Two years ago, a group of alumni, administrators, trustees, and faculty embarked on A MISSION TO ESTABLISH A NEW MAJOR for all undergraduate students, aimed at equipping them with practical skills to excel as capable professionals and leaders in their chosen fields and communities.
This fall, Graceland University introduced the brand new transformational leadership major to the first freshmen class. Dr. Nancy King, associate professor of psychology and director of the Life and Leadership program, sat down with freshman Grace Testerman ’26, a student-athlete who has just completed her first course in the new major, to review the progress of the Life and Leadership program.
DR. NANCY KING: Transformational leadership is the act of leading people towards change, and the purpose of this leadership style is to help people transform into better people, students, leaders, business professionals, nurses, and teachers. Transformational leaders have a great sense of vision and can see the best or the potential in people or an organization. The transformational leadership program is designed to help our students do just that. When our students come in as freshmen, we start with the development of transformational leaders, which helps them learn to be leaders of their own lives and take care of themselves and be responsible and dependable.
“Transformational leadership is the act of leading people towards change, and the purpose of this leadership style is to help people transform into better people, students, leaders, business professionals, nurses, and teachers.”
NANCY KING, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology Director, Life and Leadership Program
GRACE TESTERMAN: I would say that this first-year class has definitely helped me really realize what it means to be a leader in the classroom. It can just be being the first person to answer a question or to talk in class and communicate with other students. Those are all great signs of being a leader, and I think this beginning leadership course will help people come out of their comfort zone.
DR. NANCY KING: Then we move into the sophomore year, and that’s all about group leadership because many students are now serving on house council, engaging with student government, and stepping up as leaders on athletic teams, so they are going to understand group involvement is essential. When we move into their junior year, the focus is organizational leadership. In that course, they learn the more formal role of being a leader and transitioning into that leadership position to help lead people or to change an organization. The final year is about servant leadership — doing internships and having the opportunity to apply everything they’ve learned. We even have some of our leadership committee working on those internships now to get them in place.
GRACE TESTERMAN: I use the skills we learned in class in my everyday life — to self-lead for my job, as a student, my assignments, communicate with others, and to be a good person. It’s teaching us morals in life, how to respect one another and know that it’s okay that we have different opinions, and how we can talk about certain things. What I get out of it is that it helps us grow as people, and I honestly love having transformational leadership as a major because it not only looks great on resumés, but it helps a lot for someone individually whenever it comes to work or just trying to be a good person overall.
DR. NANCY KING: What is truly remarkable is that no other university in this country is doing this. Before I agreed to accept this position, I did lots of research, and many universities are teaching leadership courses, but nobody’s offering it as a major. I think our unique program can be attributed to the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff who had the vision to see that this was needed for our students and that it would set them apart from other graduates. You can’t fool these students into believing that the class is good for them — you have to prove it to them. After this first year, I think they’re starting to realize that this can help them in their lives. Which, in turn, will give them the life skills to help others and enact positive change. This is my first year here at Graceland, and I am truly impressed with this all-campus effort to launch this exciting program.
Preparing World Changers
Graceland reimagined its liberal arts general education program and added new modules that are specifically aimed at preparing our graduates to be transformational leaders. These courses set Graceland students on a path to success with a foundational education and experience that will propel them into future careers that have not yet been imagined.
Check out our video and learn more: graceland.edu/bonusmajor