Starting Point

On May 2008, Susan Komives -one of the most recognized leadership scholars and a woman that I truly admire- encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D.  Months later, a series of events unfolded and I noticed that my dreams and intentions had started to take an unprecedented shape.

The Learning Democracy by Doing Conference -Alternative Practices in Citizenship Learning and Participatory Democracy at OISE opened my eyes to the work that various communities and organizations were doing around social responsibility; not necessarily as an extra-curricular activity but as a way of being. Many of the groups that presented their projects at the conference were doing leadership because their  well-being depended on it. Being around a new group of people (other than the student services/student life type) made me think that I needed to learn more about their work. I felt a strong connection to the conference participants and I also felt the need to do more for my country of origin, Mexico. Moreover, I realized that I’m teaching leadership but I’m not practicing leadership outside of the university. I’m motivating students to effect change and I’m unaware of how change happens outside of an institution of higher learning. It was very unsettling to see the incongruence.

The NCLP 2008 Leadership Educators Institute was a very meaningful experience that increased my awareness of leadership as a field of study. The relevance of Susan Komives’ research on Leadership Identity Development and the Multi-Institutional Leadership Study was very tangible; and it was very encouraging to see a group of researches preseting the application of their findings. I heard, repeatedly, how important leadership development is and how leadership educators have to push for it within their institutions. I also learned about institutions such as Antioch University and its Ph.D on Leadership and Change.  Surprisingly, I found myself telling one of my colleagues that I wanted to learn more about leadership but not necessarily in the context of higher education. This meant that I don’t want to be an expert on student leadership but rather an expert on leadership and social change.

Sometime in December of 2008 I discovered Lindsey McDougle’s blog Leadership as a Field of Study and read a post that listed all the doctoral programs related to the study of leadership and, thus, spent part of the December break browsing doctoral programs.

When thinking about graduate studies there are many elements that have to be taken into consideration, such as what would my beloved parter -who is about to finish his Ph.D- want to do after graduation. The many conversations that we had led us to the Canadian West Coast and now I’m in the process of preparing an application for a Ph.D program and I have decided to write, document and intentionally reflect on this process that appears to be a very challenging one.

Published by Val Cortes

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