Tag: MS-Leadership

Students in Olin’s Brookings Executive Education Master of Science Leadership program based in Washington D.C. traveled to St. Louis  for a week long course, “Daring to Lead”. During this immersion week, the goal is for students to develop and understand their principal motivations for leading. Students also learn how to design organizations and lead them dynamically so that they can deliver superior results while avoiding unintended consequences.

Sunday was opening day of the Daring to Lead course. Dean Gupta gathered the 20 students in Bauer hall overlooking the quad and welcomed to them to Olin Business School, lauding them for their commitment to service and lifelong learning.


William Danforth, Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis (1971-1995), discussed leadership and his grandfather’s book, I Dare You! with the students.

The curriculum for Daring to Lead is built around 3 themes: motivation to lead, the mindset of leaders, and the mental models of leaders. Through conversations with Olin faculty, guest speakers, including members of the Brookings family, and the St Louis corporate community, students learned about courage in action to support their commitment to lead and dare greatly.

The MS-Leadership candidates were enthusiastic about being on campus and engaging with the St.Louis campus and community. The students are mid- to senior- level government managers and until this week have taken their courses in Washington, D.C. at the Brookings Institution.

Olin launched the Master of Science in Leadership (MS-Leadership) degree program delivered through Brookings Executive Education (BEE) in 2011. This distinctive degree is one of the few offered in the United States for leaders in the public sector and is unique in its emphasis on practical application for tackling the multifaceted problems that the government is called upon to solve.



At a recent Master Class for Brookings Executive Education’s MS-Leadership candidates, Barbara Fichman of the Energy Information Administration shared a real-world example where BEE coursework helped her team respond to a political firestorm.

In 2011, an agency’s flagship publication sparked controversy between The White House, congressional leaders, the press, and other federal agencies. Statistical data pulled from the publication was used to criticize a statement made by the Executive branch. Almost immediately, the response from the press, congressional party members, and other federal agencies created a firestorm denouncing the adequacy and accuracy of the data, the publication and the source agency.

Barbara Fichman and her team were asked to prepare a full report on the missteps and a list of future recommendations. The team knew they had a problem but needed to clearly identify the issue before jumping to a conclusion and supplying an insufficient solution.

The first step they took was to gather information in order to formulate and frame the problem. They identified the source of the error: the meaning of the data had changed over time. Their team had failed to realize that and had also failed to recognize a significant error in the data they published.

Upon investigating, the team discovered many aspects of the problem. For example, over the past 30 years, the publication had grown from about 50 pages to 370 pages, while the team producing it had shrunk by about 40 percent. In order to address the problems facing the agency, as well as the purpose and future of the publication, the team collected various points of view and key symptoms from stakeholders.

Ultimately, the question turned out to be, “How can our agency publish unbiased, accurate, and relevant data with the resources it has?” The team came up with a variety of solutions and analyzed the assumptions and consequences of each. In the end, they proposed suspending the publication for one year, during which they would do extensive outreach to stakeholders to get their perspectives on what kinds of products would be most useful. The proposal was accepted, and this year is the first time in more than 30 years that the publication has not been produced.

The critical thinking process of problem formulation that Fichman learned in her Olin BEE program helped her and her team to think critically about hidden assumptions, biases, purpose, points of view and stakeholders. Fichman has since gone on to mentor others in the use of the critical thinking mindset when faced with problems, regardless of the scale.

“High-level critical thinking is more than using relevant methods of evaluation in order to make an informed judgment about something. It includes devoting time to a thorough and accurate formulation of the problem before ‘jumping to solutions’. The purpose of the inquiry is rigorously determined, the biases of individuals and groups are taken into account and mitigated when possible, and assumptions are explicitly examined before conclusions are reached,” Fichman told her colleagues in the BEE Master Class.

Barbara Fichman is a Program Manager in the Office of Energy Statistics at the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Barbara is a candidate for the Master of Science in Leadership, a degree granted by Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis and delivered via Brookings Executive Education.

Candidates for the Master of Science in Leadership (MS-Leadership) degree program gathered on September 12, 2013 for a full day orientation and a master class. The 2013 Master class marked a pivotal shift for the MS-Leadership degree as it was the first time many of the students gathered as a MS-Leadership community. A sense of family, shared experience and camaraderie fill the room with an unprecedented energy.

This distinctive degree is one of the few offered in the United States for leaders in the public sector granted by Olin Business School delivered via Brookings Executive Education (BEE). The accredited MS–Leadership curriculum centers on a series of courses—Executive Pathways—that can be taken in any order over as much time as needed. These courses are held at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

“The practical application and not just a theory based learning of the Master of Science in Leadership program is the competitive edge I was looking for in a graduate degree.”

The day’s agenda included reviewing degree requirements and expectations, understanding and improving written communications, student presentations on Strategic Thinking: Examples of Impact, and a MS-leadership dinner.

“I get an opportunity to interact with folks from different agencies that I normally would not. I understand the challenges I have traverse across agencies. The only interaction I have at this level of this type is in these courses.”

BEE is providing MS-Leadership students with the services of a writing coach to assist them with style, precision, and clarity in writing. In addition, the writing coach will provide guidance on the development of the Office of Personnel Management competency of written communication. The coach will not grade the paper but will be available for advice while a student is composing it and will provide feedback after submission.

Shannon Baker Moore, M.A., is our BEE Writing Coach. A freelance writer and editor, Moore also teaches writing at the Pierre Laclede Honors College of the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Her writing background includes business and technical writing as well as creative writing and non-fiction.

“You can only run on instinct for so long. This curriculum provides the framework to inform decisions I make at my agency.”

Student presentations covered the afternoon and aroused thoughtful discussion among students and present professors, Jackson Nickerson and Stuart Bunderson. Presentations included the topics critical thinking, strategic thinking, and inspiring creativity. Each presentation demonstrated the major impact the MS-Leadership curriculum is having on the work they do at their Federal agency.

“Asking ‘what problem am I really trying to solve’ allows you to look at the right solution.”

Dinner in the St. Louis room at Brookings provided an intimate conclusion for the day. Why individuals are participating in the MS-Leadership degree, the unique advantages of the program, the return on investment at the personal and agency level, and the diverse experiences were among topics discussed. Students, faculty, and staff pinged ideas off of each other on new ways to grow the program; all wanting to share the incredible experience that is the MS-Leadership.