When the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) welcomed its first cohort of Ph.D. students, Gerard Puccio, chair and professor of Creative Studies, was there to tell them that the world would be a better place if we had more creative leaders, because “imagination conquers fear.”
Puccio was speaking because Buffalo State has entered into a memo of understanding with UVI to offer a Ph.D. in Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change. The International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State will provide the core curriculum for the program’s track that focuses on creativity and leadership for change.
“It started when former Buffalo State president Muriel Howard, now president of American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), invited me to offer a keynote address at AASCU’s annual meeting,” said Puccio. “As it happened, UVI’s President David Hall heard that presentation and thought that a doctoral program in creativity might give UVI an opportunity to develop a cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional program.”
A public, open admissions, land and sea grant institution, UVI was named one of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities by the U.S. Congress in 1986. UVI offers a full array of undergraduate and graduate programs and is the only accredited institution of higher education in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In one of the exercises Puccio led, he facilitated a brainstorming exercise around the question, “How can you get the most out of your Ph.D. program?”
The students’ responses inspired Puccio. “About 80 percent talked about how they could use the program to improve their communities—NGOs, public service, schools, churches,” he said. “One of the doctoral students predicted that the first ever woman governor of the Virgin Islands will be a graduate of this program!”
Puccio said that there are different bodies of theories addressing leadership, including trait-based, charismatic, and servant leadership. In the track Buffalo State will deliver, the emphasis will be on creative leadership. After completing foundational courses through UVI, students will register as Buffalo State graduate students to complete the 18-hour graduate certificate in creativity and change leadership. Students will then complete their research and dissertation at UVI.
“The university chose to focus its first Ph.D. program in the area of creative leadership because it addresses one of the most critical needs facing the Virgin Islands, the nation, and the world,” said Hall. “The enormous amount of research and empirical data on the power of creativity, and its intersection with the development of transformative leadership, needed to be harnessed into an academic program that prepares individuals from various fields to contribute to the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, educational, and human advancement of society. We are delighted that the first class is made up of students from numerous disciplines and various parts of the nation and the Caribbean. We are honored to work in collaboration with Buffalo State, which is clearly an international leader in the field of creative thought. Hearing Dr. Puccio present at a national conference for university presidents inspired me to propose that the university focus its first doctoral offerings in this compelling, transformative area.”
Puccio, who has made a career out of advocating for creative leadership, is gratified that the efforts he and his colleagues have put forth are bearing fruit. “When you plant a seed,” he said, “you never know when it will grow, or where.”