ECU moves forward as ‘leadership university’

By Joy Holster
ECU News Services

East Carolina University took a step forward Sept. 8 and 9 toward attaining its strategic vision as “The Leadership University.”

The progress came in the form of the 2011 Leadership Forum, a campus-wide conversation that generated ideas and discussion on how that vision might be achieved. Held Sept. 8 -9, the forum drew more than 130 faculty, staff and students from across the university to discuss planning, implementation and performance assessment procedures related to the leadership initiative.

ECU Provost Dr. Marilyn Sheerer said the forum was an important event for ECU. “It was the first major campus-wide discussion about the integrated leadership framework that was developed by a team of ECU faculty and staff in response to ‘the leadership university’ strategic direction in the ECU strategic plan,” Sheerer said.

“We have so many great examples of how this framework is being put into practice throughout the campus, and this forum will provide an appropriate venue for hearing about them,” she said.

Kendra Harris of the ECU Leadership Collaborative said the purpose of the forum was twofold. “We wanted to generate ideas and collaboration across campus as we move forward. We also wanted to introduce the ECU Integrated Leadership Framework, the scaffolding on which we are building our approach to leadership development,” she said.

Harris said the framework works with what ECU faculty and staff are already doing to help students develop leadership capacity both inside and outside the classroom.

“We want to help faculty and program directors understand how to assess and improve upon these programs, many of which are already in place,” she said. The framework “works as a sort of overlay for existing programs,” while providing guidelines for planning and assessment “that unify our thinking and give us a common vocabulary that gets everyone pointed in the same direction.”

“It’s what we are already doing, but not always talking about,” Harris said.

Harris explained that leadership capacity takes time to develop. It is a blend of skills and self-knowledge, effective relationships and awareness of others, critical thinking, ethics, well-being and service. 

“We cannot simply require the students to take one class and expect them to emerge with the capacity for leadership,” Harris said. “It’s the sum of all the experiences students have during their time at East Carolina University.”

The ECU framework was developed based on research* co-authored by the forum’s keynote speaker, Julie Owen, assistant professor of leadership and integrative studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. ECU is actually the first university to implement the leadership identity development model proposed in Owen’s research. Owen explained her research and its application during the forum, followed by an interactive discussion through which forum participants generated ideas for application of the research concepts at ECU.

Forum breakout sessions provided an assessment workshop and a look at existing applications of the ECU framework from varied perspectives, including student programs in the colleges of Business, Nursing and Health and Human Performance as well as a faculty/staff program at the Brody School of Medicine.

The forum was sponsored by the ECU Leadership Collaborative with support from the Office of the Provost and funding from the BB&T Center for Leadership Development.

For additional information about the event, contact Kendra Harris at 252-737-2718,


* Komives, S.R., Longerbeam, S.D., Owen, J.E., Mainella, F.C., and Osteen, L. (2006). A leadership identity development model: Applications from a grounded theory. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), pp. 401-418.

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