A Master’s Degree for our Times: CLU Launches Online Degree in Ethical Leadership

The trailblazers at Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) in southern California are at it again. After the Methodist-affiliated Claremont School of Theology co-founded the multi-religious university CLU in 2011, the school is now launching an online Master’s Degree in Ethical Leadership.

“It’s a Master’s Degree for our times,” says Philip Clayton, Executive Vice President and Provost of Claremont Lincoln University. “We believe that today’s leaders will need a more holistic, integrated, and grounded approach than has ever been offered before.” Classes begin April 15, 2013 for the program, which can be completed in as little as 15 months.

Clayton took a few minutes to respond to some questions about the new program, what sets it apart from other business leadership degrees, and who it’s for.

What inspired this new M.A. program in ethical leadership at CLU?  

The increasingly rapid pace of globalization and technology advancement have created a demand for new and better approaches to life and work. Furthermore, the ethical failures of major corporations such as Enron, Countrywide, AIG and BP have had such disastrous effects on our world’s economies and environment, that it’s clear that the status quo is no longer acceptable.  The reverberations of 9/11 on the cultural and religious landscape add to the urgent call for new approaches.

Recognizing this, many corporations and institutions are beginning to shift their business models to be more humane, globally aware, and environmentally sustainable. Google has an employee code of conduct that puts its “Don’t be evil” motto into practice. Name brands like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Patagonia have publicly embraced what has become known as “corporate social responsibility” or more recently “conscious capitalism.” But where are the leaders for these new approaches to organizational life? Do the curricula of business and other professional schools adequately prepare the next generation of leaders for doing things differently?

So the idea for a new M.A. in Ethical Leadership grew out of our awareness that leaders must be educated differently for this unique point in history. We believe that leaders will need a more holistic, integrated, and grounded approach than has ever been offered before. And we think Claremont Lincoln has a unique mix of personal, professional and global perspectives that fit well with the current needs of the world.

How will CLU’s program be different from other similar programs out there?

A number of other graduate schools offer classes or programs in ethics and leadership. In fact, Kings College in London offers a degree by the exact same name. But it’s the integration of personal awareness, professional proficiencies, and global consciousness that sets the Claremont Lincoln degree apart.

So what makes CLU an authoritative voice for teaching on ethical leadership?

As you may know, Claremont Lincoln University was founded by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim institutions, and has since welcomed Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and humanist organizations to the consortium. These great religious and philosophical traditions offer deep wells of ethical guidance, spirituality, and wisdom that span the ages. Combining the wisdom of these traditions with the best of modern thinking gives us an incredibly authoritative voice for teaching ethical leadership, and the world is noticing.

We’ve already begun partnering with universities from other countries who want their students to learn with us. For example, several Chinese technical graduate schools have agreements with us so their students can study how to pursue scientific and technological development in sustainable, less environmentally degrading ways—ways that better affirm individuals and promote values beyond consumerism and materialism.

Furthermore, ethical leadership has been in our roots from the very beginning. David Lincoln, who with his wife Joan gave the $50 million naming gift to establish Claremont Lincoln, has founded and led multiple companies that have been tremendously successful, not only due to his business acumen, but also to his often-stated belief that “good ethics is good business.” All of his ventures, for example, have profit-sharing plans so that his employees can participate in the financial success they helped to create, and his companies are known for being good corporate citizens in a multitude of ways.

What are some of the highlights of the program?  

First, the program is 100% online. Over the last few years, we’ve been developing new modes of educating and learning so that students can have significant interaction with each other and their professors even when they’re learning online. The Leadership Practices Inventory, which is used in the first class and last class in the degree program, is also administered online. This format allows us to gather a truly global student body—we have received interest from Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East, and all of the United States—which makes this a truly invaluable learning community.

We also wanted the program to be as accessible to as many qualified applicants as possible, so we made a commitment to keep tuition low. The program, which can be completed in as little as 15 months, costs $15,000 for the entire degree.

How do you see the connection between one’s faith and his or her leadership style?

There’s no question that faith and tradition influence leadership style. Faith fosters character, authenticity and integrity, which are essential traits for effective leadership.  But religious traditions can also influence our preconceptions about leadership. More patriarchal traditions and cultures, for example, may produce leaders who are mostly male and tend to undervalue the contributions of women. And traditions that value consensus quite highly may produce leaders who are unable to move rapidly and nimbly. So it is fascinating and challenging for people from different religious and humanistic traditions to confront their different preconceptions about what constitutes good leadership as they interact together. On the other hand, they will also often share profound beliefs, like loving one’s neighbor and treating others as they’d like to be treated. So our program enables them to work together—to apply their beliefs and practices to a world in need, with the help of tools provided by the courses.

You speak of your program giving students tools “for both inner peace and effective leadership.” Can you give a few examples of these tools?

The skills offered by this degree are quite specific. The courses begin with personal and vocational assessment and tools for increasing mindfulness, self-awareness, and recognizing multiple intelligences. Beyond those, the program includes courses on ethical analysis, conflict resolution, diversity skills, and rethinking the way finances can be leveraged in organizations as resources for positive change.  The faculty members are an exciting mix of scholar/practitioners who designed the 10 courses that make up the M.A. curriculum.

This program sounds like an offering that might come from a business school, not a seminary. Why is this an area in which CLU feels compelled to compete?

Claremont Lincoln University is neither a business school nor a seminary. It’s a non-sectarian, values-based institution founded on the commitment that the practical wisdom of world’s great traditions—philosophical, religious, ethical, humanistic—offers perspectives and skills for effectively addressing contemporary social problems.

This particular M.A., in turn, is not a business degree for learning marketing and accounting techniques. It is a degree for those who are already skilled in the nuts and bolts of their business, profession, or ministry—mid-level managers and others who are looking to improve their interpersonal skills and help their institution compete in ethical, sustainable, and world-affirming ways. It will also help those who would like to move up in their organizations acquire the skills to do so in constructive ways.

Claremont Lincoln was established to produce outstanding leaders for our incredibly complex, diverse, and often morally ambiguous global cultures. This M.A. helps produce such leaders, by giving them skill sets to help their companies and institutions thrive in ways that reduce conflict and maximize the common good.

Philip Clayton is Executive Vice President and Provost of Claremont Lincoln University.

The M.A. in Ethical Leadership is a fully accredited degree program. Applications for admission are accepted four times per year.  For more information, please visit www.ClaremontLincoln.org/Leadership.

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