(finchannel.com) Beginning in September of 2009, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania www.mansfield.edu will launch its new online Masters of Arts degree program in Organizational Leadership. This online program is administratively housed in the Department of Psychology at Mansfield University, located in the beautiful mountains of north central Pennsylvania, but the degree can be earned by qualified candidates anywhere in the world they have a mailbox, a computer, and an Internet connection.
Mansfield University’s Department of Psychology, led by Dr. Dennis Murray, presently offers a concentration in Human Resource Management and an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. The new Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership program director is Dr. Peter Chiaramonte, former professor at the Caucasus School of Business and vice president for academic affairs at Georgian American University in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MA/OL) at Mansfield University is an online program providing advanced knowledge in leadership across a wide spectrum of disciplines and organizational settings at home and abroad. The MA/OL promotes and expands new knowledge in multi-faceted leadership dynamics, skills, and dispositions—so as to enable graduates to meet the many challenges of organizations in an ever-increasingly complex world.
Ours is a trulyinterdisciplinary curriculum which reflects the need for an integrated body of advanced knowledge and practices aimed at meeting the need for forward thinking leadership throughout every realm of our personal and professional lives. The MA in Organizational Leadership is a broad-based program aimed at building a socially responsible foundation for critical lifelong learning skills, which become more poignant as one’s career develops over time.
The need for an interdisciplinary approach to leadership studies stems from the fact that so many real world problems do not come in neatly packaged, compartment-bound boxes. Relatedness is key. Hence the need for leaders and followers who can bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries and forge teams to solve problems no one person can solve without the input and support of others. Graduates of the MA/OL will demonstrate a respect for scholarship as a foundation for leadership and a willingness to serve the greater good of our communities at large.
Empires of the Mind
Given how quickly knowledge is being generated today, the ability of leaders and followers to fashionlinks between groups of specialists and make new connections is a skill that needs to be finely honed and fully developed.
This new degree program in Organizational Leadership includes core courses designed to provide integrated knowledge for a wide range of applications in a variety of disciplines. Therefore, the curriculum is based on what we believe are six fundamental patterns or “realms of meaning” in which the dynamics of leadership must operate: symbolics, empirics, ethics, aesthetics, synoptics, and self-science.
Symbolics are the core theories and systems we employ to express deeper meanings in each of the other realms. At first, of course, the task of acquiring the basic literacies of one’s core discipline or profession takes center stage. But powerful synergies that involve blending various leadership concepts and methodologies take us well beyond the basics. Empirics are all the theories put into practice, for example: planning and administration, research methodology, and the leadership internship project. Ethics in a legal/regulatory environment is a course designed to examine ethical and legal issues related to leadership. Aesthetics are concerned with creating a leadership role, organizational culture, communications, team dynamics, and leadership as a performance art. Synoptics refer to meanings that are comprehensively integrative, such as the capstone research symposia and leadership portfolio project. Self-science is the term we give to the focus on self-awareness and deep personal reflection on one’s personal leadership styles and challenges.
Learning Leadership at a Distance
Higher education has, quite literally, come a long way in recent years. Online education has moved from the periphery to the mainstream. In fact, a recent Chronicle of Higher Education report estimated that one in five adults in the United States over the age of 25 are currently taking their entire university degree online. No longer do we have to quit our jobs, mortgage the house, move away, or live in a dormitory to attain a higher education. Learning now comes to us.
Advancements in online technology have changed the way we study, and online courses such as the MA/OL are now more readily available, more efficient, and more valued than ever before. While in the past online certifications did not carry the same weight as traditional programs, many scholars now believe that online education is not only acceptable, but also immensely productive. And universities all over the world are making online education more advanced, practical, and accessible.
Geographic limitations are not an issue for online education, so students may pursue leadership development from anywhere in the world. Students are encouraged to move beyond My Space and You Tube, and persuaded to use similar networking technology to connect around practical and scholarly issues of leadership importance. Programs such as Mansfield’s MA/OL are attempting to provide outreach to rural and urban communities all over the world who can benefit from advanced knowledge in leadership—in education, health care, social services, and a variety of businesses, sports, arts, and so forth.
How the interdisciplinary MA/OL compares to the traditional MBA
The starting point and foundation for leadership development is the character of individuals working together to establish a culture of inclusion and diversity focused on service to the communities in which they live. The professional relationships we build in the MA/OL program help to create the strength and confidence that will empower and support leadership initiatives throughout one’s career.
How is the MA/OL different from the traditional MBA?
Graduate schools of business administration have tended, for the most part, to do a good job of teaching numbers-oriented subject matter such as finance and accounting—whereas the MA/OL represents a people-oriented approach to organizational psychology, group dynamics, leadership strategy, and communications.
Many MBA programs tend to approach leadership and communications from a position of command authority; the MA/OL concentrates on the processes of initiating change. Whereas business administration programs are largely geared toward entry-level management positions; the MA/OL is designed primarily for working professionals seeking advanced knowledge and lifelong learning in leadership.Rather than a curriculum focused on analyzing and predicting future trends, the MA/OL focuses on creating a vision of the future we want, and learning how to respond quickly and decisively to new challenges as they unfold.
Inspiring a Disciplined Mind
Mansfield University’s MA/OL program is designed to give flexibility to people at varied distances and time zones. Methods of instruction include online chat room technology, databases, textbook and video references, E-mail, Study Guides, and Mansfield University Library support. (The Mansfield Library has one of the best-established online virtual reference services in the country, as well as over 2,000 book holdings related to leadership.) During regularly scheduled hours, students at a distance can expect service within one hour or less. Furthermore, graduate students receive individual attention from faculty and staff assigned to the program.
Who should apply for the MA/OL degree?
The disciplined mind is one that has already mastered at least one domain or way of thinking that characterizes a specific discipline, craft, or profession. Much research confirms that without expertise in at least one discipline, the individual is destined to march to someone else’s beat rather than leading changes for one’s own.
Advanced practice and knowledge in leadership can be helpful to everyone at all levels. Any professional—whether in education, heath care, business, government, or the arts—has to master the bodies of knowledge and key procedures that entitle one to participate in leadership, regardless of their hierarchical status within any organization. There is no higher wisdom to which we can aspire nor more useful knowledge that we can possess.