Since the early 1990s, the study of college student leadership has fundamentally changed how colleges and universities design, implement, and assess the effectiveness of leadership development programs on campus. The emphasis on the development of leadership skills and abilities in college students has resulted in the proliferation of college student leadership workshops, programs, conferences, courses, and entire departments dedicated to leadership development.

But how do we know if what we are implementing is effective in fostering desired student learning and development outcomes? The Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership aims to do just that. In a recent report about the study, Dugan and Correia (2014) state,

“Since its launch in 2006, the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) has evolved from an instrument based solely on the Socially Responsible Leadership Scale to one that now assesses a broader range of leadership and college outcomes and the experiences that influence them. These efforts and the collective work of MSL is a result of the shared commitment and investment made by leadership educators across the world” (, p. 4).

On this episode of Student Affairs Live, host Heather Shea Gasser connects with the founders, principal investigators, and campus users of the MSL, Dr. Susan Komives, Dr. Julie Owen, Dr. John Dugan, and Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, to discuss the role that this study plays in helping campuses maximize their leadership development initiatives. To read the recent report from the 2012 data, please click here.

Citations: Dugan, J. P., Kodama, C., Correia, B., & Associates. (2013). Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership insight report: Leadership program delivery. College Park, MD: National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.

Dugan, J. P., & Correia, B. (2014). MSL insight report supplement: Leadership program delivery. College Park, MD: National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.


Episode Host

Heather Shea Gasser

Heather Shea Gasser

Heather Shea Gasser’s career in student affairs spans 16+ years and five different campuses, and involves experience in many different functional areas including residence life, multicultural affairs, women’s centers, student activities, leadership development, and commuter/nontraditional student services–she is a true Student Affairs Generalist. Heather is currently serving as the assistant director of RISE (Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment), a living-learning community at Michigan State University while also a full-time doctoral student in MSU's HALE (Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education) Program. She completed her master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Colorado State University in 2000. She currently serves as the Director of Membership Development for ACPA-College Student Educators International and blogs for Feminists in Student Affairs. Connect with Heather on Twitter at @heathergasser


Susan Komives

Susan R. Komives is Professor Emerita at the University of Maryland. She is past president of CAS and ACPA; was vice president of two colleges; and is the author/editor of a dozen books including Student ServicesExploring Leadership, Leadership for a Better World, and the Handbook for Student Leadership Development. She is executive editor of the inaugural New Directions in Student Leadership series. She was a member of the teams that developed Learning Reconsidered, the Social Change Model of Leadership Development, the Relational Leadership Model, the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership, and the Leadership Identity Development grounded theory. She is co-founder of the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP) and a former member of the Board of Directors of ILA. Dr. Komives is a recipient of both the ACPA and NASPA outstanding research awards and the ACPA Life Time Achievement Award. Her fifty years in higher education are featured in the March-April issue of ACPA’s About Campus.

John Dugan

Dr. John Dugan currently serves as an Associate Professor in the Higher Education graduate program at Loyola University Chicago where he teaches courses on leadership, student development theory, and multiculturalism for social justice. John’s research interests focus on the influences of higher education in shaping college students’ involvement and leadership development with a specific emphasis on marginalized voices and ideas. John currently serves as the Principal Investigator for the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL), an international research program examining the influences of higher education on socially responsible leadership and other educational outcomes (e.g., efficacy, resilience, social perspective-taking, identity development). To date more than 250 institutions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica have participated in the study yielding over 300,000 college student participants. John’s research has generated 24 printed or in press publications (e.g., refereed articles, books, and book chapters), more than 60 presentations at national and international conferences. John is a past recipient of the ACPA: College Educators International Burns B. Crookston Doctoral Research Award, Nevitt Sanford Award for Research in Student Affairs, and was named an Emerging Professional Annuit Coeptis. Additionally, the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) recognized John as the Melvene Hardee Dissertation of the Year Runner Up and the NASPA Knowledge Community for Student Leadership awarded him the 2009 award for Outstanding Student Leadership Research.


Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson

Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson is the Executive Director of Campus Inclusion and Community at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  In this role, Dr. Brown-Henderson is responsible for overseeing three units: Multicultural Students Affairs aimed at engaging multicultural and intercultural communities, Student Enrichment Services which enriches the experience of low income and first generation students and Social Justice Education focusing on cultural competency and social justice education and training. Dr. Brown-Henderson is also responsible for responding to bias incidents reported through the RespectNU website; supporting students who are recipients of bias incidents. Dr. Brown-Henderson earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Chemistry and African Caribbean Studies from the University of Miami, master’s degrees in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education and Counseling Psychology and her doctorate in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on multicultural issues in higher education from Texas A&M University. Dr. Brown-Henderson has dedicated her educational and professional career to creating inclusive environments where college students can understand and appreciate differences while gaining knowledge of cultural competence through cross-cultural dialogue and experiential learning.


Julie Owen

Dr. Julie Owen is an Associate Professor of Leadership and Integrative Studies at New Century College (NCC), George Mason University, where she coordinates the Leadership Studies Minor. She is Executive Director of the center for Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL) and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program (HEP) and Women and Gender Studies (WGS). She is a scholar for the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP) and is co-editor of both editions of the Handbook for Student Leadership Development and editor of the inaugural edition of New Directions for Student Leadership (Jossey-Bass). She is active on several national research teams, including serving as PI of the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership – Institutional Survey (MSL-IS) and a research team member with the Leadership Identity Development (LID) project. She is a frequent presenter, consultant, and keynote speaker on topics related to leadership, social change, and organizational development.