Kansas State University


The Loop

Introducing the first cohort of the Leadership Communication doctoral program

In the fall of 2018, the Staley School welcomed its first cohort for the Leadership Communication doctoral program. This program is an interdisciplinary research degree that provides the space for students to make progress on difficult challenges and produce original research that is grounded in community-engaged scholarship.

(From left to right: Tim Steffensmeier; Associate Professor/Director of the Leadership Doctoral Program, R.J. Youngblood, Susan Metzger, Roberta Maldonado-Franzen, Russell Plaschka, Rebecca Robinson, Saya Kakim, Onyedikachi Ekwerike. Not pictured: Kiley Moody.)   

Onyedikachi Ekwerike, a doctoral student who is committed to improving access to maternal healthcare for women in Nigeria, shares that this first year has been full of learning and that he has developed a better understanding of leadership theories which will guide his research. “I have also gained a deeper appreciation for community-engaged research. Rather than seeing my community as data mines, I am looking forward to working side by side with them to identify issues and co-create interventions,” said Ekwerike.

Onyedikachi Ekwerike shares about his experience as a doctoral student at the annual Spirit of Leadership event on September 28, 2018.

As a student in the Leadership Communication Ph.D. program, Kiley Moody shares that she has been exposed to new ways to think about community challenges and the type of leadership needed. “These theories have provided insights into how we communicate, view leadership, and how we make sense of what we observe and experience, which will be critical for me as I begin working with communities to make progress on the complex challenges facing the spaces we inhabit. I am also learning more about community-engaged research and the importance of working with people instead of working for people to create long-lasting and sustainable change,” said Moody.

Each student has a customized plan of study based on their area of interest and commitment. The core courses include work in the areas of:

  • Foundations of Leadership
  • Communication Theories & Engagement
  • Graduate Studies in Leadership Communication
  • Approaches to Public/Community Engagement
  • Public Problem-Solving
Susan Metzger speaks to K-State students, faculty, alumni and friends at the 2018 annual Spirit of Leadership about her journey in the doctoral program.

“One year in the Leadership Communications Ph.D. program is everything that I’ve hoped for and more. The theories, frameworks, and information gained in the first two semesters of the program already have real-world, practical application to my career and community work. I greatly appreciate the tremendous support provided by the faculty and my fellow program cohorts,” shared Susan Metzger, a doctoral student who is most concerned about long-term conservation and sustainable use of our water supplies and natural resources.

This year’s cohort consists of eight doctoral students, all coming from a variety of academic backgrounds, professional sectors, and personal and civic interests:

  • Onyedikachi Ekwerike                                              
  • Roberta Maldonado Franzen
  • Saya Kakim
  • Susan Metzger
  • Kiley Moody
  • Russell Plaschka
  • Rebecca Robinson
  • R.J. Youngblood

R.J. Youngblood, the Assistant Director of the Academic Achievement Center at Kansas State, is committed to making equitable spaces for student learning and is interested in exploring and questioning the ways that we produce and distribute knowledge in efforts to recognize diverse leadership activity. “I appreciate that the coursework helps me develop more sophisticated frameworks to make sense of complex adaptive systems,” said Youngblood. “I am interested in translating my learning in ways that produce forms of community-engaged scholarship that makes a difference in how informal authority is leveraged in my professional community. The cohort model deepens the graduate school experience. We are all interested in engaging community to better understand leadership activity, but the format of our seminars creates a space for us to draw upon our diverse set of experiences and perspectives to drive overall learning and development.”

You can learn about the Leadership Communication doctoral program here. Curious to know more about each student’s area of focus and research? Get to know the faces of this cohort here.

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