Leadership in Action

Transformative Leadership Development

for Community Writing and the Engaged College/University



  • Ellen Cushman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion, Northeastern University, Boston

  • Veronica House, Associate Director for Service Learning and Outreach, University of Colorado, Boulder

  • Thomas Miller, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of Arizona, Tucson


Register on line for this workshop at the Conference on College Composition & Communication.  


This workshop will contribute to this year’s conference emphasis on social justice and activism by using leadership development as a lens to focus on the collaborative endeavor to transform higher education through the frame of the “engaged university.” The current political moment and the increasing corporatization of our universities present us all with transformative leadership opportunities and call upon us to reassess how we understand our own leadership capacities within and outside of the academy. This workshop will be facilitated by leading scholars in the community writing movement and faculty who have built or directed outreach and leadership programs.  The facilitators will lead table discussions with workshop participants and offer advice based on their experience developing engaged programs and serving in interdisciplinary or non-university leadership roles that connect with community groups.  


Our workshop is guided by the assumption that leadership begins with reflections on what we are working to achieve and how we are perceived by others.  To translate such reflections into action, we need to develop collaborative networks that reach across and beyond the university.  Mapping these networks is a vital step in planning how to advance projects to engage stakeholders and negotiate institutional and community constraints and priorities.


The three sessions listed below will build on each other to engage participants in the reflections that are needed to foster deep learning about one’s own leadership capabilities.  Each session will open with a brief overview to provide a theoretical framework and prompts for the discussions, including theories of collaborative, distributed, and adaptive leadership, community organizing, and network mapping.  Participants will have the chance to use projects they are working on as points of reference.  As we move through the sessions, participants will map their leadership networks to assess their spheres of influence, and then we will consider how to frame projects, engage stakeholders, and advance collaborative initiatives.  We will conclude by reflecting upon the steps necessary to enact your leadership goals inside and outside of academia.


Session Mentor-Facilitators:

·       Steven Alvarez, St. John’s University

·       Paul Feigenbaum, Florida International University

·       Tobi Jacobi, Colorado State University

·       Tiffany Rousculp, Salt Lake Community College

·       Erec Smith, York College

·       Stephanie Wade, Bates College


Session 1) Crossing the Intersections: In this session on reflective leadership, we will begin by considering leadership as a process rather than as a position for exercising power over others.  Framed by theories of adaptive, distributed, and collaborative leadership, we will reflect upon our own views of leadership and how we are ourselves perceived by others.  We will discuss how to strengthen our collaborative networks and our own leadership potential by considering how perceptions of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and institutional rank shape the ways we are perceived and our perception of what we are able to achieve. 


Session 2) Building Coalitions to Advance Change: We will continue our examinations of leadership as a collaborative process of working through our differences by mapping out participants’ networks and considering how they can be used to build inclusive coalitions.  Participants will brainstorm on how to frame selected projects they bring to the table to engage stakeholders and challenge prevailing hierarchies.  In this and the next session we will draw upon Cavanaugh’s “’Naming the Moment’ A participatory process of political analysis for action.”  As in the previous session, we will also discuss how collaborative leadership strategies can help us strengthen our own institutional positions and advance our individual programs of work by charting organizational priorities and surveying our networks to expand our spheres of influence. 


Session 3) Community Organizing to Build Leadership Capacity: In our concluding session, we will examine how to advance community partnerships and institutional change. We will continue our discussions of the methods in “Naming the Moment” to assess how to plan a program of action that negotiates institutional priorities, power structures, and needs to advance collaborations with external communities.  We will also reflect upon the institutional transformations that are shaping the emergence of the engaged university, which is raising the standing of community outreach and public writing, as is discussed in various readings on our resource page, including those that offer practical advice on how to position and advance collaborative leadership initiatives.