St. Thomas School of Education in Minneapolis
Jamie Proulx '99 / University of St. Thomas

Innovation Fellows Study Feasibility of Leadership Minor

It is an important part of the educational process for university students to be able to leverage their leadership skills in a variety of “real-world” professional contexts, but students don’t always see themselves as capable leaders in their fields. At the University of St. Thomas, our team is developing an interdisciplinary leadership minor program that would help students gain this confidence.

We plan to base this new multitier leadership program on an innovative “intentional emergent” approach to teaching based on the outcome of an upcoming feasibility study. The envisioned minor, which would be open to all undergraduate students who wish to hone their leadership skills, would also provide doctoral students in the Educational Leadership and Learning EdD program with a leadership pedagogy and teaching experience. In this way, the program will foster undergraduate students who want to develop their leadership skills as well as student professionals who want to be able to teach those skills.

Intentional emergent pedagogy 

Intentional emergent pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning that combines intentional planning with responsiveness to students’ interests, questions, and experiences as they emerge in the educational setting. This pedagogical approach recognizes that learning is a dynamic and collaborative process that unfolds in unexpected ways, and it seeks to capitalize on these emergent opportunities to deepen students’ understanding and engagement. 

By combining intentionality with emergence, educators can create dynamic learning environments that foster creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students are empowered to take ownership of their learning journey, while educators serve as facilitators who guide and support them along the way. Ultimately, intentional emergent pedagogy promotes a deep, holistic approach to education that honors the unique abilities and contributions of each learner. 

Our vision is that students will tailor the minor to their own studies, no matter their field of interest – and to that end, we’re collecting elective courses from across the university that will help students engage in two primary areas: 1) understanding self and others, and 2) understanding systems change.

Leadership and St. Thomas 

Equipping students with these skills is closely tied to the St. Thomas mission of preparing students to think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good. And we know that employers seek St. Thomas graduates who are familiar with and confident in their leadership capacity to meet societal needs – including career and self-development, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, and teamwork (all of which are Career Readiness competencies established by the National Association of Colleges and Employers). 

Additionally, we know that doctoral students in educational leadership programs seek practical experiences in college teaching and innovative pedagogies (like intentional emergence). This minor aims to provide the professionals enrolled in St. Thomas’ Educational Leadership and Learning EdD program with this valuable opportunity.

With applications in every area of St. Thomas and in any professional field, our team is excited by the potential of a robust and interdisciplinary leadership minor to help students achieve their dreams and aspirations.

Ultimately, we envision a transformational effect for undergraduate students as well as our campus community as a whole.

More about the team

Vern Klobassa
Vern Klobassa

Dr. Vern Klobassa, Dr. Christina Holmgren, and Dr. Jayne Sommers are members of the 2024 Faculty and Staff Innovation Fellows, and their study about a leadership minor is a part of this fellowship. The program seeks to engage the university community in propelling St. Thomas to the forefront on innovation. This year’s inaugural cohort recipients were selected from a wide variety of exceptional proposals received from across the institution.

Klobassa works in Student Affairs and is director of student development, co-director of the First-Year Experience, and an adjunct faculty member in the Educational Leadership department. He brings over a decade of experience with leadership education and critical pedagogy, including teaching experience at the University of Minnesota’s Leadership Minor Program which employs an intentional emergence pedagogy.

Christine Holmgren
Christina Holmgren
Jayne Sommers
Jayne Sommers

Holmgren works in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology and additionally serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Educational Leadership department. Her experiences include the leadership development of historically excluded undergraduate and graduate students, with a focus on culturally sustaining pedagogy and racial identity construction and development within higher education.

Sommers is the current chair of the Educational Leadership department. She has a decade of experience with leadership teaching and training with undergraduate students at a number of higher education institutions. She has expertise in leadership theory, inclusive pedagogy, and the centrality of social identity within educational experiences.