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Graceland's Transformational Leadership Major

By: Jillian Hough

Transformational leadership can be defined as a leadership approach that causes change in individuals and social systems, or when a leader’s behaviors influence followers and inspire them to perform beyond their recognized capabilities. Graceland’s new Transformational Leadership major has launched this fall. The goal of the new curriculum is for each incoming freshman to receiving a Transformational Leadership major alongside their chosen major. According to Graceland’s website, the new major “provides students with both the classroom and experiential learning that provides them with the knowledge and skills to change the world”. The implementation of the new curriculum includes a Life and Leadership sequence, a general education component, and a Strategic Skills sequence that includes, Health and Wholeness, Data Fluency, and Social Responsibility. Graceland’s new initiative was created from the institution’s roots. “Since 1895, Graceland University has been developing students into people who will change the world by giving them the best experience and education possible.” Now, since the fall of 2022, Graceland hopes that transformational leadership becomes one of the cornerstones of the Graceland experience. However, after interviewing three students anonymously, the perceived attitude from the students regarding the new curriculum is almost entirely negative. Each student, whose majors included Social Change, Chemistry, and Nursing, unanimously said that the work they were given in Self Leadership was “busy work”. They also mentioned that other students felt the same way. One student notes, “it’s just a lot of extra work that that doesn’t help me in the long run. I would rather focus on work from my [chosen] classes instead of having to take a personality quiz or doing an engagement review”. Another student says that the Self Leadership professors, “were clearly roped into teaching the class”. It can be appreciated that leadership is a productive and real major, but the consensus was that the incoming freshmen have been given a mandatory major that takes time away from their chosen majors and is more busy work than anything. Dr. Joel Shrock, Graceland’s new Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, responded to student comments and described the importance of the major. He explains that, “the university was looking to find something...that would make students very competitive when they left for the marketplace,” when they created the Transformational Leadership major. He says, “the goal of this is to make our students as competitive as possible when they go out into the job market and we think that this major, paired with one of their traditional majors, is going to make them much more competitive than peer institutions.” He also responded to student comments about busy work and classes that potentially take away from their original major. “Whenever you have a requirement that is not in their major, you get reactions like that. It’s understandable, but...there’s almost no such thing as busy work, because all the work that you’re doing is preparing you and setting up skills that you will then have for later.” Dr. Shrock emphasized that any kind of practice will help you, whether it is a small assignment for Self- Leadership or a large paper for a research project. Although there is a great discord in the thoughts of administration and the students, perhaps this new curriculum can be shaped to fit the goals of the entire Graceland community. The future is unknown, but the students of 2026 are excited for their opportunities at Graceland and their careers beyond Lamoni city limits.

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