Professor Barry Qualls Advises Students On How To Lead Through Change

On October 1, 2012, Barry Qualls, Rutgers’ award-winning English professor and vice president of undergraduate education, was the guest speaker during SMLR’s Leadership in Work Organizations class. Taught by SMLR Dean Susan J. Schurman and Professor Rebecca Kolins Givan, the undergraduate course provides an in-depth examination of leadership—what it is, where it comes from, and how people develop and exercise it—with a focus on leadership within work organizations, including labor unions that represent workers in the workplace.

Above from left: Professor Barry Qualls, a guest speaker in the Leadership In Work Organizations class, and Rutgers SMLR Dean Susan J. Schurman take a poll of the students.
Above: Professor Barry Qualls shares his experiences as Rutgers vice president for undergraduate education with students.

Professor Qualls, who is stepping down from his position as vice president after spending six years as an administrative leader, gave advice to the class. He will return to teaching in the English department full-time, a position he has held for more than 40 years.

“I’m stepping down from this job because I think it’s important that there’s a change in administration,” Professor Qualls said during a recent interview in The Daily Targum. “I always want to see younger faculty members running things. They are the future of Rutgers.”

A fan of 19th century Victorian literature, Professor Qualls always knew that he wanted to teach but didn’t consider becoming a leader in the traditional sense. When he became chair of the English department in 1989, Professor Qualls says that he instinctively taught himself how to lead, emphasizing that some leadership skills are self-taught or innate.

He went on to discuss the skills he discovered though his experience as vice president. Professor Qualls ran two task forces on Rutgers’ undergraduate education and was instrumental in its restructure, combining five previously existing undergraduate schools into one, School of Arts and Sciences. He believes that the process was successful because of the leadership skills applied throughout—the willingness to listen to everyone’s viewpoints, even those who don’t agree with you.

 “You can’t lead people to rethink and reconceive the world they live in,” says Professor Qualls. “If you’re going to be an effective leader, you have to build a group people who want to work on the same side of you, even if they disagree with you.”

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