A look at Leadership Education Programs

Snapshots – A Look at Leadership Education Programs
Academic Leadership Programs – A Snapshot of What We Know

by Jennifer Batchelder and Kathy L. Guthrie

Jennifer BatchelderJennifer Batchelder is currently a second-year doctoral student in the Florida State University Higher Education program. Her research interest involves the process of student involvement and how it leads to generativity (the fifth stage of the Leadership Identity Development model). She is currently a graduate research assistant for the Leadership Learning Research Center at FSU where she serves as an instructor for the leadership certificate program and contributes to research on leadership programs across the United States and internationally in partnership with ILA. Jennifer received her Bachelor’s in Marketing and Master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Texas State University-San Marcos. 

Kathy L. GuthrieDr. Kathy L. Guthrie is associate professor in the higher education program, director of the Leadership Learning Research Center, and coordinator of the Undergraduate Certificate in Leadership Studies at Florida State University. She currently serves as associate editor for the New Directions in Student Leadership series and editor of the Contemporary Perspectives on Leadership Learning book series. Her research focuses on leadership learning outcomes, environment of leadership and civic education, and technology in leadership education. Kathy has been involved in ILA in various ways over the years, most recently as past-chair of the Leadership Scholarship Member Interest Group.


Snapshots - A Look at Leadership Education Programs explores research findings on leadership education programs in the United States based on research conducted by the Leadership Learning Research Center (LLRC) at Florida State University in partnership with the International Leadership Association. In this month’s column, the history of ILA’s Leadership Education Program database and ILA’s partnership with LLRC is explored along with a general overview of the research findings thus far and forthcoming questions.

As leadership scholars, practitioners, and educators, International Leadership Association (ILA) members understand the positive influence learning leadership has on a person’s identity and professional trajectory. Although there has been research on the number of academic leadership programs in higher education, research on the specifics of such programs is lacking. Because of this gap in knowledge, the Leadership Learning Research Center at Florida State University requested access to the
ILA Leadership Education Program directory in 2016. After over two years of additional data collection, the first steps in filling the knowledge gap of details on academic leadership programs have begun. The 2018 publication of Academic Leadership Programs in the United States (Guthrie, Teig, & Hu, 2018) continues the conversation regarding academic leadership programs in the United States. This research report has engaged scholars, practitioners, and educators from across the country and has surfaced questions about the type of information that would be helpful for our field. Because of this, the International Leadership Association and the Leadership Learning Research Center (LLRC) at Florida State University are excited to announce their partnership in order to continue digging deeper into the specifics of leadership programming both within the United States and internationally.

The ILA Directory is an important tool for members and non-members to find information on academic leadership programs around the world. This tool can be used by prospective students and leadership educators as a means to identify institutions, as well as by scholars to look for data points. Students may be seeking to learn about institutions that have degree programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Academic programs maintain their profile in the directory as a way to reach prospective students, as well as to identify comparable institutions for benchmarking and further development of their programs. Data for the directory was originally collected by the ILA thanks to the generous support of the C. Charles Jackson Foundation, which provided the original seed money for its creation. In addition to collecting data, ILA issued invitations to institutions who then self-identified their academic leadership programs for inclusion... With targeted programs and the ILA completing the first round of data collection, the directory produced a substantial display of academic leadership programs. However, as with any living document, information can quickly become outdated without detailed attention and constant revision. Since its launch, the directory has relied upon ILA members and student interns to update, add, or delete programs.

As the LLRC research team began to inquire about leadership programs for their research, they undertook a round of deep cleaning, updating, and adding new institutional programs to the directory. This took just over two years. We invite you to make sure your curricular academic leadership program is listed (and listed correctly) in the directory. Changes may be entered here or emailed to Jennifer Batchelder at jbatchelder@fsu.edu with the subject line ILA Directory Update or you can update your program information at https://goo.gl/uthF1f. The results from this initial effort were quite informative and rewarding to share. As the research team at LLRC moved through its first stages of research, it was clear the directory provided a wealth of information and only led to more research questions.

As LLRC shared the directory updates uncovered in its deep clean with the ILA, excitement grew around the potential to further fill an information gap. In August of 2018, ILA and FSU formalize their partnership to continue research and share resources. This partnership is made with the intention of benefiting ILA members and the field of leadership as a whole. In addition to providing a sustainable method for maintaining the ILA Directory, this partnership will also provide ILA members with valuable updates on the research being conducted on academic programs. Information will be provided through this article series in the ILA Interface newsletter and in future research reports. In this first article, we would like to highlight a few of the findings reported in Guthrie et al. (2018) Academic Leadership Programs in the United States.

