Leadership curriculum evolves through interdepartmental courses

The Psychology course “Leadership” (PSYCH 342) taught by the Chair of the Psychology Department George Goethals, inspired an interdepartmental course cluster to begin next fall.

Courses in music, English, French, political science, sociology, biology, psychology, theater, classics and possibly history will form a set of approximately six courses centered on the subject of leadership. Currently there are 11 people on the advisory committee of this curricular program. Although this cluster will not qualify as a concentration, a student fulfilling the recommended courses will receive a letter of acknowledgment. In the future, Goethals hopes to organize a way for students to earn credit for completing the leadership cluster curriculum. The leadership curriculum will extend beyond the classroom, and possibly work to provide more opportunities for student and faculty leadership training.

“We want to link the curricular program to other initiatives in leadership at the college. That would include training student leaders in connection with Dean [Wanda] Lee, and training staff members, perhaps a Winter Study [class] where alumni leaders work with students,” Goethals said.

Goethals’ psychology class inspired the academic paths of many students. Steve Danbusky ‘99 recently completed a 99 Winter Study project on leadership. “The course was one of the best classes I have taken at Williams. As a psych major, it offered a new dimension to the selection of courses,” Danbusky said. “The class was organized so well that I’m not sure I would change much about it.”

Gillian Weitz ‘99 is the first leadership studies contract major and comments on the perfect balance between the theoretical aspect of the class and the specific, present-day examples guest speakers provided.

“You look at the difference between psychology deeply rooted in theory, and a speaker talking about his or her own experiences,” Weitz said. “I have found this to be the perfect culmination of my strongest academic interests. I believe this major will be relevan to anyting I do in the future. Being able to recognize and remedy faulty leadership can improve the relations of a business, a school, a government and family.”

Goethals and Professor of Political Science Tim Cook both sponsored Weitz’s proposal for the leadership studies contract major.

Among the speakers who visited last year, was author and Williams alumnus James MacGregor Burns, who to Goethals was a great inspiration in the development of the class.

Classes to look for in the fall semester include Robert Jackall’s class on “Charisma,” English professor Suzanne Graver’s course on “The Artist as Citizen,” and classics professor Kerry Christensen’s course on “Leadership in the Ancient World.” There will also be leadership elective courses such as the Civil Rights Movement and Environmental Planning. A 402 independent study course will be available under the EXPR prefix involving topics in leadership.

Goethals anticipates using the soon-to-be renovated Elm Tree House on Mt. Hope Farm to house the program’s extracurricular activities.

“It will be used for various events. It’s a spectacular building and a wonderful setting for meetings and seminars. It’ll be a place away from the main campus where attention can be concentrated. But we are just beginning to think about that,” Goethals said.