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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion Creates Leadership Major in College of Arts & Letters

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Old Dominion University's College of Arts & Letters and College of Continuing Education & Professional Development have introduced a leadership major for students in interdisciplinary studies, in recognition of the increased need for collaborative, adaptable leaders in every discipline.

The first leadership major graduated this spring, and a second cohort of students is slated to graduate in August. Jeanie Kline, special assistant to the vice provost for Academic Affairs, noted tremendous interest among students in signing up for the new major.

"Interdisciplinary research has been strong at the University for some time. Now curricula is catching up. It really is the best way to tackle difficult issues in society - by drawing in expertise from different domains," Kline said.

The degree program is offered through the College of Arts & Letters, and the major is coordinated through the University's College of Continuing Education & Professional Development. Kline serves as the program coordinator for the major. Its flexible curriculum allows students to integrate education and training with the development of problem-solving skills to help navigate the changes and challenges of the modern workplace. Studies integrate ethics, communication, law and other areas that impact individuals and organizations.

"Because it is interdisciplinary, we anticipate that it will appeal to a wide range of adult, non-traditional students drawn to the program with vastly different interests, and who enter the program with some college credit, but who may not have completed a degree," said Brian Payne, vice provost for Academic Affairs. "It also appeals to those who have a military background or who are interested in joining the military."

Payne said interdisciplinary studies programs are ideal for students who are interested in two or more fields of study, providing the kinds of learning they need to succeed in today's economy. The leadership major provides the academic and critical thinking skills to deal with seismic changes in the workforce.

In a nationwide report, the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that students are far more likely to face multiple transitions throughout their careers than previous generations of graduates. As an example, the report found:

  • Every year, 30 percent of the country's labor force will change jobs;

  • Today's high school students expect to have had 10 jobs by the time they reach mid-career;

  • Half of the workers in the United States have been with their current employer for fewer than five years; and

  • More than 30 million Americans have jobs that did not exist a generation earlier, requiring new skills for employees and leaders alike.

"The creation of this undergraduate major is a recognition that there was an opportunity to meet demand that we hadn't been meeting for our students, to help them get this multi-faceted skill-set," Payne said.

The program, which consists of 36 hours of interdisciplinary and leadership courses from across each college, includes courses from communications, criminal justice, engineering management, environmental health, finance, human services, management, public administration and philosophy.

To date, 74 students have selected the major. The College of Continuing Education & Professional Development plans to expand the major for adult learners through ODUOnline. For more information about the program, contact Jeanie Kline at jkline@odu.edu.