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  • Campus Involvement as a Predictor for Durable Leadership Development in Conjunction With Leadership Program Participation
  • David M. Rosch (bio) and Clinton M. Stephens (bio)

Postsecondary educators have long been faced with the challenge of developing the leadership capacity of their students (Komives, 2011). Recent trends reflect increased attention to this challenge in both scholarship and practice (Dugan & Komives, 2010). Indeed, the International Leadership Association (2015) lists almost 2,000 formal curricular and cocurricular leadership development programs in postsecondary education. Yet current multi-institutional research suggests the benefits of participation in formal programs are mixed at best; whereas results are generally positive, they exhibit wide variation (Dugan et al., 2011). A critical need exists to better understand the conditions under which the leadership development of students can be sustained, especially in the context of participation in one-time leadership programs, which remain a backbone of cocurricular leadership education (Owen, 2012).

A potentially fruitful avenue of investigation is the examination of how students’ involvement with others on campus affect leadership-related gains students make when participating in leadership programs. Campus involvement has been long studied in college impact research for the role it plays in producing desirable outcomes (Astin, 1999; Fischer, 2007) and has been associated with increased capacity for socially responsible leadership (Dugan & Komives, 2010). Astin (1999) defined campus involvement broadly, whereas we focused the construct to include formal aspects of involvement associated with the potential ability to practice or reflect on leadership behaviors: engagement in student organizations, employment on campus, enrollment in academic courses with substantive collaborative learning projects or where leadership is a central focus, and consistent interaction with a faculty or staff [End Page 1107] mentor. Presumably, students who are involved in these types of activities possess the potential to practice or reflect on the learning that occurs in participating in leadership education initiatives. In addition, we define leadership capacity as the degree to which students possess the potential to enact effective leadership behaviors (Keating, Rosch, & Burgoon, 2014). We examined the degree to which varying aspects of campus involvement might serve as predictors for durable gains in leadership capacity within students who participate in formal leadership education.

We utilized the “ready, willing, and able” conceptual framework by Keating et al. (2014) who suggested that the goals of leadership educators should include inculcating in students the comprehensive leadership capacity to be ready (i.e., poised to confidently act), willing (i.e., feel a call to act), and able (i.e., possess the requisite skill to act). Accordingly, if any of the three capacities are depressed, students may not exhibit effective leadership behavior, the ultimate goal of training programs. Adopting this model, we included three corresponding aspects of effective leadership in our conceptual framework: leadership self-efficacy to indicate readiness, affective-identity motivation to lead to indicate willingness, and leadership skill to indicate an ability to act. Leadership self-efficacy is defined as favorably judging one’s ability to successfully act as a leader (Murphy, 1992). Affective-identity motivation to lead refers to one’s sense of self as a leader and the corresponding press to display leadership behaviors (Chan & Drasgow, 2001). Leadership skill, within the context of this study, refers to both transformational leadership skills, the capacity to create sustainable change and authentic relationships (Bass, 1998), and ethical leadership skills, defined as the capacity to adhere to societal and organizational standards while leading (Brown, Treviño, & Harrison, 2005).

We investigated the following research question: To what degree do formal opportunities for involvement predict durable growth in leadership capacity in students who participate in a formal leadership development initiative?


Population and Sample

Our study sample was drawn from the population of university students who participated in a 6-day LeaderShape Institute during the 2014–2015 academic year. These institutes were partnerships between postsecondary institutions and LeaderShape, Inc., a not-for-profit leadership education organization, where students in groups of 40–70 travel off campus for 6 days with a small group of faculty and staff facilitators for the purpose of student leadership development. We chose a group of 16 institutions, which consented to participate in this research study, that were diverse in regard to size, selectivity, control, location, and...


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pp. 1107-1112
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