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Student Spotlight: Courtney Chan Shares How You DO Leadership Research

Posted May 6, 2016 in Focus on Students, KLI Research

Courtney Chan ‘17

Almost every single person who learns that I conduct research at the Kravis Leadership Institute asks me how it’s possible to study leadership. They say, “so how do you do leadership research?” I tell them that although leadership may seem intuitive at the outset, it’s actually a very fascinating subject and can produce the most interesting insights. And yes, you can research leadership – all you need is a way to measure it and a passion to study it.

This year, I have had the privilege of working with a fantastic team of research assistants with Dr. Sherylle Tan. I’ve contributed to a number of projects with the research team, which has given me more experience with and exposure to the field of leadership studies. Some of the projects I’ve worked on this year include the Undergraduate Leadership Education (ULE for short) longitudinal study, a poster on leader self-efficacy, and an evaluation of the Yonsei-CMC Summer Program.

In my previous years at KLI, my main focus was the ULE study. This year, I’ve moved back from the project a bit and played more of a supportive role in my contributions. To summarize the ULE in the one-sentence pitch I’ve developed for it in my three years here, the study focuses on analyzing the effects of leadership education across the span of a college student’s undergraduate career and beyond, whether they matriculate to CMC or not.

One major finding that we had uncovered related to a change over time in leader self-efficacy, a concept that encapsulates a leader’s belief in his/her ability to lead. One of my tasks was to conduct a literature search on this topic; this search was to determine whether there were any previous studies that had discovered any significance of our finding, especially as it related to a small liberal arts campus like our own here in Claremont. Another of my tasks relating to the ULE was to ascertain the history of response rates of various ULE cohorts. By doing this, I helped to provide a clearer picture of how many students were taking the surveys, which helps KLI researchers understand what needs and does not need to be changed with survey recruitment.

The research team had an additional finding from the ULE, which related sense of belonging to leadership self-efficacy. We submitted this finding as a poster presentation to the 2016 Western Psychological Association Conference in Long Beach, CA, and our poster was accepted! Since the acceptance, I have worked with one of our research managers, John Dulay, to compile this poster and better understand the literature behind inclusion and exclusion in intergroup relations. We are set to present our findings at the end of April.

Finally, I have contributed to a qualitative evaluation of the Yonsei-CMC Summer Program, a summer study abroad program that integrates global education with business/finance academic learning. What “qualitative” means is that we go beyond sending out the usual evaluative surveys, and actually try to get a deeper and more complex understanding of our participant’s experience. Our goal was to assess the impact of the program on participant’s leadership and cross-cultural competencies and determine if these generate lasting leadership outcomes.

Within this project, led by KLI’s Internship and Research Coordinator Dr. Tamara Duggan-Herd, I have conducted interviews of previous participants of the Yonsei-CMC program, which served the purpose of gaining a comprehensive background on each participant’s perspective of the program. Following this interview stage, I transcribed audio recordings of the interviews and then coded those transcriptions. What this means is that I turned the qualitative, “wordy” data bits from the interviews into quantitative, numeric data bits that we can measure using our statistical programs. Currently, I am working on creating our initial data file to begin the statistical analyses.

Through contributing to these projects and exploring the different themes within them, I have gained a wider breadth of knowledge of leadership development. This is something I value highly, as leadership presents itself in almost every aspect of our lives. That’s why I can address every person who questions the plausibility of leadership research – while most people consider leadership a “common sense” trait, the research shows that it can be parsed into something so much more.