To quote Donald Trump, "This is Huuuuuuge!" Today is a big day at Johnson University because we signed off on our very first dissertation within the Ph.D. in Leadership Studies program. See program description. I spent the remainder of the day vacillating between exhilaration and sadness simultaneous filled with a sense of now what?!
Background: JU's President Weedman introduced JU to me in 2009 when he asked me to teach Strategic Planning within the BA/BS in Nonprofit Management program. I still remember that first visit to JU TN located in Knoxville. I was immediately struck by the physical beauty of the campus and the intense commitment of JU faculty and staff to hospitality.
In 2010, Dr. Weedman called saying JU, in partnership with 7 other universities, wanted to start a PhD in Leadership Studies. Will you design the program? Timeline: 5 months. So a consultant reverse calendars from the due date and does what it takes to meet the client expectations. Little did I know that within academia - a 5 month design timeline is considered lunacy; however, this is JU - agile, on task, and willing to do what it takes.
The day we submitted the design package for accreditation review, I remember tears flowing as I contemplated this BHAG (big hairy audacious goal)! That day, Dr. Weedman asked me to come on board full time to direct the program. On many levels this was a crazy hire. I'm not an academic; like strategy, planning and design but grow weary in the midst of implementation; and my professional network, at the time, did not include typical JU alumni or constituents. Shoot, I wouldn't have hired me for the role! Yet - I saw an opportunity to build something directly focused on developing leaders and creating opportunities for leadership studies related research and scholarship. Content mastery and research skills are important but I am more focused on developing leaders who, within their sphere of influence, are equipped to see complexity, focused on human flourishing, and judiciously care, act, and serve. In Christian-ese, I see our primary purpose as discipling.
All of these memories came flooding in today. As a designer, I strive to 'imagine' an if this/then this design anticipating possible hiccups and/or questions in advance. The reality though is that all implementations are accompanied by a need for thinking, discernment, and adjustment. So it is with this PhD program rollout. Bless their hearts - Cohort 1 truly represent canaries sent into the coal mine. It is a deep honor that the 4 men in cohort 1 entrusted JU with their doctoral education in an untested program and PhD program director. But they did and today - one of them finished. We've walked and learned together. It's with deep satisfaction that I say - Our approach to teaching content and research skills while simultaneously focusing on leadership development works. I'll get more practical in future posts about what we do. For now - I want to relish the moment. It works. Congratulations Dr. Chris Beard - JU's first to complete their doctoral dissertation. I am so happy you finished!