Linda Fisher Thornton, adjunct assistant professor

Linda Fisher Thornton, adjunct assistant professor

April 18, 2014
Leading in Context CEO & author of '7 Lenses' talks about her engagement in Innovations in Teaching for SPCS

Linda Fisher Thornton is an adjunct assistant professor of human resource management in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) and former chair of the School’s Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee (AFAC). Thornton is the owner and CEO of Leading in Context®, a local leadership development firm acting on its global mission and purpose to bring out the best in people and organizations through proactive ethical leadership. She recently published an award-winning book, 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles & Practices of Ethical Leadership, with a foreword written by Stephen M. R. Covey.

Thornton offered a few thoughts on her experience teaching at SPCS, being involved in AFAC, and being engaged in researching and presenting the recent Innovations in Teaching report.

What is your involvement at SPCS?

I have been teaching leadership classes as an adjunct faculty member since 2000 when I was recruited to teach a class called Leading Groups and Building Teams. Over the last 13 years, I have participated actively in SPCS and the University, serving on committees, and proposing and creating a new strategic leadership course. I have taught Leadership, Conflict Management and Group Dynamics and Strategic Thinking for Leaders.  I recently finished a term as Chair of the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee, and in that role I led the SPCS Innovations in Teaching project.

What did you do before coming to SPCS?

Before I started teaching, I had been a bank training manager for 13 years, and was Senior Vice President and Division Manager of Training for Central Fidelity Bank. After the bank merged with Wachovia in 1998, I started my own consulting firm, doing strategic leadership development work for Richmond clients. I am now CEO of Leading in Context, LLC, a consultancy focused on bringing out the best in people and organizations through ethical leadership.

What do you like best about your job?

The most enjoyable aspects of teaching for SPCS are working with an amazing group of faculty and staff and teaching adult students who really want to learn.

As Chair of the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee, I enjoyed getting to know other faculty members across teaching areas in SPCS. The different perspectives led to some great ideas in our monthly meetings.

I have especially enjoyed helping define Innovations in Teaching for SPCS. Dean Narduzzi asked the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee members to define what innovation in teaching meant to SPCS. Wonderful collaboration and learning went into our final product, the SPCS Innovations in Teaching report, which was shared with faculty at the Fall 2013 faculty meeting.

What’s your goal for the program?

My goal for the Innovations in Teaching program is to keep the dialogue going in the coming years, to help faculty members continue to stretch and learn new ways of teaching that benefit them and their students.

My teaching goal is to inspire my leadership students to use strategic thinking, to embrace complexity and paradox, and to use the highest ethics in all that they do.

What’s your favorite quote or piece of advice for the students in your program?

One of my favorite quotes is

“Man can ‘look before and after.’ He can transcend the immediate moment, can remember the past and plan for the future, and thus choose a good which is greater, but will not occur till some future moment in preference to a lesser, immediate one.” Rollo May

Do you have an example of a successful student in your classes?

One of my students had lived through a devastating childhood, and had served time in prison for selling drugs. He had turned his life around and had been working but was not in a career he loved. He was searching for a meaningful career when he attended his first undergraduate class with SPCS, which was one of my leadership classes. That semester, he embraced the study of leadership, took every leadership class I taught in the next few years, stuck with the program and graduated from SPCS with his college degree. He is now doing very well in a graduate adult education program, and is publicly using his hardship and life experience to help others and serve the greater good. He has developed a program to teach prison inmates how to rebuild their lives so that they will not become repeat offenders.

How do define “success”?

I know my work as Chair of the Adjunct Faculty Advisory Committee is successful when I see the results of our work taking SPCS teaching to an even higher level. I enjoyed being a part of updating the SPCS Faculty Evaluation, and researching the future of higher education in discussions about Innovations in Teaching for SPCS. While our amazing SPCS faculty members are well known for their commitment to students and their quality of teaching, part of the recipe of that level of “amazing” is always striving to be better at what we do.

I know my teaching has been successful when I see students moving into higher level leadership or management positions, and feeling confident about their knowledge of the purpose of leadership, and their handling of group dynamics, leadership responsibility and trust building. I especially enjoy seeing students use what they have learned about leadership and management to serve others in the community and in the world.