ODKM Master’s Students Take ‘LeaderSHIP’ Roles in Leadership Seminar


Master’s students at the Schar School of Policy and Government became facilitators for a day in mid-November when a metaphorical “ship” docked at Van Metre Hall (formerly known as Founders Hall) for the Master’s in Organization Development and Knowledge Management capstone event, the ODKM “Learning Community.” 

The title of this semester’s nautical-themed forum, attended by more than 65, was “Developing the LeaderSHIP You Seek” and featured a day of exploring various aspects of leadership through a series of engaging talks and challenging exercises.

Each facilitator donned a captain’s cap and took command of topics ranging from “courageous leadership” and “authentic leadership” to “how to lead generational workforces” and understanding leadership practices borrowed from East Asian culture.

The master’s students, many of them employed in various consulting and government roles, were tasked with every aspect of preparing and delivering the content for the Learning Community.

During the day, Class of 2016 ODKM graduate and “graphic facilitator” Lauren Green illustrated the discussion concepts.

“The Learning Community is the ‘walk the talk’ version of what the students are learning in the program,” said Tojo Thatchenkery, director of the organization development and knowledge management master’s degree program and a Schar School professor. “The group planning the event chose the topic of leadership and spent four months working on designing a learning-rich experiential day incorporating the latest developments in leadership research.”

The student leaders chose their discussion topics based on their own “unique gifts and skills to create an engaging and powerful learning experience,” said associate professor Jessica Srikantia.

A highlight, said Srikantia, was the presentation by ODKM student and director of strategy and logistics for the District of Columbia Public Schools Ajibade Da Silva-Olaghere.

“With courage, grace, poise, and compassion, he initiated a vital and transformative conversation on racism in the U.S., grounded in his own first-hand experiences as an African-American facing police targeting and brutality towards himself and others…His presentation brought alive the realities he has lived, connected hearts around our oneness as human beings, and made the vital need for justice an experiential not just a notional truth.”

“Students, alumni, and visitors attending the event said that hearing the personal stories of courage and vulnerability from the leadership group was most touching and left them with plenty of takeaways,” Thatchenkery added.

“Leadership has its own gravitational pull,” said participant Anthony Willett, a senior speechwriter at the Federal Aviation Administration. “The panel pointed out pretty clearly that leadership doesn’t just eliminate chaos: Effective leadership anticipates the next step and helps others to take it.

“If you’re going to be that kind of leader, you’ve got to be much more than a subject matter expert. You’ve got to be a people expert. Knowing yourself is a big part of that.”

The next Learning Community organized by the Master’s in Organization Development and Knowledge Management program is February 16, 2019. The topic is “Personal Branding.” For more information write to Tojo Thatchenkery at thatchen@gmu.edu.