Excellence in College Teaching and Beyond:

Morrill Professors as Relational Leaders


  • Cynthia Haynes Iowa State University
  • Sara Marcketti Iowa State University
  • Paul Hengesteg




teaching, relational leadership, student-centered teaching, land grant universities


Positional leaders, such as administrators, are often thought of as the “leaders” in higher education. However, accepting exceptional educators as relational leaders is vital as changes in higher education demand institutions provide value and quality to their stakeholders. Morrill Professors, an example of exceptional educators at our land-grant Midwestern university, model the elements of relational leadership. They are purposeful and empowering while engaging students in the learning process. They are inclusive and ethical in their approach so as to live up to the land grant mission to serve the people of the state. Finally, they are process-oriented, encouraging iterative learning so they can build on their strengths and take ownership of their thinking and contributions to community. While each Morrill Professor accomplished this distinction by perfecting a different aspect/niche in the classroom, their success in developing relationships with their students was paramount throughout this process. The Morrill Professors reflected the knowing-being-doing triad in that knowledge of their students, their discipline, the land-grant mission, their values of the importance of teaching, and their actions to create excellent learning environments contributed to their (and their students’) successes.