Toolkit Resources


Fort Hays State University: Organizational Leadership

Jill Arensdorf
Chair and Associate Professor

Fort Hays State University (FHSU) is a regional comprehensive institution located in Hays, KS with a student population of over 14,000 students. The mission of FHSU is to “provide accessible quality education to Kansas, the nation, and the world through an innovative community of teacher-scholars and professionals to develop engaged global citizen-leaders.” Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), FHSU offers undergraduate and graduate programs out of 31 academic departments via three different modalities (on campus, online, and international: The Department of Leadership Studies ( was created in 2001 with its mission “to educate and nurture citizens to lead our organizations, communities, state, nation, and beyond.” The department offers its undergraduate degree program through the on campus, online, and international modalities with 18 full time faculty members and numerous adjunct professors teaching coursework each semester.

In addition to minors and certificates in Leadership Studies, the Department of Leadership Studies offers a BA/BS interdisciplinary major in Organizational Leadership. That degree program integrates three principal themes throughout the curriculum: creating change, collaboration, and collective/common purposes. The three themes described provide the foundation and purpose for the entire undergraduate program: 1) Creating Change - First and foremost, leadership is about creating change. There are several important elements to our creating change theme. First, leadership is about “purposefully” seeking change. Second, leadership refers to transformational or fundamental changes rather than small incremental adjustments. Third, the purpose of change is “positive” movement. Therefore, leadership is about making “improvement” or “correcting discrepancies” between what is and what ought to be for the collective good. 2) Collaboration - It is critically important that our methods of practicing leadership reflect the new post-industrial paradigm of leadership if we hope to be successful. These approaches are characterized by cooperation, power sharing, and empowerment. When individuals are engaged constructively and effectively with others around issues that affect them or that they care about, they can achieve positive results. 3) Collective and Common Purposes - If leadership is a relationship for change, and collaborative approaches are the preferred method, then the final step in the cycle is to encourage change that makes things better for all. The collective/common purpose theme represents a shift from the earlier purpose of leadership that emphasized goal attainment for individual good (the leader) to the current commitment to collective and common good (organizations and communities). Finally, this theme encourages students to take action on behalf of the larger good. Each person has a responsibility to carry change forward for themselves and their collective units.

Students in the Organizational Leadership major curriculum experience these three themes through content delivered in courses, as well as experiential civic learning and engagement opportunities, which are intertwined with the student learning outcomes. Please click on the on the “Infographic” bar to view the themes.  

Scaffolded Levels of Student Learning
Students at FHSU participate in a General Education program which commits to producing a liberally educated person. One of the key tenants of a liberally educated person at FHSU is civic, which is defined as “responsive and responsible; possesses the desire and the courage to act; and is intellectually prepared to take an effective role in community life.” ( A second tenant with strong civic outcomes is that a liberally educated person is holistic—is tolerant, values diversity, and understands and appreciates each individual’s contributory relationship to the wider society, culture, and environment.” Throughout the foundation and upper-integrative courses taken in the general education program, students also have the opportunity to enhance their reflective abilities, becoming more knowledgeable, holistic, well-rounded citizens. Having been grounded in these key civic academic experiences in general education, students then begin their major courses.

Civic learning and social responsibility are embedded throughout the entire Organizational Leadership major program; however, they are emphasized in two courses in particular. The first, The Field Work in Leadership Studies course (LDRS 310), connects students to community organizations all over the world through a semester-long service-learning project. All students in our major, minor, and undergraduate certificate programs are required to take this course, which not only solidifies leadership skills, but also gives students an opportunity to explore civic and social responsibility. Most students complete this course during their sophomore or junior year.

The second is The Principles of Civic Leadership course (LDRS 640), which provides students with a deeper understanding of the major components and principles of civic leadership. Classroom activities examine the leadership process in the context of community and society. This approach encourages ordinary citizens to take responsibility, organize, and build coalitions to effect social change. All Organizational Leadership majors at FHSU take this course during their junior or senior academic year.

Exemplary Courses That Highlight a Civic Lens
Field Work in Leadership Studies (LDRS 310)
Course Summary - This interdisciplinary course is designed to provide the student with an awareness and understanding of current issues relating to the nature and tasks of collaborative leadership behavior. The student is asked to identify an issue or problem and practice leadership by developing and implementing a community project.

