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03 June 2013

Linking Leadership Education to Locality: A Framework for Embedding Local Culture, Beliefs and Values

As part of the Gender and Public Policy Seminar Series, DSG hosted Dr Barbara Harold and Dr Lauren Stephenson from Zayed University’s College of Education to speak on leadership education within an international university curriculum. 
Ghalia Gargani, Acting Director of the Gender and Public Policy Program kicked off the session by highlighting that the UAE is an interesting location to examine women’s leadership development programs, because it is high on the agenda of government, academic and private sector institutions. Most recently, the program published research which closely investigated such programs and looked at ways to rethink them.  Among the findings which came out of this research was that when looking at women’s leadership development programs, it is not enough to import western centric models and assume they will work in the local context. Imported leadership development programs are often divorced from the local and institutional contexts that allow for more critical assessment of their impact.
The speakers presented a conceptual framework which was part of a larger study at Zayed University that investigated the nature of leadership education and how it could better give voice to the empowerment of young Emirati women and to the beliefs, culture and values of the wider community. Participants in the study included expatriate faculty, expatriate and Emirati staff, Emirati students and Emirati community leaders. The key research question was: What kind of conceptual framework will locate leadership within a local cultural milieu while simultaneously preparing resilient female leaders for a young rapidly developing country securing its place within a global context?
The presentation aimed to provide a local cultural learning context; give voice to the extended university community; formalize commitment to linking leadership education to locality; and ensure the reflection of the UAE’s culture, values and beliefs within a shared, transparent curriculum.  It provided a more detailed overview of both the process of developing the framework, and also explained the structure and details of the framework itself and its implications for the development of a leadership education curriculum that would extend through each of the majors in the university program. 
Dr Harold said: “Zayed University has made many efforts to develop the concept of leadership education for students in a way that fits with local community and cultural needs through exploring the views and experiences of students and leaders within the wider community and society.  As part of the curriculum, the university has included important elements of leadership to help students hone their abilities during their four years of study.” Dr Stephenson elaborated on the success of such a leadership program in enhancing local community awareness and offering an appropriate platform for communication and dialogue. Taking the audience through a draft conceptual framework of Zayed University’s leadership program at the macro, meso and micro levels she explained how each level could serve as a basis for the development of students’ leadership education across the university and within the Colleges with more discipline specific opportunities  
In the same context, Dr Ali Sebaa Al Marri, Executive President at DSG said: “Leadership curriculum in our universities plays an important role in honing the skills and enhancing the local cultural experience of graduates. The concept has helped groom young and capable Emirati men and women into real leaders to meet the demands of our region and achieve developments in all sectors.”
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