Leadership instructor sparks conversation, creativity in classroom

Marc Hanlan

Marc Hanlan teaches strategic planning and leading change in an organization courses for Penn State Great Valley's leadership development certificate.

Credit: Elizabeth Palmer

MALVERN, Pa. — Marc Hanlan has flown planes upside down, helped design the international space station, started self-managed factories, and launched a variety of companies. But he’s also spent 15 years teaching at the doctoral, graduate and professional levels — including leadership development certificate courses at Penn State Great Valley and Penn State at The Navy Yard.

For Hanlan, Penn State Great Valley brought an opportunity to work with a unique group of scholars. The campus caters to professionals through highly relevant workshops, certificates and graduate degrees. Adult students represent diverse backgrounds, roles and industries — and most importantly, they bring different perspectives and experiences to the classroom and each other.

Rather than lecturing, Hanlan chooses to harness these differences through conversation, workshops and real-world projects.

“We earn respect and trust through dialogue,” he said. “This opens the door to learning and brings us together.”

Hanlan appreciates creativity and innovation, and doesn’t deem a course successful unless he, too, has learned something.

“I enjoy bringing fun back into the classroom,” he said. “I aim to create discussions that unleash the magic in people — and ignite them to transform their organizations. If we don’t listen and learn from one another, how can we move our companies forward?”

Hanlan is passionate about leadership; his desire to motivate students and cultivate their potential is evident.

He recalls a visit to Florence, Italy, where he saw Michelangelo’s "David." From each angle, Hanlan saw a different emotion in the statue. To him, this parallels his students’ journey in his classroom. Every reading, conversation and idea shapes them to become their best possible self.

“It’s about whom you become through the process,” said Hanlan. “This is a program for professionals to learn and grow — not for someone simply interested in obtaining a certificate.”

Hanlan recently received his doctor of philosophy in organizational development and change from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. For his dissertation, he built on decades of research, spoke with leaders and scholars around the world, and studied a benchmark transcendent team to improve their business by 50 percent in all facets simultaneously. He looks forward to extending this practical and academic knowledge to his strategic planning and leading change in an organization courses.

Penn State Great Valley’s four-course, noncredit leadership development certificate runs annually with weekly classes held in person in Malvern. The program is also offered at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia.