Core Courses

Critical
Professional and academic success requires the effective use of writing to reach shared understanding of situations, develop and communicate a coherent line of reasoning and assessment of options, arrive at sound individual and collective judgments, and achieve intended results with readers and collaborators. Successful written communications originate from critical thinking processes that incorporate clarity of purpose, accuracy, and sound analysis with awareness of audience and context. This course develops and strengthens these core abilities to think critically and write effectively. Students practice the reasoning, composition, and collaboration skills that are basic to these abilities, including library research, editing, formatting, and engaging in substantive reflection and dialogue on key issues.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Explain the purposes, forms, and phases of professional and academic writing.

2. Use critical thinking to ask fruitful questions, offer sound arguments, assess the arguments of others, and arrive at warranted conclusions.

3. Select and integrate background sources so as to fulfill the expectations and purpose of a written work.

4. Apply criteria of effective writing to the constructive evaluation and improvement of their own and others’ work, including using APA style correctly, including punctuation, word forms, citations, and overall format.

5. Evaluate how they handle the thinking, reflecting, and writing tasks associated with the different phases and purposes of the common forms of professional and academic writing.

Research
This course introduces qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches to research in an interdisciplinary context. It examines methodological assumptions of those approaches and fundamental issues in designing a research study. Students think critically about how to use various methods to investigate information and phenomena of interest to create new knowledge for professional and academic purposes.  Students identify a manageable research question that is consistent with their educational and professional goals, design a small project to answer the question, collect, analyze and interpret data, and present their research findings.

Course Learning Objectives

1. Apply assumptions of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods to research and knowledge creation.

2. Explain how biases, critical thinking skills, and ethics influence the research process and data interpretation.

3. Evaluate research questions.

4. Justify the “goodness of fit” of research questions, scope, and methods used to investigate them.

5. Implement the key elements of performing modest research projects.

Foundations
Management and leadership are complementary and interdependent systems of action in an organization, each requiring certain skills to perform different functions. This course provides theoretical and practical foundations to illustrate the interdependence and its implications for students’ learning and professional goals. Thus, the course introduces management theory and managerial roles to plan, organize, implement, monitor, and evaluate. Yet, real world conditions mean that organizations need from managers more capacities than only those. The course thus introduces leadership theory and some best practices of change leadership such as to scan, focus, align, mobilize, and inspire. The course emphasizes three areas: (1) why managers need to lead staff through periods of change and help transform organizational culture, (2) why formal and informal leaderful behaviors are needed at many levels of the organization, and (3) why multiple intelligences are needed not only to manage and lead change, but also to predict and address resistance, anxiety, and the forces of inertia that can sabotage even small change efforts.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Use course concepts to interpret various workplace experiences.

2. Observe and explain why the main functions management and change leadership are complementary in theory and in practice.

3. Categorize one’s managerial and/or leadership experiences and skills to date using concepts learned in the course.

4. Assess one’s previous, current, and future professional development goals in light of course learning.

5. Demonstrate personal habits of reflecting on and learning from organizational functions performed by self and others in organizational life.

Communication,
Communication shapes our relationships and professional effectiveness, and our understanding of social settings. This course emphasizes the role of skillful inquiry for transforming social settings, and examines the benefits of communicating with transparency, integrity, and accountability. Students learn how behavioral development theory accounts for (a) why there are major patterns of difference and change in how people think, feel, and act in different situations; (b) Why it can be so difficult to communicate effectively; (c) why skillful communications depend on self-reflection and timely awareness or mindfulness, and (d) why relationships and behaviors are improved by using the action inquiry framework and related communication skills. Students learn a pattern of action logics and how they show up in human and organizational behaviors. They use that knowledge to plan, initiate, participate in, and follow up with difficult conversations and evaluate changes. Learning is transferred and built upon to apply action logics to groups and organizations, e.g., to conflicts, to effective meetings and teams, and to become learning organizations.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Explain the value of planning and making careful inquiries into others’ actions.

2. Observe and identify the characteristics of the most common action logics in diverse settings.

3. Increase the use of timely self-awareness in communications.

4. Use the action inquiry framework and related skills to plan, initiate, and engage in difficult conversations.

5. Critically assess one’s communication effectiveness to inform strategies for continuous improvement.

Three
Theory & Practice of Negotiation & Mediation – This course is comprised of three phases: a skills workshop, study of theory and models, and field experience with reporting thereon. After successful participation in the skills workshop titled Essential Skills for Negotiation and Mediation, students engage in the theoretical phase of the course, which reviews basic theories and models associated with the practices of negotiation and mediation.

Theory & Practice of Group Facilitation – This course is comprised of three phases: a skills workshop, study of theory and models, and field experience with reporting thereon. After successful participation in the skills workshop titled Essential Skills for Group Facilitation, students engage in the theoretical phase of the course, which reviews basic theories and models associated with the practices of facilitating group processes.

Theory & Practice of Action Inquiry - This course is comprised of three phases: a skills workshop, study of theory and models, and field experience with reporting thereon. After successful participation in the skills workshop titled Action Inquiry, students engage in the theoretical phase of the course, which reviews the developmental theory of action logics and the action inquiry framework.

For each course students apply theories and models to their workshop skills-building experiences, and critically reflect on the integration of theory and practice to date. The final phase of the course solidifies learning as students conduct and report on their use of the skills in brief field experiences, and evaluate the efforts through the lens of theory, models, and practices learned during the course.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Use theory to explain why one chooses certain tactics in small conflict interventions/small group process settings/intervention-motivated communications.

2. Critically compare how one’s field practices align or diverge from common models, and why.

3. Use knowledge of theory, models, and methods to evaluate one’s progress in developing applied skills.

Organizational
This course is designed to provide students with the social science tools needed to solve organizational problems and influence the actions of individuals, groups and organizations. It prepares managers to understand how to best organize and motivate the human capital of the firm, work with diverse cultures and demographics, and learn how to best structure for success. Students apply theory and practice in such areas as decision-making, reward system design, conflict, negotiation, and communications processes, and learn to incorporate into their analyses such considerations as the basis of power and organizational politics, corporate culture, and strategic organizational design.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Analyze how OB concepts such as diversity, attitudes, job satisfaction, personality, values, decision-making, emotional intelligence, and motivation can be operationalized to enhance individual performance.

2. Analyze how OB concepts and theories related to management, leadership, power, politics, conflict, negotiations, group formation, work team development, and effective communications can be implemented by managers to enhance group performance.

3. Analyze how OB concepts and theories related to organizational structure, culture, change, stress management, and HR policies can be implemented by managers to enhance organizational and strategic performance.

4. Assess one’s skills, abilities, and interests related to an OB subject area and how their effectiveness can impact organizational outcomes such as attitude, stress, performance, citizenship and withdrawal behaviors, group cohesion and functioning, organizational productivity and survival.

Budgeting
This course connects three major perspectives on managerial budgeting in order to strengthen management and change leadership capacities. The first part of the course introduces fundamental concepts and practices in managerial budgeting, and contrasts the contexts of small for-profit, not-for-profit, and local government organizations. The second part of the course relates traditional budgeting processes with their often-common denominator of stress-based influences. It examines the psychology, dysfunctions, and decision-making impacts of stress, including how they may affect participation levels, conflict, operational or environmental ethics, and culture. The final part of the course puts budget processes and stress into larger context of social and environmental responsibility (e.g., sustainability accounting; the triple bottom line of profit, people, and planet) and introduces other approaches such as the “beyond budgeting” trend, that may foster healthier organizational processes and better performances.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Use basic accounting concepts to explain common types of financial activities and how they are treated in for-profit, not-for-profit, and governmental accounting.

2. Distinguish among the major types of budgets, stakeholders, and budget development and control processes in small organizations.

3. Evaluate the nature and potential impacts of stress-based influences commonly expected in diverse budget situations and purpose and justify ideas to reduce stress-based impacts.

4. Project the short and long term risks and benefits of various approaches to budgeting.

5. Predict budget-related scenarios where organizational or public culture, ethics, and social good may or may not be served by rethinking approaches to budgeting.

Deliberation
This course implements Einstein’s observation that problems can be solved only by thinking with more complexity than the original thinking that created the problems. Mangers, leaders, consultants, and public officials must routinely plan, anticipate and resolve conflicts, set priorities, and and solve problems related to all such activities. Decisions that serve short- and long-term needs with social and environmental justice, and that avoid unintended consequences, rely on elevated critical thinking and more complex methods. They use carefully identified and framed information about layers of situational priorities and systemic complexity. In light of such challenges, the course examines limits of common judgment and decision theories and approaches to deliberation. It compares them to assumptions and methods based on behavioral development and complexity science theories. Students learn widely-transferable systematic methods that facilitate complex, deliberative thinking about decisions. Methods (a) accomplish accurate problem identification efficiently, (b) frame options or scenarios with objective inclusiveness, (c) replicate methods to predict and allow for inevitable tensions among competing needs, interests, and resource constraints. The processes and outcomes of consciously deliberating thus-prepared decisions are compared to those of consensus and more common personal, organizational, and public decision making.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Use course concepts and models to become aware of and critically reflect on one’s own decision processes.

2. Explain the complexity of competing perspectives that occur within as well as among individuals and groups.

3. Analyze situations and issues methodically to identify priorities and justify their selection from different perspectives.

4. Employ replicable methods for individuals or groups to frame issues and deliberate decisions.

5. Use methods learned in the course in professional communications about plans, conflicts, and/or problem-solving.

Leadership,
Change agents in every setting confront conflicted situations and have leadership roles therein. Such individuals have an ethical duty to know themselves well enough to “first, do no harm.” That duty includes understanding conflict and identity as enduring factors in human experience and leadership challenges. Conflicts press for choices among stakeholders’ competing interests and needs, often threatening identity along with the presenting issues. Drawing from developmental, conflict, and leadership theories and applications, this course examines mental models of leadership, how personal and group identities form and change as they develop, and how these factors impact leadership and conflict styles, effectiveness in change-making, and capacities for critical reflection and foresight.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Situate oneself in the developmental continuum represented in theory and applications.

2. Describe the linkage between complexity of mind, leadership, and experience of conflict.

3. Compare and contrast the usefulness of developmental theories in understanding leadership and conflict.

4. Apply the understanding of developmental theories to leadership issues and to how conflict is engaged and resolved (or left unresolved).

5. Evaluate the ethical issues and concerns related to using development theory in leadership and conflict management.

Group
This course introduces theories and models of group and team processes of development, conflict eruption and resolution, and collaboration. It emphasizes the nature of groups and teams as dynamic systems that respond adaptively to conditions, team building in groups characterized by diversity, and how to identify internal and external conditions that affect behaviors in both in-person and virtual environments. These include social, psychological, emotional, cultural, and technological dimensions in vertical systems of authority and in horizontal networked settings. On these foundations, the course examines models and strategies for leaderful group managers and participants to optimize individual and team contribution, and to assess and address the roles of attributes, needs, stress, and system constraints. Self-reflection and assessment tools support students to apply learning to their own performance, identify triggers of resistance, and critically evaluate how their preferred styles affect team building and group productivity. Performance in the course is used as a microcosm of team dynamics in other settings. Finally, students learn how to transfer learning from studying the scale of small group systems to the larger scale of organizations where similar patterns manifest.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Identify social, psychological, cultural, and organizational patterns of groups.

2. Apply concepts and models to analyze stages of group development and match activities appropriate to those stages.

3. Analyze how and why teams manifest as systems of interactive individual and collective dimensions.

4. Employ theories and models to inform and improve one’s practice in the workplace and other settings.

5. Use reflective practices to assess and monitor one’s profile of strengths, needs, and behaviors as a member and a leader of teams.

Critical
This course introduces and applies key concepts and practices of critical systems thinking to personal, organizational, and public contexts. Applicable to all human endeavors, such thinking is essential to inform analyses, strategies, and interventions meant to initiate change, address issues, and manage conflicts and resources. The course introduces qualitative tools of dynamic systems analysis that students use to integrate, evaluate, and extend their graduate program learning to date. Course methods develop students’ competency to employ the methodological pluralism of critical system thinking at levels of application most relevant to their agendas as effective change agents.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Explain both the differences between critical systems thinking and linear thinking, and the implications of those differences for efforts to change the status quo.

2. Distinguish different kinds of systems and their attributes essential to consider in interpersonal, organizational, and other levels of social action.

3. Use the appropriate tools for the description, explanation, and modeling of dynamic social systems.

4. Analyze situations and cases at various scales using concepts and practices learned in the course.

5. Suggest strategies for addressing real world situations at the systems level that are justified with concepts drawn from critical systems thinking.