Información en Español

About MSL

About MSL



About MSL

About MSL




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.


To date, data collection has occurred at more than 350 institutions with over 610,000 student participants.


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.


Participating Campuses

Participating Campuses

Participating Campuses

Participating Campuses

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.

U.S. Schools

  • Alfred University (2009, 2011, 2012)

  • Auburn University (2006)

  • Baylor University (2009, 2018)

  • Berry College (2009)

  • Boise State University (2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Boston College (2012)

  • Bowling Green State University (2011, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Bradley University (2010)

  • Bridgewater State College (2009)

  • Brigham Young University (2006)

  • Brigham Young University - Hawaii (2009, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Bryant University (2009)

  • Bucknell University (2009)

  • Cabrini College (2015)

  • California Lutheran University (2009, 2012)

  • California Maritime University (2015)

  • California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo (2015, 2018)

  • California State University at Sacramento (2009)

  • California State University, Monterey Bay (2010)

  • California State University, Northridge (2006)

  • California State University, San Marcos (2006)

  • Central Michigan University (2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Citadel Military College of South Carolina (2011, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Claflin University (2006)

  • Clemson University (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019)

  • Colgate University (2009)

  • College of New Jersey (2018)

  • College of the Holy Cross (2012, 2015)

  • College of William and Mary (2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Colorado State University (2006, 2009, 2012)

  • Colorado State University- Fort Collins (2015, 2018)

  • Columbia College (2009)

  • Community College of Baltimore County (2006)

  • Concordia College (2009, 2012)

  • Cornell College (2009)

  • Creighton University (2012)

  • CUNY Baruch (2009)

  • CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College (2015)

  • CUNY Kingsborough Community College (2015)

  • CUNY Lehman College (2009, 2015, 2019)

  • CUNY Queens College (2015)

  • CUNY York College (2015)

  • Davidson College (2011)

  • Denison University (2015)

  • DePaul University (2006, 2009, 2012, 2015)

  • Drake University (2006, 2009, 2012, 2015)

  • Drexel University (2006, 2009, 2012)

  • Duke University (2009)

  • East Carolina University (2015, 2018)

  • Eastern Michigan University (2010)

  • Elizabethtown College (2011)

  • Elmhurst College (2009, 2012)

  • Elon University (2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Emory University (2011, 2015, 2018)

  • Eureka College (2011)

  • Fairfield University (2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Florida International University (2006)

  • Florida State University (2006, 2010)

  • Fordham University (2015)

  • Fordham University — Rose Hill and Lincoln Center Campuses (2012)

  • Franklin College (2006)

  • Furman University (2009)

  • Gallaudet University (2006, 2009)

  • George Mason University (2006, 2009, 2011)

  • George Washington University (2018)

  • Georgetown University (2012, 2015)

  • Georgia Institute of Technology (2011)

  • Georgia Southern University (2009)

  • Georgia State University (2006)

  • Gettysburg College (2009)

  • Gonzaga University (2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Goshen College (2012)

  • Guilford College (2009, 2018)

  • Hamline University (2009, 2010)

  • Harper College (2015)

  • Harvard University (2009)

  • Houghton College (2009)

  • Immaculata University (2012)

  • Indiana State University (2012)

  • Indiana University - Bloomington (2009, 2018)

  • Iona College (2012, 2015)

  • Iowa State University (2015)

  • Jackson State University (2009)

  • John Carroll University (2006, 2009, 2012)

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice / CUNY (2012, 2015)

  • Johns Hopkins University (2011)

  • Kalamazoo College (2015, 2018)

  • Kansas State University (2009)

  • Kent State University (2009, 2012)

  • Kenyon College (2012)

  • Lafayette College (2018)

  • Lehigh University (2006, 2015, 2018)

  • Liberty University (2015, 2018)

  • Louisiana State University (2010, 2012)

  • Loyola Marymount University (2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Loyola University Chicago (2009, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Loyola University Maryland (2015, 2018)

  • Lynn University (2012)

  • Mansfield University (2009)

  • Marian University (2012, 2015)

  • Marquette University (2006, 2009, 2012, 2018)

  • Marymount University (2015, 2018)

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT (2012)

  • McGill University (2012, 2015)

  • Meredith College (2006, 2009, 2012, 2015)

  • Metropolitan State University of Denver (2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Miami University of Ohio (2006, 2010, 2012)

  • Millikin University (2009)

  • Mills College (2009, 2010, 2015)

  • Milwaukee School of Engineering (2018)

  • Minnesota State University Moorhead (2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Missouri Western State University (2009)

  • Monroe Community College (2006, 2009)

  • Montgomery College at Maryland (2006, 2009)

  • Moravian College (2006, 2009)

  • Mount Aloysius College (2015)

  • Mount Union (2006)

  • New York University (2018)

  • NC Central University (2009)

  • NC State University (2006, 2009)

  • North Carolina State University at Raleigh (2015)

  • North Central College (2011)

  • Northeastern Illinois University (2009)

  • Northeastern State University (2009, 2011)

  • Northwestern University (2006, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018)

  • Notre Dame de Namur University (2010)

  • Oakland University (2010, 2012)

  • Ohio University (2009)

  • Oklahoma State University (2018)

  • Old Dominion University (2010)

  • Oregon State University (2006, 2015)

  • Otterbein University (2011)

  • Pacific Lutheran University (2009, 2011)

  • Philander Smith College (2011)

  • Portland State University (2006, 2010)

  • Purdue University-Main Campus (2012, 2018)

  • Purdue University North Central (2012)

International Schools




Research Team & Partners

Research Team and Partners

Research Team & 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.


Principal Investigator



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.


Project Consultants



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 ServicesExploring 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.


Dr. Matthew Johnson

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.


Dr. Julie E. Owen (Institutional Survey)

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.

Ben headshot 2018.jpg

Dr. Benjamin P. Correia-Harker

Ben is the Director of Assessment & Research at the Interfaith Youth Core where he oversees assessment education efforts and participates in interfaith engagement and worldview diversity climate research.  Outside of this work, he teaches graduate courses on leadership and evaluation and pursues research interests related to leadership motivation, college student leadership development, and interfaith engagement.  Prior to his current role, Ben worked in various higher education functional areas including residence life, student activities, student union management, and academic advising.  He received a B.A. in religious studies from the College of Idaho, an M.S.Ed. in student affairs administration from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in higher education from Loyola University Chicago.  He has worked with the MSL in different capacities since 2011.


Past Team Members

The following individuals have contributed to the overarching MSL research agenda via their past participation as research team members.


Research Partners

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.


Sponsorship Provided By:

International Partners:

Prior funding provided by: