Public Agenda

Seven Practices of Enlightened Leadership in Higher Education

A Case Study of Austin Peay State University

This is the story about how truly enlightened leadership combined with authentic faculty engagement has the power to transform college culture and amplify student success.

It is the story of Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, where we intended to study the implementation of a new course recommendation system. We quickly realized, however, that Austin Peay offered much more than a straightforward account about the adoption of a new technological tool.

We have conducted dozens of focus groups with institutional stakeholders in nearly half the states in the United States, and rarely have we heard the kinds of attitudes and opinions as those expressed by administrators, faculty and staff at Austin Peay.

With an uncommonly positive and collaborative tone, nearly all of the faculty and staff we spoke to described high levels of confidence and trust in leadership that they and their colleagues share. They also spoke of an environment where innovation on behalf of student success is embraced and supported – even in cases where it challenges people to think and act differently, often outside of their comfort zones.

In this report, we describe the general climate of Austin Peay and how what we heard from faculty and staff there differed from what we usually hear. We also elevate the voices of administrators, faculty and staff at the college, as we illuminate the leadership practices that led to this heartening divergence from the norm.

While principles of leadership are expounded in countless settings, we focus in this report on the key practices of leadership. Seven emerged in our conversations at Austin Peay:

This report is based on eight focus groups with senior adminis¬trators, faculty, advisers and students at Austin Peay. We also held individual conversations with the president and provost. All in all, more than 60 members of the Austin Peay community – from both the main campus and Fort Campbell – participated in the focus groups.

It is important to note that while such qualitative research is a powerful vehicle for generating a deeper understanding of a problem, making sense of quantitative data and identifying new areas of inquiry, all conclusions drawn from small-scale, exploratory research of this kind should be viewed as suggestive rather than definitive.


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Seven Practices of Enlightened Leadership in Higher Education

A Case Study of Austin Peay State University

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In this report, we describe the general climate of Austin Peay and how what we heard from faculty and staff there differed from what we usually hear.

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