BU News

Mastering organizational leadership a stepping stone for military and civilians alike

April 09, 2015

Chris Kaul, Hassan Chughtai and Lora Albert, all M.A.O.L. students talk over a class assignment.

Curtis Miller was scared. Despite his 30 years in the Navy, most recently leading a team of 22 who were in charge of more than 2,500 Navy personnel, he wasn’t sure if getting a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (M.A.O.L.) was really a good idea.

“But from day one, right up until now, I’m excited to go to school,” said the Lemoore NAS campus student, who has one more class to go. The program helped him combine what he knows from life in the military and apply it to his new civilian position with International Paper.

The classes gave him confidence that many of the techniques of leadership he had honed over the years (and adjusted over the years to meet new expectations) could be applied in the corporate world and that there was research to back them up.

“People who have been in the military, they know how to be leaders, but they don’t always know the why. They need to go through something like this (the M.A.O.L. program) so they can see both sides (military and corporate) and learn how leadership works and what it takes to motivate people,” said Miller.

Brandman University Dean of the School of Business and Professional Studies Glenn Worthington

Dean Glenn Worthington

Because of their military schooling, active and veteran members of the armed forces are able to complete the master’s program quickly, often needing as few as seven classes to earn the degree, said Bethany Matos, site director at Lemoore. “It’s based on the schooling a service member completes to qualify for promotion to E7, 01, CW2 or above.”

“It shows that Brandman values their previous schooling,” said School of Business and Professional Studies Dean Glenn Worthington. “It’s not credit for experience. It’s credit for education completed in the military. They appreciate that.”

Active military and veterans also appreciate being able to have a portion of the cost covered by their military benefits. Another benefit is flexibility. Students can enroll and attend classes at a campus like Lemoore and then switch to online learning if deployed.

There’s also the comfort of being in a class with people who understand what you’ve been through. Dr. Karen Marie Erickson has introduced alumni to potential students to help them over their reluctance to take on the responsibilities of classroom work while building a life in the military or trying to establish one in the civilian world.

Erickson forms close bonds with her students. When David Cradduck was uncertain about staying in the Navy, going to school and getting married all at the same time, she invited him to come to class and meet some of her students. He eventually enrolled, got married, got advice from his classmates on adjusting to marriage and graduated last May.

“His mother-in-law said, ‘David doesn’t like many people, but you are someone who is in his heart forever.’ The whole situation still gives me chills,” wrote Erickson, describing the hooding ceremony.

“It (the M.A.O.L.) is a special course of study that is unique from educational leadership or an MBA. It is the degree for the future,” she wrote.

Democracy, Ethics and Leadership instructor Laura Galloway engages the class in a discussion.

Democracy, Ethics and Leadership instructor Laura Galloway engages the class in a discussion.

It’s also the degree of the future for students without military experience. Wednesday evening Laura Galloway’s Irvine classroom had a smattering of M.A.O.L. students as well as students in other master’s programs learning about Democracy, Ethics and Leadership, one of the core courses in the program.

Chris Kaul, who got his bachelor’s degree at Chapman University, decided to pursue an M.A.O.L. at Brandman to expand his options at work. Currently he’s a compensation analyst for Genesis Healthcare but needs a master’s degree to advance to a director’s role.

Hassan Chughtai, who works at Wells Fargo in financial planning, choose it for similar reasons as did Lora Albert, currently a student services specialist at Brandman but looking to advance to a career in human resources.

As with most M.A.O.L. classes, a good portion of their class time was spent talking to each other. A group project due in a few weeks had them brainstorming ideas about how an ethical lapse in leadership can be overcome by a company.

Recent graduate Joe Botto, an e-medical recruiter for the Army who is also in the process of making the transition to a civilian career in pharmaceutical sales, said all the classes relevant to both his current work and what he hopes to do. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. I was able to apply a lot of what I was doing to my classwork but now I know why it works.”

LT. J.D. Luckesen, command chaplain at Naval Hospital Lemoore, said the range of assignments helped him develop his own philosophy of leadership and forced him to examine how he previously led others and how he’ll lead in the future. He deploys later this year in support of Pacific Partnership 2015 on board the USNS Mercy as the command chaplain and then moves to San Diego this winter to be on board the USS Princeton.

Luckesen said the classroom discussions were among the most valuable aspects of the program, particularly those around Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why,” which influenced how he communicates both up and down the chain of command.

“Sinek caused me to not only look at myself but also the United States Navy, the Chaplain Corps, and my command. I knew what we do, sometimes I knew how we did it, but it was much harder for me to pinpoint why we do what we do,” wrote Luckesen in an email.

What students learn


  • Leadership: Articulate a personal philosophy of leadership that reflects a sense of self as leader.
  • Critical Analysis: Analyze organizational leadership issues using a theory based approach.
  • Systems: Evaluate personal and organizational effectiveness using systems thinking principles.
  • Ethics: Create a personal ethical decision-making model.
  • Collaboration: Apply collaboration and team skills.
  • Change: Apply change management strategies to practical situations in organizations.
  • Learn more 


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