Leadership studies forms a new curricular cluster; classes begin in fall

A new cluster of classes listed under the subject “Leadership Studies” in the 1998-99 Williams College Bulletin is being offered to students. The cluster is not a major or a concentration, since student interest is not large enough yet and new faculty members are not being hired, but is intended to reflect student interest in a particular area.

Jewish Studies and Latin American Studies are other cluster courses which have been provided for students interested in those areas.

Professor of Classics Meredith Hoppin said, “I believe that Williams students today, like many Americans, are not so much apathetic about social and political issues as they are at a loss about how to intervene, influence and make a difference. I hope that the Leadership Studies program will help many students find and create ways to overcome that frustration.”

Six core cluster classes, 15 elective classes and three Winter Study courses will be added to next year’s course offerings.

By taking two of the cluster courses, two leadership studies electives, and EXPR 402 “Topics in Leadership,” students can complete the recommended Leadership Studies curriculum. The purpose of the program is to gain an interdisciplinary understanding of the phenomena of leadership. Like other cluster courses, transcripts will not recognize a student’s involvement in the program; instead students will receive a letter certifying their completion of the requirements.

“I like the idea of having an interdisceplanary cluster. The idea of approaching a subject matter from various fields is intriguing. It sounds like something people from a lot of different majors will be interested in,” Samantha Grant ’01 said.

The 15 elective courses from the Leadership Studies curriculum are from the economics, biology, environmental studies, history, music, political science, religion and women’s studies departments.

Professor of Psychology George Goethals, chair of this program, said he hopes students will form a well-rounded understanding of leadership by studying leadership from various perspectives.

The cluster classes will be taught by current professors from the anthropology/sociology, English, French, philosophy, political science and psychology departments. No new professors will be hired to teach classes for this curriculum.

“Finding a topic that a lot of faculty are interested in is one of the exciting things about this program,” Goethals said.

This past fall, Goethals contacted a number of professors from a multitude of departments to help him create this new cluster. The professors who showed interest are now members of the Advisory Committee.

The committee includes Goethals, Professor of Biology Henry Art, Professor of Theatre Jean-Bernard Bucky, Jr., Professor of Political Science Timothy Cook, Professor of History Dennis Dickerson, Professor of Romance Languages Susan Dunn, Professor of English Suzanne Graver, Professor of Classics Meredith Hoppin, Professor of Anthropology/Sociology Robert Jackall, Associate Professor of Music Jennifer Bloxam, Associate Professor of Classics Kerry Christensen and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Samuel Fleischacker.

Professor of Romance Languages Susan Dunn will be teaching a course on revolutionary leadership and the uses of power in a revolutionary situation. “It’s a fundamental lesson about democracy to see how American leaders like Madison and Jefferson realized that non-violent political conflict is the essence of democratic politics while the French revolutionary leaders used their power to cut the heads off their adversaries,” Dunn said. “Leadership and conflict, leadership and power and intellectual leadership are some of the issues I’ll focus on.”

The idea of a Leadership Studies program initiated with now retired Professor James MacGregor Burns. Burns graduated from Williams in 1939, and later won a Pulitzer Prize for works on Franklin Roosevelt. He published the book Leadership and has been trying to persuade the College administration to adopt a leadership program for about 10 years. Recently he has been working with Goethals and other faculty to develop this program.

The program will not be a ‘how-to’ course in leadership. One possible problem Fleischacker foresees is that people will take the courses with the idea that they will learn the practical steps to becoming a leader.

“We are a school that produces leaders and many students here expect to become leaders. My worry is that people will take the courses to learn how to do this… It won’t be like that.”

Goethals is very optimistic about the new program. “I think it is a very exciting initiative because it is a very important topic. Williams students will become leaders and I think they will be better off the more they know about the leadership phenomena.”

The success of the Leadership Studies program will ultimately depend on student support.

Cluster Courses for the 1998-99 Academic year:

ANSO 352 “Following the Leader: Charisma, Tradition and Bureaucracy” Professor Jackall

English 378 “The Artist as Citizen” Professor Graver (to be offered ë99-í00)

French 212 “Sister Revolutions in France and America” Professor Dunn

Philosophy 213 “Authority and Freedom” Professor Fleischacker

Political Science 218 “Presidential Politics” Professor Cook

Psychology 342 “Psychology of Leadership” Professor Goethals