The ability to lead is a coveted quality, one that is necessary in all aspects of life. Recognizing the value of integrating leadership into education, the College of Engineering has brought on board Clinton Stephens, scholar in-residence for leadership education, who will emphasize these values and skills to engineering students in the classroom.
Stephens began his education at Kansas State University, where he earned a degree in management information systems and a minor in leadership studies. He earned a master’s in college student development from Oklahoma State University, and afterwards moved to Ohio, where he worked full time at Bowling Green State University, serving in student activities and community service.
“The most rewarding part of my job was the community service element,” Stephens explains. “A month after I began hurricane Katrina hit, so we moved up our community service trip to help those in New Orleans. The students had a tremendous experience. Certainly activities like this help the communities the students serve, and deep experiences that change students’ perspectives are important learning opportunities, too.”
After spending three years in Ohio, Stephens began the doctoral program in Iowa State’s educational leadership and policy studies department, where he delved into two lines of research.
The first area involved looking at student leadership development and how to better measure students’ growth and leadership capacity. The second involved studying higher education finance and how universities allocate resources.
Since earning his doctorate, Stephens continued working at Iowa State in a newly created position that is a joint collaboration between the college, the industrial and manufacturing systems engineering department, and the Community Leadership Program.
Within his role, Stephens teaches courses on leadership development and directs the leadership program, while also working to turn his dissertation articles into publications.
“We shouldn’t just be graduating engineers. We should be graduating engineers who can do the technical work while also leading their peers, staff, and even bosses,” he explains. “Our students are able to learn these skills through this joint effort.”
This year, Stephens will teach LAS 222: Leadership in a Diverse Society, a class in which all advisers in the College of Engineering have been encouraging advisees to enroll. Over the past two years alone, the course has gone from holding one section per year for about 20 students, to four sections per year with over 30 students each, including a section offered over the summer.
“A large part of the growth of this course is due to the investment the college is making into encouraging our students to practice these kinds of skills before they graduate,” he says.
In the class, students work on projects in three different teams throughout the semester. Additionally, Stephens implements a social justice component discussing race and gender in society, helping students better understand the individuals with whom they will work.
Stephens says he is looking forward to his new position for many reasons, but with a passion for education, the teaching aspect is what he enjoys most.
“In our society, we expect college students to graduate with all of these leadership skills, picking them up as they stumble across campus for four years, but we rarely speak directly to students about leadership and actually teach the skills. I am excited that I get to teach these skills,” he says.