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March 1, 2016

Zimmer to Help Teach Public Policy Seminar

This upcoming spring, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer will help teach two meetings for the Public Policy Seminar: Leading Complex Organizations.

According to the course description, the seminar will be oriented around studying the leadership of the various organizations that constitute our society. Its objective is to prepare students to assume leadership positions within these organizations in the future.

Open to third- and fourth-year students, the seminar will be led by Thomas Amor Cole. Cole graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1975 and is a partner at the Chicago office of law firm Sidley Austin LLP.

Cole plans on incorporating Zimmer toward the end of the curriculum to discuss organizational transformation. “President Zimmer has firsthand experience and firsthand observations about roles in leadership,” he said.

This is the first year that the course is being offered. Cole’s initial interest in the subjects surrounding the seminar stemmed from his personal experiences working with his law firm. “I was a chairman of the executive committee here, which is a leadership role. From my own role here in my law firm together with the nature of my practice, in which I am frequently working with boards and CEOs, the subjects of leadership and organizations caught my attention.”

According to Cole, while in the process of creating the course, he and Zimmer discussed the fact that everyone is, in one way or another, involved in an organization. “It is interesting that most college curricula don’t really address that, and we thought it would be an interesting and stimulating thing to discuss that would be useful to the students.”

The seminar will address a wide variety of subjects ranging from the difference between leadership and management, building and leading a team, and how leaders are held accountable.

“Leadership is obviously vital to the public policy enterprise...so I am excited about the opportunity this elective class presents for our students,” said James A. Leitzel, Ph.D., director and senior lecturer for public policy studies.

The seminar will also include former or current leaders of nonprofits, corporations, professional services firms, and governmental entities. Cole has incorporated outside speakers into his classes in the past as well.

“All of my outside speakers and visitors, including President Zimmer, will be there to share their firsthand experiences,” Cole said. “It’s basically a facilitated conversation on various subjects.”

“The course appears well suited to the mission of our public policy major, which in part aims to provide a window outside of the ivory tower, and to do so in a manner that recognizes that real-world issues do not fit comfortably into traditional disciplinary boundaries,” Leitzel said.

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