Equipping leaders with tools for today’s complex world

Dr. Laurien Alexandre
Dr. Laurien Alexandre

Interview with Dr. Laurien Alexandre, Provost of the Graduate School of Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

The current national and global challenges demand leaders who are ethically responsible and creative, who can be adaptive and embrace complexity, and who have the ability to work across multiple sectors and with diverse constituencies.  Higher education has a critical role to play in educating and supporting leaders who can take bold and responsible action to improve the lives of those they serve.

Antioch University, founded in 1852, continues to provide innovative educational programming anchored in the ideals of inclusion, equity, and human progress.   Today, Antioch University offers an array of cutting-edge educational degrees at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels, across the country through their campus presence in California, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Washington as well as through on-line and hybrid programs that serve national and international students.

As a response to today’s specific needs including the need for multi-cultural and cross-sector learning milieus, Antioch University is offering the Master in Leadership Practice (MLP) housed within their well-respected Graduate School of Leadership and Change.   Dr. Laurien Alexandre is the Provost of the Graduate School of Leadership and Change and the founding director of both its PhD in Leadership and Change and its brand new Master in Leadership Practice. Venky Raghavendra recently reached out to Laurien to learn more about Antioch and its inspiring new degree in leadership practice.

Venky Raghavendra: Very few universities can boast of the rich history, legacy, and progressive journey that Antioch University has had going back to 160 years.  Could you share with us how the Graduate School of Leadership and Change anchors its work in Antioch’s rich educational legacy?

Dr. Laurien Alexandre: “Winning victories for humanity” is the historic legacy of Antioch University.  Its current mission focuses on educating students for meaningful lives and furthering social, economic, and environmental justice.  Antioch was founded on the belief that education is a cornerstone of democracy and we carry that torch forward today. The first program of the Graduate School, the PhD in Leadership and Change which began almost 20 years ago, has over 250 graduates and about 150 active current students to date. We are now about to launch our Master in Leadership Practice (MLP). Both graduate programs take the mission of this historic institution to heart, we refer to both as ‘degrees of purpose.”

Let me share a bit more about the MLP in particular. The program is designed to educate and coach practitioners who are leading responsible and ethical change in organizations and communities across this country and internationally.  This is at the core of Antioch’s mission.  Today, a lot of folks talk about innovation and disruption but we teach the leadership theories and practices that are bold AND responsible, and that serve building sustainable and equitable futures.

VR: Congratulations on the launch of your Masters of Leadership Degree (MLP).  Can you speak about MLP’s differentiating aspects and why it is unique?

Laurien Alexandre:  The MLP program is very distinctive in a number of ways in addition to being mission-driven.  It is focused on educating and supporting those who are leading change for the common good.  Let me speak a bit here about the unique design and its delivery.

First, it has a hybrid delivery model, meaning, students come together twice over the 16-month program, once at the beginning for a 4-day orientation residency and once at the end for a 3-day capstone experience.  Between these two book-end gatherings, students engage virtually in an array of integrated learning activities, advising, and coaching.  So, students can live and work anywhere and still be able to participate actively and continuously in a robust, caring and collaborative geographically dispersed learning community.

Second, the entire 16-month program is designed around the student’s action projects, which they design and pilot during their time in the program. After all, as the degree title indicates, this master’s degree IS about practice!   Each 4-month period is a phase of action, from context-setting and the call to action, to designing an inclusive plan, to piloting a bold idea or project, to reflecting on one’s personal and professional learning, and building forward.  As the student moves through each of these four phases, the courses are focused on essential leadership theories and skills development exercises to help them navigate the project successfully complemented by personal and group coaching.

Third, I need to mention the extraordinary faculty of the Graduate School. The Antioch Graduate School in Leadership and Change faculty are all experienced educators, seasoned coaches, wise mentors, and productive scholars contributing new knowledge and thinking to fields such as management, education, philosophy, and organization change.

We offer a hybrid design to educate students to take thoughtful action that disrupts responsibly with the goal of focusing on sustainable futures.

VR: The notion of leadership evolves at a rapid pace today as we experience more and more disruptions, challenging the present day leader.    How is the MLP positioned/designed to prepare and equip your graduates? 

Laurien Alexandre:  This is a great question.  The program is not premised on a formula for leadership action.  Rather, it is premised throughout on adaptive leadership in theory AND practice.  We focus on an array of student skills and capabilities that they can draw from as they imagine creative approaches to the opportunities and challenges they face. We focus on pushing students to think ethically about the disruptions that they engage in while always holding the mission, purpose, and values at the center.  And we focus on individual growth within the context of collaborative learning and collective well-being.  Throughout the integrated curriculum students think about opportunities utilizing appreciative inquiry, they are expected to engage in creative, imaginative approaches to taking action around issues about which they have passion, never settling for an easy answer.   One would hope they would demonstrate reflection, thoughtfulness, boldness, ethics, adaptability, and care.

VR: Who is the intended audience of the program?  Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Laurien Alexandre:  To answer this question, I want to return back to three things we’ve talking about so far:  the mission, the curriculum, and the delivery as they all speak to a particular type of student audience.   For one, given this hybrid delivery model, the student community is geographically dispersed, coming from across the country, and potentially internationally.  Given the interdisciplinary curriculum, meaning this isn’t a discipline or sector-specific program just for finance people for example, or for those in education,  the student audience draws from potentially every sector, whether non-profit to education, for-profit to government, and seeks students who want to be creative in their efforts to lead actions that better communities and organizations.  If the PhD program is any indicator, we will be fortunate to have incredibly dynamic and diverse cohorts of students who will engage in both face-to-face and virtual peer learning. Finally, given the mission of Antioch University, the student audience is individuals who deeply care about the common good, who want to lead actions that further social, economic, and environmental justice.  Our intended audience is students with passion for this degree of purpose.

We are delighted to get the word out about our new offering through our websiteinformation webinar, or those interested can request a one-on-one conversation with me.  We know this program will attract the right talent and leaders looking to make the next leap in their professional careers and personal advancement.

(Venky Raghavendra is Senior Vice-President at Safe Water Network an organization that creates access to safe and affordable drinking water to underserved communities.  He frequently writes on cutting-edge innovations including in the higher education space and is a Contributing Editor of American Bazaar)

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