Research Report Overview of Academic Leadership Programs in the United States

When the LLRC team began discussing the lack of information on academic leadership programs, they found that many other leadership educators have also been curious about programs only to find a lack of complete information. This led the research team to start with identifying what knowledge was already published on leadership program. After a thorough literature review on leadership programs was conducted, a short list of research was identified (Brungardt, 1997; Brungardt, Greenleaf, Brungardt, & Arensdorf, 2006; Owen, 2008; Reisburg, 1998; Roberts, 1981; Watkins, 2018) and was limited to the number of academic leadership programs within the United States. Although the number of programs is useful, more specifics about the programs themselves was needed.

In higher education, one of the first dualities of leadership programs is between curricular and co-curricular contexts in which programs are offered. In exploring curricular programs, it was easy to categorize leadership programs on college campuses that offered academic course credit. However, the vast variety of leadership programs offered at even a small institution continued to challenge what would be included in defining leadership programs for this research. Institutions have programs that vary in the departments they are situated in, the content covered, the cumulative phases of the program, and the requirements to complete the program. Although the interest in co-curricular programs continues, starting with curricular programs allowed the research team to start building data in a systematic way. With the hopes of expanding the data internationally, the team started in the United States to better understand the scope of programs being offered in a targeted location.

The initial data received from ILA (2016) yielded a total of 1,572 academic programs in the United States. As the directory is self-reported information, one of the challenges is keeping the data current. In the first round of revisions, the LLRC research team (comprised of an associate professor, a doctoral student, a master’s student, and two undergraduate students) spent countless hours visiting program websites of each institutional profile. This provided the team the opportunity to confirm, update, add new, and remove non-existing programs. This resulted in a total of 1,558 programs to include in the initial research.

Beyond general numbers, the study expanded into describing the types of institutions offering these leadership programs, as well as began exploring institutional demographics, program course offerings, and course descriptions. This information provided insight into the types of degrees, state and regional locations of programs, as well as information on common types of courses offered in these programs. Three common courses found regularly in academic leadership programs included leadership theory, experiential based, and communication. Learn more about the results of this research, by downloading the report). Although the report shares basic information, the LLRC team at FSU in partnership with ILA is continuing to explore program demographics, descriptions, and course offerings. The ILA and LLRC are excited to continue this work and, in future columns, share what we are finding.

Excited for the Future

Through distributing and presenting the original report, we have received inquiries about specific aspects of the data collected. In the coming months, we will share more details on our findings. These updates will begin by going further into the demographics of the institutions and their academic leadership programs. As we continue to dig into the data, we will share information on some of the most common questions received. At ILA’s 2018 global conference in West Palm Beach, we learned that insight into leadership courses within programs sparked the most interest of attendees we talked with. We are dedicated to sharing supplementary information related to program courses, structures, and content. In particular, future reports hope to uncover more about the theory and experiential course content for programs in the United States. Additionally, we are looking forward to sharing new content as we are in the early stages of exploring data for the academic leadership programs internationally. In the spirit of preparing for the 2019 ILA annual global conference in Ottawa this October, the research will begin with a focus on programs in Canada and continue on to Europe. If you have any specific questions or contributions for this continued research, please reach out to current graduate assistant and ILA intern, Jennifer Batchelder (jbatchelder@fsu.edu).


Brungardt, C. (1997). The Making of Leaders: A Review of the Research in Leadership Development and Education. Journal of Leadership Studies, 3(3), 81-95.

Brungardt, C., Greenleaf, J., Brungardt, C., & Arensdorf, J. (2006). Majoring in Leadership: A Review of Undergraduate Leadership Degree Programs. Journal of Leadership Education, 5(1), 4-25.

Guthrie, K. L., Teig, T. S., & Hu, P. (2018). Academic Leadership Programs in the United States. Tallahassee, FL: Leadership Learning Research Center, Florida State University.

International Leadership Association. (2016). Leadership Program Directory. Retrieved from http://www.ila-net.org/Resources/LPD/index.htm on June 16, 2016.

Owen, J. E. (2008). Towards an Empirical Typology of Collegiate Leadership Development Programs: Examining Effects on Student Self-Efficacy and Leadership for Social Change (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/8491?show=full.

Reisberg, L. (October 30, 1998). Students Gain Sense of Direction in New Field of Leadership Studies. Chronicle of Higher Education, 45(10), A49-A50.

Roberts, D. C. (Ed.). (1981). Student Leadership Programs in Higher Education. Carbondale, IL: American College Personnel Association.

Watkins, S. (2018). Contributions of Student Affairs Professional Organizations to Collegiate Student Leadership Programs in the Late Twentieth Century (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/2119982473?accountid=4840.