Published: May 17, 2017
Yessenia Carranza is a young woman with big goals—sociology professor, author, and entrepreneur. She hosts a podcast called Womyn’s WAV, which strives to “educate, empower, and connect the modern woman,” and is making headway toward her dreams as an online enrollment counselor at Pacific Oaks College and a student in the college’s new MAOLC program.
Carranza enrolled in the program because she saw a clear pathway to integrate her personal passions and her professional career with the training it would provide.
“Positively impacting larger organizational and societal needs happens one person—one human connection—at a time,” she says. “MAOLC is helping me become a leader that can focus on that human element, not just the bottom line. In today’s landscape, that’s invaluable.”
Decades ago, the concept of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) was not considered important—only 12 Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR or sustainability report in 2002—but as the concept has become more mainstream, many organizations have built it into their operations. This is partly because consumers are increasingly demanding that companies institute more communicative and ethical practices.
More than 8,000 businesses signed the voluntary U.N. Global Compact, pledging to implement positive global citizenship around human rights, labor standards, and environmental protections,” and a 2014 Nielsen survey showed more than 50 percent of online global consumers were willing to pay more for goods and services from companies with socially and environmentally responsible policies.
As organizations change, so must leadership. Today’s leaders are being called to stand behind the values of inclusion, social justice, education, innovation, and diversity. Since these ideals have been the guiding principles of Pacific Oaks College for more than 70 years, the new MAOLC program (available online and on ground) is well-suited and positions the institution on the cutting edge of leadership training.
“When we looked at other leadership programs, those elements were not as present as they should be,” says Dr. Theresa Greene, Associate Dean of Instructional Systems. “Leadership training should reflect the political and cultural changes happening in business and society, and cultural competency and social justice are themes we regularly take into account at Pacific Oaks.”
The program’s groundbreaking vision is that authentic leadership starts from within. Its goal is to develop management and leadership competencies through reflection and self-discovery, and to integrate societal considerations into the development of more traditional leadership competencies.
“Most management degrees ensure that business leaders know compliance, finance, and the most tangible functions of business,” says Dr. Carol Rinkoff, former dean of Academic Affairs. “But they often fail to incorporate less tangible (yet measurable) leadership skills necessary for organizational success. That’s why we added ‘change’ to the name of our program.”
A perfect fit at Pacific Oaks
Pacific Oaks’ grassroots expertise is what makes it an ideal home for this innovative leadership program, Theresa Greene says. The MAOLC program emphasizes the core ideal of trying to understand the sociological factors that contribute to people’s lives.
Dr. Donald Grant, a psychologist and Associate Dean of the School of Human Development, noted that MAOLC’s founding was inspired by the experiences of Pacific Oaks graduates.
“They were returning to campus with stories about their professional lives, and two major themes reverberated,” he says. “The desire to align organizational structures and systems with ethical considerations and the greater good, and a lack of leadership skills to do so.”
Grant realized that this phenomenon represented “a gap in leadership preparation from within a social justice framework,” and that a corresponding program could benefit both individuals and organizations.
“The [program] cultivates leaders who know how to develop value-based structures and programming,” Grant says. “And that can result in a sustainable and authentic impact in organizations and on social systems across generations.”
Attracting and creating change agents
With courses that include “Leadership and Organizational Behavior” and “Human Diversity and Ethics,” the MAOLC program tackles the gap that often exists between an organization’s desire to be socially responsible and the business practices it has developed to meet the bottom line.
“In a traditional M.B.A. or management program, you’ll see a course like Marketing 101,” Rinkoff says. “That’s not how Pacific Oaks looks at that content area. One of our marketing courses is called ‘Managing External Relationships.’ See how that feels different? It’s not about doing something to you but wanting to do something with you.”
This shift in perception around leadership in part reflects generational differences as well. Millennials respond strongly to the values of corporate social responsibility and expect organizations to commit to communities. They also place a higher value on work-life balance, communication, and relationship-building than previous generations.
Rinkoff has seen this reflected in her students.
“[Millennials] are very focused on their place in the organization and the world,” she says. “What’s interesting is this makes their outlook toward the world one of, ‘How can I make it better; what is my contribution; who am I as a leader?’”
Carranza’s experience in the program supports this statement.
“I think a lot of M.B.A. programs give you basic tools, but don’t connect to your passions and to the way the workplace is evolving,” she says. “We have to realize that behind any leadership ‘technique,’ there is always a human being on the receiving end, and a connection to be made. I’m grateful for Pacific Oaks’ emphasis on the human connection.”
Social responsibility as a win-win
Pacific Oaks’ leadership believes the MAOLC program has incredible potential to strengthen the college’s legacy, as well as transform the larger business arena.
“‘Business as usual’ is not as effective as it once was, and we’re seeing smaller, more entrepreneurial organizations looking for new leadership methods,” Professor Cynthia Scarlett says. “They have a more open mindset, and are seeking employees to help them grow and be innovative. That’s the gap Pacific Oaks is filling with these eager, optimistic students.”
With a cocktail of inclusive core values and seven decades of learning while teaching, Pacific Oaks will continue to create leadership from the inside out.