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Frequently Asked Questions



Frequently Asked Questions

What if we don’t use the Social Change Model of Leadership Development on campus? Is participation still valuable?

Yes. Many of the institutions that participate in MSL do not use SCM directly and still find participation in the study incredibly useful.  Our research demonstrates that although the SCM represents a unique approach to leadership development, it is also more similar than different when compared to other contemporary theories such as relational leadership, servant leadership, authentic leadership, and transformational leadership.  We are happy to share insights on how to use MSL data as a means to examine these other orientations toward leadership development.  Furthermore, the MSL measures many leadership-related outcomes (e.g., leadership efficacy, resiliency) that transcend any one particular model. To learn more, visit our theoretical framework section here.

What if we don’t have a formalized leadership program? Is participation still valuable?

Yes. Student leadership capacities are developed in a variety of contexts; from residence halls and athletic groups to academic advising and student employment experiences.

In fact, scholars of leadership development believe that everyone in the college environment is responsible for helping students become leaders. Not just the educators involved with dedicated leadership programs.

You may use your MSL findings to educate all faculty and staff about student leadership development, and to create evidence-based guidelines for all personnel interacting with students.

Can we add more cases to our sample size for the survey?

Yes. You can sample any size population without added cost. There are now no limits to the size of a campus’s random or comparison samples. Note: this is for a single campus only. University systems or multiple campuses are not included in the “any sample size” provision. 

How much work is participation for the school?

MSL was designed to expedite and streamline your role. You are not responsible for administering, collecting, and returning survey instruments. We also provide comprehensive respondent support, a customized sample management system, and daily response–rate monitoring during data collection.

Your role is to prepare for MSL on your campus —such as securing IRB approval, selecting a sample, and customizing e–mail templates for corresponding with students. We will assign a dedicated School Coordinator to walk you through this process.

The total work load will depend on your institutional policies. It will also depend upon whether you choose to customize MSL with custom questions, a comparative sample, and a comprehensive incentive plan.

Is there a longitudinal option?

MSL is offered as a cross–sectional study only. Although a true longitudinal design is not available, participating campuses can compare panel data between two data collections to examine changes in the population.

Does the MSL have a “Master IRB” Approval?

Historically, there was a time when the MSL did obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) oversight for the overall study. IRB oversight followed the Study PI (John Dugan) from the University of Maryland to Loyola University - Chicago. This was required due to local institutional IRB policies at the PI’s institutions - but also because the University based research team was in direct contact with study participants in the early days of the study. This is no longer the case — the study PI has no institutional requirement to obtain IRB.

Additionally, with the current changes to the Common Rule (45 CFR, Part 46), coupled with an increasing desire for local institutions to use the study for primarily internal evaluation/improvement (and not research) purposes. For these reasons, going forward (starting in the MSL2018 Fall data collection), the MSL will no longer seek to obtain a master IRB approval for the study.

Our specific reasoning for why the MSL does not require a master IRB approval - which may be used in discussions with your local IRB: From our standpoint, the current MSL service does not meet the definition of research. The MSL is a service to schools to support service and instructional development and improvement. The MSL is not offered as a scientific tool to contribute to a general scientific knowledge.

Anonymized MSL data may be used by schools or other MSL affiliated individuals/organizations for research purposes (as allowed under the terms of agreement), and as appropriate when such explorations are conducted, those involved should look into obtaining appropriate IRB coverage for use and analysis of anonymized data, as determined necessary. It is the responsibility of individual schools to determine when any IRB approval is necessary.

The MSL and SoundRocket take the responsibility of caring for survey participants and their data very seriously. In no way does this modification reflect a change in the level of attention to detail given to each individual who is selected to participate in the survey. SoundRocket's research subject privacy policy is available here:

Do participating schools need to obtain local IRB approval?

The MSL will continue to support schools in their own internal review processes - including when that process includes a local IRB approval. The MSL (or SoundRocket) can only offer support, and not direction or legal/regulatory guidance to schools. Each institution must determine, on their own, whether an IRB approval is necessary at their institution.

Your School Coordinator will provide templates and other information to expedite the process of obtaining local IRB approval and reduce the workload.

Does ID Link participation require any additional IRB or similar approval or guidance?

Yes. It should be noted that the MSL service does offer an option (ID Link) that provides identifiable data to the schools for further analyses and linking with institutional data. Because this service has the potential to put participants at further risk, schools choosing to participate in this service must demonstrate that they have sought IRB guidance and gotten approval (or formal instruction that their involvement is not necessary) to proceed. The MSL will not release identifiers unless this step has been completed, as it represents an increased risk to respondent confidentiality. It should be noted that this does not represent a change in MSL policy - even when the MSL obtained a master IRB approval, the approval required local IRB input for any ID Link participating school.

Can I view a copy of the full survey?

MSL is copyrighted, so we can’t release the full questionnaire until you have completed the registration processes. Detailed information about the instrument is available here. Should you need further support in understanding the survey or its content, feel free to reach out to

Can we set the dates students receive the email invitations to participate?

We will work directly with you to determine a three–week window for data collection. This date should not overlap with the first full two weeks of your spring term, spring breaks, or mid–term testing periods.

Who will have access to our data?

The MSL Research Team and SoundRocket will prepare your data for the final report. Data will also be aggregated into a national dataset for the purposes of analysis. At no point will institutional data be shared with anyone outside the research team in a way that identifies a particular school.

Are there issues involved in sharing student email addresses for the study? Wouldn’t that be a violation of student privacy? Can I participate without providing email addresses?

That depends on your institution. Each college or university has a unique policy about distributing student contact information.

Under federal law, it is NOT a violation of FERPA to share student email addresses for MSL, since your school is contracting with the Survey Sciences Group. You are sharing information to enhance your educational practice.

We are happy to speak with institutional representative about this and can share the significant privacy measures we have in place to protect respondent confidentiality.

Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate institutions that aren’t permitted to share their student’s e–mail addresses.

When is the last date I can enroll in the study?

We encourage campuses to sign up as early as possible for the MSL so that they have the benefit of time to prepare for the study. Additionally, for the 2018 cycle of MSL, the study will be capped at 100 schools. So, we, again, encourage schools to sign up as early as possible.  As long as the enrollment form is active you may enroll in the study.

Has MSL been used outside the United States? Are there options to bring MSL to my country?

The MSL has connected language and cultural translations for use of the instrument in Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Australia. This includes extensive validation work. We are always interested in partnering with schools to bring MSL into new contexts. Please note, though, that there may be additional fees associated with fielding the study in a new country context to ensure the appropriate cultural and linguistic adaptation. Additionally, we typically need to start much earlier in the research cycle to ensure adequate time to conduct translations. For more information contact