Dr. Mitchell McKinney


The Jayhawk Family wants to share some exciting news about one of our PhD alums, Dr. Mitchell McKinney.

As you might know, Mitchell has had an extraordinarily busy few years. For the past two years he has been the Chair of the Department of Communication at Missouri and for three years prior to that he was the Director of Graduate Studies. This fall he has been named the Provost’s Faculty Fellow for Academic Personnel at Missouri. Mitchell has been an extraordinary chair for the department at Missouri, and with a calm and steady hand guided their department through the very public challenges they faced last year. For those of you who know Mitchell, you know he did so with compassion, integrity, and with an ability to keep his department focused on working together as a system and providing an inclusive education.

Through it all Mitchell has remained focused on his scholarship with another book coming out soon, and a continued list of journal articles, and book chapters. He has recently been highlighted in the spring/summer issue of Illumination, a showcase of MU scholarship sponsored by the Office of Research at MU, for his research on political debates (see link below). And his expertise was highlighted at a recent Dole Institute of Politics evening program highlighting the 10 Greatest Moments in Televised Presidential Debate History, along with Dr. Mary Banwart. The Dole Institute has a video of the event if you would like to hear Dr. McKinney in action.

The Institute for Leadership Studies Continues to Grow


The Institute for Leadership Studies (ILS) was created at KU in the fall of 2015 with the purpose of expanding the academic and research foci on leadership studies, and to provide a collective for drawing together the related research across the KU campus.

It is the mission of the ILS to create capacity for thriving in the face of challenge, conflict, and change. The ILS seeks to do that through innovative curricular and research-based programming. Tasked with expanding the curriculum at KU in leadership studies, the ILS currently offers the Leadership Studies Minor, formerly housed in the Department of Communication Studies. The transition of the Leadership Studies Minor courses from COMS to the ILS — which was effective in the fall 2016 semester — has been a smooth process due to the support of Suzanne Grachek and Dr. Tom Beisecker in COMS, and Dr. Amy Leyerzapf in the ILS. Forthcoming academic programs include an online certificate in Leadership Strategies & Applications, the creation of cross-disciplinary graduate certificates in partnership with other units on campus, and a peer-based mentoring program to support KU’s retention goals. Dr. Amy Leyerzapf in the ILS is also organizing an initiative to showcase research in leadership studies at the statehouse. She has commitments from faculty at other colleges and universities across the state to join together at the capitol in the spring and showcase the importance of higher education across Kansas and to illustrate ways in which Kansans benefit from our research.

ILS engages students across campus and from all disciplines in learning to do the work of leadership by developing a core set of leadership habits and a core set of leadership competencies. Academic programming in the ILS is intentionally designed for students to have opportunities to develop the habits of self-awareness, connecting to purpose, contribution, active reflection, and lifelong learning. And, while the curriculum is closely grounded in the theory of Adaptive Leadership (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz, Glashow & Linsky, 2009), it is further designed to help students develop the capacities of managing self, diagnosing the situation, skillfully intervening, and energizing others.

In addition to the development of leadership studies at KU in general, the ILS is expanding its women and leadership initiative. The ILS Women’s Initiative builds on the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute (KWLI), which brings together each year 20 international women and 6 Kansas women from small/rural communities for a year-long leadership education and development program. The KWLI is funded through grant dollars and support from visionary KU Endowment donors. In addition to the KWLI, the Women’s Initiative is partnering with KU undergraduate students to create a statewide women’s leadership conference to be held at KU in the spring of 2017, developing a women’s leadership graduate certificate, and building a research collective on women’s leadership. As part of that effort, Drs. Banwart and Woszidlo will present outcomes based on longitudinal data collected with the KWLI at NCA in November, and earlier this fall Dr. Banwart was invited to the Harvard Kennedy School’s conference on Adaptive Leadership to present preliminary results of the study.


KU Representation at OCMC

“This conference experience was unlike any other I’ve attended. I loved the focus on graduate work. I think this conference is a great way to get to know established and upcoming scholars in the field, and to know where the discipline’s research is going.”
– Abigail Kingsford, Communication Studies Masters Student

The Organizational Communication Mini Conference (OCMC) is a small
sub-disciplinary conference run by graduate students for graduate students. The purpose of the OCMC is to feature and support graduate students pursuing research about organizational communication. The two-day event provides burgeoning scholars in the field with the opportunity to present their dissertations, theses, and other research projects.  All presenters receive feedback, and socialize with peers and established Organizational Communication faculty across the nation.

KU Communication Studies graduate students Abigail Kingsford and Chris Melvin with Dr. Angela Gist attended this year’s OCMC hosted in Evanston, IL by Northwestern University.

At the conference, Abigail presented her thesis prospectus about how millennials are socialized into working. She found the conference really useful in directing the scope of her project. After numerous conversations during the poster session, she decided to switch her focus to include blue-collar workers as well as
white-collar workers to investigate the differences in assumptions about work between the two groups and how organizations helped to prepare them for their first full-time jobs. At first she was unsure about a few aspects of her project’s value before the conference, but she now credits the conversations with other professors and graduate students from other universities for building her confidence and invigorated her to be excited to keep going forward.

Though not presenting this year, Chris attended to see the presentations and network with other people in the discipline, and activity not to be undervalued!

OCMC was lasted hosted at the University of Kansas in 1998. We are proud to be part of this disciplinary tradition! Next year’s conference will be held at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Click here to find out more about OCMC 2016: http://ocmc2016.soc.northwestern.edu/

Below: Abigail Kingsford’s poster outlining her research