JU PhD Program Reflections

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.

 Source:  http://www.JohnsonU.edu 

Source:  http://www.JohnsonU.edu 

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! 

 Source: Johnson University, Cliff McCartney

Source: Johnson University, Cliff McCartney