The 22nd Annual National Leadership Symposium, University of Richmond, Virginia

Notes from the Field / August 2012

Marilyn Bugenhagen

Sponsored by the National Association for Campus Activities and the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs

Marilyn Bugenhagen

Marilyn Bugenhagen

David Rosch

David Rosch

For over 22 years, two organizations have been holding an annual symposium on leadership programs to further dialogue on the evolution of leadership development and to promote the various aspects to developing leadership through higher education.  The focus has been on developing student leaders, however, in the past few years, the symposium topic has begun to turn towards the direction of leadership education in higher education at both the academic and co-curricular levels.

The 2012 National Leadership Symposium co-chairs, (David Rosch, PhD from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and myself, Marilyn Bugenhagen, PhD from Marian University in Wisconsin) decided early on that using the definition of the word: symposium, would aid our focus on the curriculum design for the 3 day event.  Symposium (sim-ˈpō-zē-əm): a formal meeting at which several specialists deliver short addresses on a topic or on related topics; participants engaging in a collection of opinions, dialogue and idea exchange.

This year’s theme was:  Next Generation Leadership Education: Rigorous Design; Engaging Experiences; Demonstrated Results.  The theme was based on the explosion of leadership in higher education institutional mission statements, university courses, co-curricular programs and in community leadership organizations.  The concern raised with the explosion for educating leaders was for the quality of offerings and the results produced.  With this in mind, the symposium presented three areas for opinions, dialogue, and idea exchange:  What knowledge is needed to design rigorous leadership programs? Develop leadership ability? And demonstrate results?

Moving from Space for Learning to Creating Place for Learning

The opening day of this year’s symposium was focused on creating the right environment for learning.  Participants and facilitators engaged in a series of exercises and exchanges to help build a learning community and introduce participants to the nature of the NLS experience that was envisioned.  The exercises and exchanges were reflective interpersonal, small group and large group engagement.  The unusual beginning, is that this  3 hour block of time did not begin with introductions and logistics, rather it invited participants into the space for learning and being integrated.  The planning team sat amongst the participants to fully participate as part of the community.

The evening session provided opportunity to discuss the pre-reading of  the Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown book A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.  In small groups of five, we engaged in noting our individual insights from the book and shared our understanding of the reading and it’s application to leadership education.  ‘Ambassadors’ from each group traded places with one from another ambassador.  The ambassador role was to share the other group’s understandings and then return to the original group to highlight reactions.  The book discussion ended with an open forum of the Learning Community understanding and making connections to leadership education.  One item that came up during the open forum was the concept of community versus collective.  Thomas and Seely Brown made the following distinction:

We call this environment a collective. As the name implies, it is a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts… collectives are not solely defined by shared intention, action, or purpose (though those elements may exist and often do).  Rather, they are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning. A collective is very different from an ordinary community. Where communities can be passive (though not all of them are by any means), collectives cannot. In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation.(p. 52)

This definition came back up several times throughout the symposium.

Moving from Presenter-Lead to Learner-Centered Learning:

The evening ended with the idea of self-directed learning versus being guided for learning. Using a video clip, participants were to consider where good ideas start and that all of us have ‘hunches’ about good ideas. The scholars-in-residence for the symposium, Jeffrey Cufaude from Idea Architects, Susan Murphy from James Madison University and  Gama Perruci from Marietta College, OH, shared their hunches as they related to the theme and sub-themes and raised questions for consideration.

Day 2 of the symposium included introductions to what is leader or leadership education or development.  What or what is trying to be developed and what type of background knowledge is needed to develop programs. Gama Perruci engaged participants in considering how our language in the context of leadership  have different meanings to different generations. He particularly focused on the Millenials concept of leadership and how higher education’s focus on leadership may or may not be reaching this group due to unintended meanings. Susan Murphy prompted the learning collective to consider the development of identity of individuals as a way to develop the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind for leader capacity as the future of leader(ship) education.

From the big ideas of the morning, to considerations of how leadership educators could situate their programs for solid design, participants were introduced to the International Leadership Association Guiding Questions. ( ) The CAS Leadership Development standards ( were referenced for building solid infrastructure on campus for a program. With these items available, Susan Murphy used results from a pre-symposium survey to demonstrate how the 60 people assembled for the symposium have different views and concepts of what is important in leader(ship) education and development. The importance of getting a strong collective across programs, both academic and student affairs/services, was encouraged.

With the morning and early afternoon steeped in rigorous design for results, the mid-afternoon brought the learning collective to emerging trends and high impact practices for learning experience design. Jeffrey Cufaude offered several different design activities and prompted provocative thinking about how leader(ship) education could be designed for maximum impact. In providing opportunity to synthesize and select new learning experiences, a learning lab and lounge offered participants to self-direct for their own learning needs. Learning Lab/Lounge spaces included reading space with a plethora of resources, video/podcast list, exercises discussion group, and places to create mind maps or design/redesign individual campus programs.

Pulling Back the Curtain on Designing for Learning

The evening of day 2 was designed for the planning team to reflect on the Symposium thus far, how the curriculum design was unfolding, and discuss the ways participants were engaged in the content.  The planning team, in terms of Johari Window (Luft & Ingham, 1955), was making public the type of debrief planners often have without participants. The intent was to engage participant’s critical thinking about their learning experience, make light of planning team observances and experiences, consider any shift in the day 3 curriculum, as well as using the Symposium as a real-time case study.