Principles of Civic Leadership – LDRS 640
Course Summary - This course is designed to provide the student with a deeper understanding of the major components and principles of civic leadership. Classroom activities examine the leadership process in the context of community and society. This approach encourages ordinary citizens to take responsibility, organize, and build coalitions to make social change.

Exemplary Project Descriptions
Through the aforementioned Field Work in Leadership Studies (LDRS 310) course, students are asked to serve as leaders in their communities by conducting a semester-long community project of their choice with an organization in their respective community.

Process for Adoption
The Department of Leadership Studies and Organizational Leadership was founded in 2001.  Prior to that time (1992-2000), leadership courses were offered at FHSU with a strong civic lens. The major program was created to meet a demand for leadership skills in the workforce, but also due to the public service and public interest mission of FHSU, a state liberal arts university. From its inception, the program aimed to promote the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary nature of leadership and organizational development, but also to develop change-agent graduates who would strive to improve organizations both in the private and public sector. Graduates would be “civic minded in that they would have a sense of community and a commitment to civic responsibility and action” (Proposed Program in Organizational Leadership, 2000). Since that time, the Department of Leadership Studies, along with the Center for Civic Leadership which offers co-curricular civic learning and engagement programs at Fort Hays State University, have provided multiple opportunities for students to develop leadership skills that transfer to organizations, including civic and non-profit organizations. Since the creation of the Department of Leadership Studies, the faculty and staff have reviewed the major curriculum every five years to ensure that it is meeting both student and societal needs. The civic focus has been present and emphasized throughoutthosereviews and subsequent program changes.

Internal and External Influences
Fort Hays State University has been a leader in civic learning and community engagement for many years, with our mission focusing on the development of global citizen leaders. Fort Hays State University has a long and rich history of developing citizens and civic leaders for our state, nation, and world. Additionally, the university’s outreach activities have had a dramatic impact on the Hays area, Kansas, and the region. More recently, FHSU has endorsed and participated in the modern civic engagement movement. In the 1980s and 1990s, our general education program was revised with the goal of producing civic-minded graduates and the Docking Institute of Public Affairs expanded its programming to engage student and faculty in civic and public issues. Through AmeriCorps and VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) programs and grants, both academic and student affairs have been active in community service and citizenship development. From 2001-2003, FHSU established the Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), joined the American Democracy Project housed at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), and created the Service-Learning Faculty Committee with the goal of encouraging community-based and service pedagogies. FHSU’s community service program, Tigers in Service, was also created and funded by the Student Government Association in 2003. A few years later, the Division of Student Affairs established the successful Center for Student Involvement to enhance the university’s engagement efforts. Currently, FHSU has expanded all these efforts, as well as created new initiatives around the issues of addressing world-wide hunger, working collaboratively with AASCU institutions to incorporate the Global Challenges initiatives, and has established a service-learning fellows program. The University has been recognized both regionally and nationally as a leader in the field of civic engagement.  Due to the rich civic engagement history of FHSU, the Department of Leadership Studies has always worked to incorporate the University mission into the curricular program, but also co-curricular programming in cooperation with the Center for Civic Leadership.

In 2014, two Leadership Studies faculty members engaged the campus in a two-year civic investment plan research and writing project that resulted in a plan to institutionalize civic learning and community engagement across all disciplines throughout FHSU. A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) calling education institutions to action, was used as the foundation for this project. Work is currently underway to revise this plan for new administration at FHSU. The two authors also published a portion of this work in the Journal of Leadership Studies in 2017 on how community engagement as a pedagogy can prepare the next generation of leaders.

Assessment and evaluation tools are used to measure the course and program learning outcomes in the Organizational Leadership major. A revision of the major’s assessment plan has occurred over the past two years. Currently, students are asked to complete the Social Change Leadership Inventory created by Dr. Curt Brungardt during their first leadership course (LDRS 300 – Introduction to Leadership Concepts) and upon completion of their LDRS 310 – Field Work in Leadership Studies course experience. For the past seven years, we have seen a statistically significant difference between the pre- and post-scores. This difference reflects that student’s perceptions of their understanding and practice of the concepts of civic responsibility and leadership have increased after their Field Work experience.

Utilizing the LDRS 310 rubric (found in the document in the “Exemplary Course Specifics” link) developed within the Department of Leadership Studies to measure the major program student learning outcomes, we know that students’ abilities to address conflict appropriately and work across factions have increased each year after being measured at the conclusion of the Field Work in Leadership Studies course. The Department of Leadership Studies is in the final stages of developing a rubric to measure these elements again after their capstone experiences within the major program. Data is not yet available on this measure.

Below are a few quotes from former students who have taken Field Work in Leadership Studies.
“Field Work in Leadership Studies is the most beneficial class any college student can take. I learned how to work effectively with a team and apply my knowledge to real-life opportunities for a good cause.” –on-campus student
My favorite class was Field Work in Leadership Studies. Because this is a service-learning class I had the opportunity to practice my leadership knowledge to solve problems in different situations. It was good for me to enrich my experiences and civic responsibility, and also develop my personal leadership skills. –international student

“This service learning project (in Field Work in Leadership Studies) has been one of the most powerful life lessons I’ve learned let alone one of the most meaningful college classes I’ve been able to participate in. I’ve learned tons and tons about what it takes to be a leader. It’s a lot of work but the benefits are worth it. I took this class thinking no matter where I go or what I do, leadership will not hurt me. I also took it as a tool to help me guide my children towards successful futures and rewarding lifestyles. I have learned lessons that will forever stay with me. Things such as the importance of determination, collaboration, problem solving, consideration and a positive attitude. I’ve revived my own sense of community and I’ve enjoyed being a part of a community who has a common goal and works together in order to solve it. This project has reinforced the true importance of civil stewardship. For these reasons alone I feel that service learning is an important instruction method for teachers. Receiving feedback and suggestions throughout this process has helped ensure this is a successful project.

I’d like to end with a sincere, honest comment. I planned on doing this project, getting it done and moving on after I got the grade. These reflections and the opportunity to look back and see what accomplishments have been made and how we’ve been successful and what goals we still need to achieve has made me change my mind. I sincerely appreciate the volunteer group who has assisted me and the city members who have called extra meetings to help accomplish these goals.  Stopping now would leave me feeling guilty to each and every individual who has helped me but more importantly, it would likely destroy that just renewed sense of community. This sense makes me feel proud, happy and in a weird way healthy. It keeps me grounded and reminds me that we’re all in it together, not only this project but life in general. Although I don’t think I’ll live in this area forever, I have made it my personal goal to stay on top of this project and keep searching for success. If I ever do move, I will make sure someone who is competent and compassionate about it will take over and keep moving forward. I’ve realized how important service learning is, how it never ends and how we’re all responsible for the community with which we live in and make it a better place. I am positive that all the of the skills I’ve learned in this class will come in handy throughout other leadership roles and service learning projects I am far more likely to take part in now.” -online student

Begin with Student Learning Outcomes. The conversations about the infusion of civic learning and engagement should begin with program/major level student learning outcomes and how those connect to the overall mission of the institution. If you begin these conversations at the macro level, then weaving civic learning and engagement into specific course outcomes and learning assessment will come naturally. If you imagine moving student along a continuum of civic learning and engagement throughout their academic major experience, this approach can assist faculty in designing opportunities that will enable students to transfer learned knowledge, skills, and attitudes to their respective careers and communities.

Words of Advice

  • Collaborate with Others and Utilize Existing Resources. There are a number of outstanding resources available through AAC&U, including the VALUE rubrics, conference opportunities, sample syllabi, the Crucible Moment national report, and others. Utilize those resources to find a network of people with whom you can collaborate and share resources across your specific field of study or discipline.
  • Find or Create Champions at your Institution.  Faculty and staff members must be the architects of a civically engaged department and can serve as role models in transforming our students into civically engaged citizens. A few champions in this area can not only help drive departmental buy-in, but also work to influence tenure, merit, and promotion processes to include and recognize engaged scholarship.

Looking for more information on the courses and projects? Please return to the top of the page and click on the “Exemplary Course Specifics” and “Exemplary Project Details” buttons found under the campus logo.