The Multi–Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) was initially conceived as a means to enhance institutional practice by better aligning the theory–research–practice cycle. A team of colleagues at the University of Maryland recognized the significant gaps between theory and research as well as research and practice in the current paradigm of college student leadership development. Their observations sparked dialogue around the limitations imposed by the lack of national data against which student development and institutional effectiveness could be benchmarked—and against the material consequences of this on intentional practice in leadership education. MSL emerged as a means to specifically address questions regarding students’ educational needs and to identify elements of the higher education environment that contributed most significantly to leadership outcomes.
The first iteration of the study was administered in the spring of 2006 and included more than 60,000 participants across 52 institutions of higher education in the United States. Data collection occurred again in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2012, the MSL moved to a three-year data collection format (2012, 2015, 2018) as a means to enhance institutions’ usage of findings and more purposefully shape the survey instrument and subsequent contributions to literature. In 2009, the MSL went international in its scope with cultural and language-based adaptations leading to data collection in Canada and Mexico. In 2011, the study expanded to the Caribbean; and in 2015, to Australia.
MSL is one of the largest studies of college student leadership to date and was further significant for its use of theoretically grounded measures. The impact of MSL extends beyond the arena of leadership education as well. Researchers have used data to explore a wide array of critical topics from campus climate and sense of belonging to student involvement and diversity education.
A number of organizations have contributed to the development of the MSL. The National Clearinghouse of Leadership Programs played a central role as the sponsor of the MSL. Further support for MSL 2006 was provided by the C. Charles Jackson Foundation, ACPA: College Educators International Educational Leadership Foundation, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, University of Maryland, and LeaderShape. The 2009 iteration received continuing support from the C. Charles Jackson Foundation and the NACA Foundation.
Since 2006, hundreds of college and university campuses have participated in the MSL, providing both national and international data on leadership outcomes. Participating campuses range in size, location, mission, Carnegie classification, and student demographics reflecting the diversity of institutional types in higher education.
The MSL Team is incredibly grateful for the institutions that participated in the 2015 MSL cycle.
Interested in seeing your campus on this list? Click here for information regarding participation in MSL 2018.
Research Team and Partners
Research Team and Partners
The MSL Research Team and Partners are a diverse array of stakeholders who contribute to the success of the study. Faculty, staff, and graduate students compose the MSL Research Team that oversees instrument development, data collection, school consulting, and dissemination of findings. Past research team members now work on campuses around the world, providing insight into student leadership development on their respective campuses.
The Research Partners provide a range of services to the study including survey administration and financial support.
John currently serves as the Director of Program Quality, Design, and Assessment in the Youth & Engagement Programs division of The Aspen Institute. Formerly a Professor in the Higher Education graduate program at Loyola University Chicago where he taught courses on leadership, student development theory, and multiculturalism for social justice. John’s research interests focus on the influences of higher education in shaping college students’ involvement and leadership development with a specific emphasis on marginalized voices and ideas. John currently serves as the Principal Investigator for the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL), an international research program examining the influences of higher education on socially responsible leadership and other educational outcomes (e.g., efficacy, resilience, social perspective-taking, identity development). To date more than 350 institutions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica have participated in the study yielding over 400,000 college student participants. John’s research has generated 30 printed or in press publications (e.g., refereed articles, books, and book chapters), more than 60 presentations at national and international conferences. John is a past recipient of the ACPA: College Educators International Burns B. Crookston Doctoral Research Award, Nevitt Sanford Award for Research in Student Affairs, and was named an Emerging Professional Annuit Coeptis. Additionally, the National Association for Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) recognized John as the Melvene Hardee Dissertation of the Year Runner Up and the NASPA Knowledge Community for Student Leadership awarded him the 2009 award for Outstanding Student Leadership Research.
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Susan is Professor Emerita in the Student Affairs Program at the University of Maryland where she taught until 2012. She is past president of the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) and of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). She served as Vice President of two colleges and is the author of a dozen books or monographs including Student Services, Exploring Leadership, Leadership for A Better World, and the Handbook for Student Leadership Development.She was a member of the teams that wrote Learning Reconsidered and the ensemble that developed the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. She is the founding executive editor of the forthcoming New Directions for Student Leadership, a quarterly monograph publication from Jossey-Bass (a division of Wiley publishers). She is a co-founder of the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs. She was chair of the ACPA Senior Scholars, a senior scholar with the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Leadership Association. She has consulted in leadership or student affairs in Canada, Japan, South Korean, Taiwan, and Qatar. She is the 2011 recipient of the University of Maryland Board of Regent’s Award for Faculty Teaching and the NASPA Shaffer Award for Academic Excellence as a graduate faculty member. A recipient of both the ACPA and NASPA outstanding research and scholarship awards, her research includes a grounded theory on Leadership Identity Development and the international Multi-institutional Study of Leadership. She is the 2012 recipient of the ACPA Life Time Achievement Award and the 2013 Leadership and Service Award from the Association of Leadership Educators.
Matthew is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Central Michigan University and teaches graduate courses in leadership. His research interests center on leadership, civic engagement, and diversity. He has worked in co-curricular leadership development programs at the University of Maryland and Miami University. He received a Ph.D. in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland with a focus on leadership and civic engagement in a multicultural context. Matthew has published numerous articles related to leadership development and has worked with the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership since 2009. He is the recipient of the 2012 Jon C. Dalton Dissertation of the Year Award, which used MSL data to explore the development of college students’ civic identity.
Julie is an Assistant Professor of Leadership and Integrative Studies at New Century College, George Mason University, where she teaches courses on socially responsible leadership, civic engagement, and community-based research. She is a Research Scholar for the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs and is co-editor of the Handbook for Student Leadership Development. She is active on several national research teams, including serving as a project consultant for the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) and a research team member of the Leadership Identity Development (LID) project. She is a frequent presenter, consultant, and keynote speaker on topics related to leadership, social change, and organizational development.
Owen is the 2005 recipient of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, the 2008 recipient of the CAS research grant, a 2011 ACPA Annuit Coeptis initiate, and a 2012 Mason teaching excellence award winner. She has assumed leadership roles in numerous professional associations including ACPA: College Educators International and the International Leadership Association (ILA). Owen received her B.A. degree (1993) in psychology and English from the College of William and Mary, and her M. Ed. (1996) in College Student Personnel Administration from James Madison University. She holds a certificate of non-profit administration from Duke University (2000) and received her PhD (2008) in college student personnel at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The following individuals have contributed to the overarching MSL research agenda via their past participation as research team members.
The Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) exists due to the generous sponsorship and support of a variety of organizations over the course of the project.