The room was set with seven chairs in a circle in the middle of the room and then two circles of chairs around the outside of the seven.  The Planning team situated in the seven chairs, the ‘fishbowl’ concept was introduced to the participants what to expect, and then the team began to discuss how things were going, what surprises they observed, and how the curriculum was progressing. The dialogue ensued among the seven for a while and then the fishbowl glass was ‘broken’ and the collective was asked to provide observations, questions, or commentary. Members of the learning collective expressed how they realized that they had to take responsibility for their own learning and that the curriculum was inviting them to do so. Some had the revelation and had taken that step, others were just realizing it, and others were not being invited to consider how to get what they needed in the learning collective/symposium place for learning. One comment (paraphrased from memory) ‘I came here to the symposium, expecting to get “x”, and I have realized that “x” is not what I needed. I needed this experience to open up my thinking, my learning, myself to another way of considering how learning occurs.’ Many more comments ensued and the fishbowl in the center came back, where the planning team reflected on what changes might be made for the day three curriculum. It was agreed the content was solid, but a rearranging for the flow of the learning collective would aid the learning collective.

Distilling the Content and Connecting the Learning

Day three began with asking participants to “get what they needed” from the learning collective by identifying needs they had for gaining information. Using “call for what you need” participants asked the community for resources and knowledge and setting a time to connect. The three scholars-in-residence and two co-chairs did mini-presentations on five difference cases of leader(ship) programs designed with the intentions of the overall symposium: a corporate program, a university leadership center, a non-profit leadership program, an academic leadership center, and a graduate education leadership program. Participants split off into these case groups to gather information and ask questions of the case presenter and others who joined the group.

The early afternoon session engaged participants in working together to capture the learning from the symposium.  Using templates from  Grove Graphic Facilitation visuals, (, nine groups recorded their take away. These templates were placed around the room for a gallery reviewing of the nine groups learning reflection.

Figure 1: Symposium Charts 1

Figure 1: Symposium Charts 1


Figure 2: Symposium Charts 2

Figure 2: Symposium Charts 2

Figure 3: Symposium Charts 3

Figure 3: Symposium Charts 3

The day progressed using a little Appreciative Inquiry method to engage participants in thinking about the best things happening in their current programs and if they were to imagine even better results, what that would look like, the resources they would have, and what would be happening as a result of the best happening in their organizations. From here, participants split into triads and discussed the possibilities and did sounding board/colleague coaching on ways to begin to move forward on those best possible scenarios.

Prior to a closing feedback session, participants engaged in dialogue and sharing groups around several ‘hot topics’ identified through polling and from the morning sessions. Academic and Student Affairs relationships, Following Wild Ideas, Teaching leadership through Technology, Assessing Outcomes, and Facilitating Active Learning.

The symposium ended with a celebration dinner with these closing remarks read from the book Poke the Box by Seth Godin:

“Instigation.  Initiative.  The forward motion that breathes life into an organization and teaches us what works.  We’re waiting fro the one who explores, creates and makes a ruckus.  We need you to poke the system (of learning, leadership and education) and see what happens, to learn from it, to adjust and to repeat.  Your organization has everything it needs, (the resources)..the people, everything. Except…The only thing missing is your ability to provoke, instigate and discover. Go, go, go!”

It will be fun to learn what has started as a result of the 2012 National Leadership Symposium!

About the Author

Marilyn Bugenhagen, PhD served as co-chair for the 2011 and 2012 National Leadership Symposiums. She serves as an Associate Professor of Leadership and the Associate Academic and Student Affairs Officer at Marian University in Wisconsin teaching courses in leadership theory, leader capacity  & organization development, leadership training, and adult development & learning.  Marilyn has held positions in higher education directing both for-profit and not-for-profit centers and in faculty roles.  She is the author of several journal articles published in Journal of Leadership Studies, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Journal of Leadership Education, and has several articles under review.  She is an engaged member in several professional organizations including International Leadership Association, Association of Leadership Educators, Academy of Management, Midwest Academy of Management, and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.  She currently serves the editorial board of Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.  Marilyn has served as a LeaderShape lead facilitator since 1998 and recently elected as the conference chair for 2013 Midwest Academy of Management and will serve as the organization president in 2014.


Dave Rosch, PhD served as co-chair of the 2012 National Leadership Symp0sium and will co-chair the 2013 NLS.  He serves as an Assistant Professor in the Agricultural Education program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, he coordinates the undergraduate leadership education concentration within the program, and teaches several leadership courses.  His particular areas of research interest include student leadership development and the accurate assessment of leadership effectiveness.  Dave has held several professional positions in the field of student affairs, including in offices of leadership programming and university housing.  He has published many articles and book chapters on leadership theory and pedagogy, and has served as the Membership and Resources Chairs within the Leadership Education Member Interest Group in the International Leadership Association (ILA).  He also facilitates leadership programs throughout the United States in conjunction with LeaderShape, Inc.  He earned his doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Syracuse University, a master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University, and a bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University (NY).