Taking Leader Development to a Higher Level

Universities are working together to develop the next generation of leaders.

Since its creation in 2015, the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University has worked with more than 2,600 students to increase the leadership capacity of students across campus.

To achieve this mission, the institute has partnered with the Carnegie Foundation Elective Classifications Team to establish an Elective Classification in Leadership for Public Purpose. In early 2020, the Doerr Institute welcomed more than 30 representatives from such universities as Simmons University, the United States Air Force Academy and Yale University to the Rice campus to draft a framework for the elective classification.

“This new improvement process aims to examine the institutional indicators of a university or college that is committed to elevating leadership for all stakeholders,” said Carla Ortega Santori, Doerr Institute strategic initiatives manager. “It’s time that higher education act on its social responsibility to develop our next generation of leaders. The elective classification will certainly encourage institutions to do just that or be left behind.”

The Doerr Institute is among more than 50 individuals and 80 institutions that have joined the #LeadershipReckoning movement to share best practices and create an improved leadership process for higher education. Currently, 13 schools are participating in the pilot phase of the classification.

“The pilot is proving to be very valuable in finalizing the elective classification application,” said Ortega Santori. “For the first time, colleges and universities are investigating their leader development efforts across campus and working with departments to aggregate data and coordinate efforts in developing leaders.”

To support institutions that want to improve their leader development efforts, the Doerr Institute gives them everything it has learned in developing leaders at Rice: instruments, business models, program details, lessons learned. In their new book, “Leadership Reckoning,” the Doerr Institute’s authors — Tom Kolditz, Ryan Brown and Libby Gill — provide colleges and universities an evidence-based blueprint for how effective leader development can occur. The institute mailed close to 2,000 complimentary copies to influencers, including presidents and provosts at the top 200 institutions in the United States.

“We sell nothing, nor do we promote our own solutions to student leader development as the best for all other institutions,” said Tom Kolditz, Doerr Institute director. “We have, though, been able to develop lean and effective business models that are powerfully developmental at half the cost of classroom instruction. This book is our guide to tailoring leader development in higher education.”

Universities are working together to develop the next generation of leaders.
A FRAMEWORK FOR FUTURE LEADERS: Universities are working together to develop the next generation of leaders.

Administrative leaders such as Philip DiStefano, the chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, are stepping forward and
taking action to develop more and better leaders.

“Every societal challenge we face and every industry that can possibly address these challenges requires the right leaders for the right moment. Universities can answer the call,” DiStefano wrote in The Colorado Sun.

The Doerr Institute could not agree more with DiStefano’s assessment.

“A commitment to develop, educate, and train more and better leaders can no longer be the responsibility of one office or school,” said Ortega Santori. “It must be an organized universitywide effort rooted in evidence-based practices and resulting in measurable impacts.”

The elective classification will be administered at Rice University, creating a unique value and increased awareness of the Rice brand and its position in the leader development space. In late 2021, the classification should be available to institutions nationwide and begin to dramatically transform the way leaders are developed at colleges and universities.

“It’s imperative that universities deliver on their promise to develop the leaders our society so desperately needs,” said Kolditz. “It’s not rocket science. It’s improvement science.”

For more information about the Elective Classification in Leadership for Public Purpose, go to https://doerr.rice.edu/carnegie-elective-classification-overview.

— Brooklyn Holt
Digital Communications and Marketing Specialist
Doerr Institute for New Leaders


A quarterly newsletter that showcases the university’s outreach programs. Each issue of the newsletter includes a series of stories that raise the awareness of Rice’s engagement with the city and beyond.