 2007).  Unfortunately, the vast majority of research on shared leadership has been conceptual, creating an urgent need for empirical evidence in support of the conceptual models (San Martín-Rodríguez, Beaulieu, D'Amour, & Ferrada-Videla, 2005).  Dr. Kaufman is working to meet this need through investigation of collaborative leadership in community and volunteer settings.  He has identified community watersheds as an appropriate context for investigating collaborative leadership because the rise of nonpoint source pollution has created a broad base of stakeholders with little hierarchy and accountability (Morton & Brown, 2011) and reports suggest there are more than 4,000 locally-based organizations involved in community watershed protection efforts (Grumbles, n.d.).   Some of Dr. Kaufman’s work in this area is conducted as part of a multi-state research effort, NC1190: Catalysts for Water Resources Protection and Restoration: Applied Social Science Research.  Beyond the general aspects of leadership, his research with community groups is investigating group cohesion and group exchange structures (Seibert, et al., 2003), as well as cognitive differences in problem-solving style (Kirton, 2003). 

Although higher education has long been involved in preparing leaders for the societal and industry-related challenges (Astin & Astin, 2000), the vast majority of Americans believe there remains a “crisis of leadership” in the United States (Rosenthal, 2012).  Research by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found that that the gap for leadership-related skills exceeded the gap for both basic skills and industry-specific skills.  The ASTD (2010) report identified two underlying causes of the skills gap: “jobs are changing” and “educational attainment is lagging the need for skills.”  Recognizing the need, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) recently began to focus the issue of soft-skill development, placing curriculum development in this area as a primary goal (Crawford, Lang, Fink, Dalton, & Fielitz, 2011).  Leadership education programs are adapting to the new, more collaborative nature of leadership, but a lack of research and validated models has limited the scholarly and curricular support for such changes (Leigh, Shapiro, & Penney, 2010).  Dr. Kaufman is working others to investigate best practices for leadership education and leadership development.  A framework for guiding such research is outlined in the National Leadership Education Research Agenda, offered by the Association of Leadership Educators.

Dr. Kaufman’s appointment at Virginia Tech includes a 30% allocation for Extension programs.  With this time, he has focused efforts in two areas: (1) engaging citizens in the leadership for educational programming and (2) preparing future leaders for the agricultural community.  This leadership focus is fairly new for Virginia Cooperative Extension, so much of his time has been spent establishing new opportunities and relationships.

The first area of work, engaging citizens in the leadership for educational programming, has required regular involvement with Extension agents and volunteers.  Specifically, his work surrounds the use of Extension Leadership Councils (ELCs), which are critical for community involvement in planning Extension programs (Fornash, 2011).  Dr. Kaufman conducts workshops for Extension employees and volunteers, working closely with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Leadership Council.  On a national level, he coordinates a program on Strengthening Extension Advisory Leaders, which is affiliated with eXtension.  Although a 2011 survey of unit coordinators and ELC chairs revealed areas for improvement, 65% of respondents rated ELCs as effective or very effective in program support and advisement, 72% of respondents rated ELCs as effective or very effective with relationship building, and 80% of respondents rated ELCs effective or very effective with Extension advocacy.

The second area of work, preparing future leaders for the agricultural community, has had substantial interface with teaching and other scholarly pursuits.  What is now a full-fledged outreach program, titled Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results (VALOR), started with a special study course on “Designing Leadership Education Programs.”  Students in the course conducted focus group sessions to determine the need for and desired outcomes of a leadership program that would serve Virginia’s agricultural industry.  At the conclusion of the course, the students submitted a preliminary program plan, along with suggestions for additional research.  Continued research was supported by a grant from the Virginia Agricultural Council and a grant from the Farm Credit System Foundation.  The college hired a director for the VALOR program in 2011, and the inaugural class began in fall 2012.  Although Dr. Kaufman passed the VALOR program responsibilities on to a formal program director, he continues to do work to prepare future leaders for the agricultural community, particularly through support of other Extension personnel.

  • AEE 1004: Strengths Development for Careers in Agricultural Sciences
  • AEE 3014: Leadership for Professionals in Agriculture
  • AEE 3634: Communicating Agriculture and Life Sciences in Speaking
  • AEE 5154: Partnerships and Volunteerism
  • AEE 5984: SS: Designing Leadership Education Programs
  • LDRS 3104: Dynamics of Leadership
  • LDRS 3304: Elements of Team Leadership
  • LDRS 5454: Leadership Foundations for Diverse Contexts
  • LDRS 5464: Leadership in a Global Society
  • Burbach, M. K., Floress, K., & Kaufman, E. K. (2015). Are water-related leadership development programs designed to be effective: An exploratory study. Journal of Leadership Education, 14(1), 107-123. doi:10.12806/V14/I1/R7
  • Mosely, C., Broyles, T. W., & Kaufman, E. K. (2014). Leader-member exchange, cognitive style, and student achievement. Journal of Leadership Education, 13(3), 50-69. doi:10.12806/V13/I3/R4
  • Priest, K., Kaufman, E. K., Brunton, K.*, & Seibel, M. (2013). Appreciative inquiry: A tool for organizational, programmatic, and project-focused change. Journal of Leadership Education, 12(1), 18-33. Available at
  • Grace, P. E., & Kaufman, E. K. (2013). Effecting change through storytelling.  Journal of Sustainability Education, 4. Available at
  • Kaufman, E. K., Rateau, R. J., Carter, H. S., & Strickland, L. R. (2012).  What’s context go to do with it?  An exploration of leadership development programs for the agricultural community.  Journal of Leadership Education, 11(1), 121-139. Available at
  • Kaufman, E. K., & Grace, P. E. (2011). Women in grassroots leadership: Barriers and biases experienced in a membership organization dominated by men. Journal of Leadership Studies, 4(4), 6-16. doi:10.1002/jls.20188
  • Kaufman, E. K., Rateau, R. J., Ellis, K. C.,  Kasperbauer, H. J., & Stacklin, L. R. (2010). Leadership program planning: Assessing the needs and interests of the agricultural community. Journal of Leadership Education, 9(1), 122-143. Available at:
  • Kaufman, E. K., Carter, H. S., Rudd, R. D., & Moore, D. M. (2009). Leadership development for local volunteers: A case study of andragogy in practice. The International Journal of Volunteer Administration, XXVI(3), 21-31. Available at:
  • Kaufman, E. K. (2009). Extension Leadership Councils: Planning for Success (VCE Publication No. 490-394). Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Cooperative Extension. Available at: 
  • Kaufman, E. K., Israel, G. D., & Irani, T. A. (2008). Voter confidence in the agricultural industry. Journal of Applied Communications 92(1-2), 31-55. Available at
  • Kaufman, E. K., Israel, G. D., & Rudd, R. D. (2008). Exploring goal setting as a tool for leadership development. Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(4), 51-61. doi:10.1002/jls.20032 
  • Kaufman, E. K., & Rudd, R. D. (2006). Rural leadership development: A synthesis of research. Journal of Leadership Education, 5(3), 128-141. Available at
  • (540) 231-6258
  • 2280 Litton-Reaves Hall
    Mail Code 0343
    Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Fax: (540) 231-3824