11qTell us about your Master of Strategic Leadership program. What is the concept behind it?

Ehrhardt: The MSL is a graduate business degree focused on core business areas such as strategic management or leadership communication and empowers current and future leaders. The MSL helps student tap into the theories, concepts and practices that make effective formal or informal leaders instead of focusing on the operational side of business. The curriculum focuses on concepts that can be applied to any organization or industry.


Who is the ideal candidate to earn the degree?

Ehrhardt: The ideal candidate has a minimum of three years of professional, supervisory or significant leadership experiences to bring to the online classroom environment. We focus on key concepts from theory and put these concepts into practice based on previous or current experiences so the coursework is relevant. Our students typically range in age from 30 to 50s, though we recently had a graduate who was 72 when she finished her MSL and began a second career.


What types of hard skills might one learn in this program?

Ehrhardt: Students create a leadership development plan in their first course, Leadership Communication. They set their own measurable development goals and maintain this plan throughout their program. Then they submit a self-reflection and review these goals in their final course.

Students also learn to practice self-reflection, which is a key attribute leaders possess today. The practice of self-reflection primarily happens through the use of journaling. For example, the most recent leadership approaches to emerge in the literature are authentic, transformational and servant leaders. Students take assessments related to these leadership approaches as well as other theories to learn more about themselves or how they relate to others. Self-reflection is a practice of recognizing positive leadership attributes already possessed and where there are potential leadership blind spots.

Organizational behavior allows students to learn about motivational theories so they learn the role of motivation in employee performance, understanding basic needs and applying these theories to analyze performance. Students will also learn about organizational politics, which is critical to understand in any organization.


How does this program differ from and complement your online program and other graduate school programs?

Ehrhardt: The MSL is online 100 percent. Our learning management system, Canvas, gives us the ability to engage with students on a more personal level through the use of media within Canvas. We use asynchronous tools for presentations and mini-lectures. We have personal interactions with our students, which creates a culture of empathy and understanding with accountability. I know my students when they call or email me.


What options are available for nontraditional students, either people working full time while taking classes or going back to school after being in the workforce?

Willey: Stephens College makes a great effort to cater to the nontraditional student. We offer several programs 100 percent online as well as on-campus classes held in the evenings to accommodate the working student. Our online programs all have an orientation component included to familiarize students with our online learning management system and the curriculum.


How does this program fit into the greater goals and future plans of Stephens College?

Willey: Stephens College prides itself on adapting to the current demands of the market. This can be evidenced by the move of several of our programs, including the MSL, to go 100 percent online and eliminate the on-campus requirement. Stephens is always looking to increase programs that align with the college’s overall strategic mission.


What other new opportunities has Stephens recently created that the local business community should be aware of?

Willey: The M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction is now offered 100 percent online. This change was made to accommodate teachers’ busy schedule during the academic year and also allow them to have more flexibility in the summer. We are also accepting new enrollments in the fall and spring semester as well as the summer semester.

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