Three Dimensions of Leadership within Undergraduate STEM

This PKAL handbook is designed as a tool and resource for those intent on building collaborating communities. Our particular focus is on ways to build a culture in which gifted leaders in its ranks are identified and energized for the long-term. We believe such a culture gives evidence of three aspects of effective leadership: vision, political skills, and personal capabilities.

VISION. Thus, it focuses on building a leadership cadre who share the vision that all students:

  • have access to rigorous, inquiry-based programs in STEM fields that lead them to understand the power of science and technology in their world

  • are motivated to consider a career in a STEM field, perhaps as a K-12 teacher, a participant in the global 21st century workforce, or as a Ph.D. professional in an academic or research community.

POLITICAL SKILLS. Further, just as these leaders have a vision about the ultimate goal for their work within the scholarly community, they understand the politics of what works in transforming the culture, as they:

  • have a deep understanding of what needs to change and what needs to happen to effect that change

  • connect to the work of others, eager to learn from and build upon the efforts of colleagues and peers

  • capitalize on the idio-syncratic features of their community– its strengths, needs and potential

  • demand answers to hard questions about the effectiveness of practices old and new

  • deal with the real cost of making change or not making change and are ready to make critical investments in things that matter and hard budget choices toward that end.

PERSONAL CAPABILITIES. This culture also recognizes that those who can make a difference in shaping the future of undergraduate STEM are persons who:

  • are passionate about their work as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, technicians, active in their scholarly field, intent on transferring their passion for doing science to students

  • demonstrate willingness and confidence to take risks in shaping and reshaping their environment, to think outside the box in devising their scholarly agenda

  • take regular time to reflect on their future in the context of personal and professional commitments

  • turn obstacles into opportunities, can deal with chaos as they focus time and energy on what matters

  • understand that leadership working toward change requires political skills and that those skills can be learned, and that communicating openly and often is a key to effective leadership.

  • have a personal commitment to make a difference for their students, for their scholarly communities and for society.