Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Leadership Studies


During the spring 1996 semester, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies offered a special topics course titled "Leadership in Crisis." The course, co-taught by Dr. Richard Couto and former Virginia Attorney-General Mary-Sue Terry, intended to "offer students CPR instruction to sustain organizational and personal vision" (Couto) for a group or organization dealing with crisis. Members of the class were instructed in crisis taxonomy and classification, crisis in diverse contexts, crisis management plans, crisis perspectives from both inside and outside of organizations, and the role of the personal in dealing with crisis. The faculty instructors determined that although the course had many valuable components and would be an asset to the Leadership Studies curriculum, the course would be most useful broken down into elements that could be added into other courses, decision making and conflict resolution, for example (Couto).

The instructors recognized the importance of the content of this course as crises situations hit us in many facts of life ranging from personal, to organizational, to national or world wide. It is often through these situations that leaders emerge in our societies and lives to lead us through these experiences Thus, this leadership environment as Dr. Couto and Professor Terry realized, is important to the field of leadership studies as from many of these situations emerge the leaders of our generations.

Personal experiences in the crisis course awakened this realization of the importance of crisis research as well as a desire to impact this field of study. This desire met fruition in the fall of 1996 with the discussion of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies senior thesis. Because of a strong interest in the material from the Leadership in Crisis course, an initial proposal was created proposing the redesign of the course curriculum for this class. However, because of numerous ideas, and specific concerns about the course's existing curriculum, one facet of the material had to be chosen. Under recommendation of Dr. Couto, the decision was made to extend the work of Michael Helsel, a classmate from the Leadership in Crisis course. Michael's work involved a paper with a model that measured crisis magnitude. Specifically, the index measured the actual/potential number of persons affected by a circumstance to the degree of actual or potential negativity of the same situation. Intrigued by the model, it was decided that an investigation into model's accuracy and implications allowed thorough investigation of crisis research and granted an opportunity to contribute to this field of study. Finally, this investigation allows personal development and understanding of a phenomenon that proliferates today's world, the world from which our leaders emerge.