Justice, ethics, collaboration: New minor launching in Social Change Leadership

Carrie Kortegast

NIU’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE) will begin this fall to offer an undergraduate minor in Social Change Leadership.

No matter a student’s professional aspirations, the development of leadership skills is essential for career success and important in an increasingly diverse community.

“There wasn’t a leadership minor on campus that was available to a broad array of students – not just in business, but in any major or college,” says Carrie Kortegast, assistant professor in CAHE. “Leadership can be learned, and if leadership can be learned, then it can be taught.”

Komives, S.R., Wagner, W., and Associates define social change leadership as a “purposeful, collaborative, values-based process that results in positive social change.”

But for NIU students who want to learn about social change leadership, either to teach it to future generations or to reinforce their own ability make a difference, the options have been limited until now.

Enter CAHE’s new minor in Social Change Leadership, an 18-credit program of that offers students the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills related to the theory and practice of leadership across various contexts.

Its approach to leadership focuses on examining the intersection of social justice, ethics and collaboration in the practice of leadership to promote positive social change.

Students will develop critical skills in self-reflection, including their personal values as they relate to ethical leadership. They will gain abilities in analysis and communication through service learning, internships and capstone projects.

“We will ask them to create and develop projects that integrate the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired,” Kortegast says. “This is going to be a way for students to foster their own career success.”

Meanwhile, she adds, people with foundational experience in social change leadership “are engaged in their communities and relate to their careers in ways that improve the communities they’re connected with.”

Paired with an NIU Themed Learning Community – Leadership for Social Change, which includes a special section of UNIV 101 taught by Renique Kersh, Monique Bernoudy and Alex Pitner – the new minor is expected to grow over time.

“Conversations of ethical leadership in politics and culture are timely and relevant, and I don’t think that’s going away,” Kortegast says. “There are larger questions right now in the United States, and young people are interested in them. There’s a place for them in social change leadership, and there’s a need for them.”

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