The department’s efforts in leadership and social change emphasize self-leadership development, organizational leadership, and community leadership. As we explore opportunities for leadership development, we focus on identifying best practices and contextual elements to contribute to program effectiveness. Examples of the department’s discovery efforts include the following:
Leading Ag to a Promising Future
Faculty and graduate students in the deparment have engaged Virginia's agricultural community in focus group sessions and surveys, exploring the prospects for a comprehensive agricultural leadership program. The model that emerged parallels that of other state programs associated with International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership. Surveys with senior leaders of Virginia's agricultural associations and commodity groups indicate that more than 90 percent believe more leadership development is needed. Focus group findings indicate the ideal program focuses on three areas:
- Knowledge of the changing industry
- Relationship-building across industry sectors
- Practical, transferable skill development
The skill areas of interest include creative problem solving, political advocacy, and communication.
Goal-setting for Strengths-based Leadership Development
Research on strengths-based leadership suggests one key to becoming a more effective leader is to know and invest in personal strengths. As we consider the prospects for this development among college students and young professionals, it is important to explore the power of goal-setting as a tool for leadership development.
The department’s research in this area has begun by exploring the areas of talent that students naturally bring to the college experience. Those areas of talent serve as a launching point for development. Building from that insight, our work with the Multi-institutional Study of Leadership reveals the importance of mentoring relationships during the undergraduate experience, and there is more rich data to explore.