The Development of the Batten Leadership Institute at Hollins University: A Case Study

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Virginia Tech

As leadership theory continues to develop and change, so do the attempts to enhance experiences for women in higher education. Women face many obstacles, which include lack of role models in student and institutional leaders (Astin & Leland, 1991). Traditionally, institutions offer no specific leadership programs or curricula and pay minimal attention to the leadership development of their students (Cress, Astin, Zimmerman-Oster, & Burkhardt, 2001). This study was a case study with an in-depth analysis of the establishment of a women's leadership education and training program at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Six students, four administrators, and one intern were interviewed to illustrate the process of the planning of the program, its implementation and current operations, and the complexities involved. Document analysis and observations were utilized as well. The study was focused on the impact of the program on the students and administrators involved in the development of the program during this period. The researcher also described how the Batten Leadership Institute has evolved over the past five years with a focus on how it came into being, what it was like, then and now, and changes that have occurred.

The findings are organized by three phases: 1) conceptualization, 2) implementation, and 3) refinement and expansion. The phases are based on a chronological framework and resulting categories and themes emerged. Results indicate the participants' described their leadership skills improved because of their participation and experience in the BLI. The Communication Skills Group and its interpersonal component as well the presence of positive female role-models created the most personal transformation for the student participants. The students' previous ideas and definitions of leadership became more comprehensive. As a result of their personal transformation, their perceptions of the BLI changed from initial uncertainty and hesitation to admiration and support. The program expanded significantly over the first five years. Programmatic challenges have been addressed and many positive changes have occurred. Hollins administrators embraced the BLI and fully supported future expansions within Hollins University and in the Roanoke community.

Leadership Training, Women's Colleges, Women's Leadership Development