Stephen B. Young, Director of Field Placements & Coordinator for Educational Leadership at Holy Family University

Faculty Spotlight: Stephen B. Young, Director of Field Placements & Coordinator for Educational Leadership

What program(s) do you teach at Holy Family University? What drew you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it?

I have been in school-based leadership roles, as a student or professional, for almost sixty years. Studying leadership thereby became both an interest and a necessity. Moreover, I have always had an interest in history and philosophy, so these interests complemented my study of leadership and deepened my understanding. My avocational and vocational interests thus converged.

I oversee the clinical experiences for our teacher candidates and support the faculty members who work directly with the students in the field. This represents fifty percent (50%) of my contractual duties. The balance of my time is dedicated to teaching leadership courses at the graduate and doctoral levels. I teach a variety of courses in this capacity. Among my favorites are Ethical Leadership, Theories in Educational Leadership, Seminar in School Leadership, and the leadership practicums (internships).

Our students in the educational leadership programs are practicing educators. This is what keeps me engaged and excited. Our students bring with them to class a great variety of experiences. They come from all sectors of the field — public, charter, private, and parochial. Their different lived experiences and perspectives create wonderful opportunities for the application of theory to practice. This interaction between theory and practice invariably deepens my own understanding of the field.

How will your program better prepare/equip educators for the current climate we’re in (specifically with COVID-19 and the move to online/hybrid learning)?

Although there are general principles that serve all leaders well, there is no formula that can be applied in all settings. Leaders must be adaptive. Our leadership program is defined by a set of core values and competencies that are reflected in the work of the Wallace Foundation, the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, and guidelines for program development promulgated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Our students engage with theory through structured discussions and apply their understanding to real-life problems and scenarios. Our faculty members are attentive to the learning and personal needs of our students and provide personalized feedback in response to their work. This combination of standards-based curricula, strong personalized instruction, meaningful assignments, and focused feedback ensures that our graduates are prepared for any leadership challenge, pandemic-related challenges included.

What attracted you to Holy Family University to teach at? What sets them apart?

I had no plans beyond relaxation and travel when I announced my retirement from public education. A friend of mine at the time informed me that the Field Placement Director’s position at Holy Family University was open and encouraged me to apply. I had considered higher education administration prior to leaving Girard College but never actively pursued it.

Thinking it was worth exploring, I went ahead and applied for the position at Holy Family University. I was invited to interview and found the experience to be enjoyable. I liked the small size of the university and its family-like feel. Its size demands that faculty members wear a variety of hats and that human relationships are given priority.

The intellectual challenge of being intimately involved in curricular and program development and the opportunity to work closely with students were appealing to me. I also think that these factors, in combination, make the university uniquely capable of responding quickly to changes in the field and in accordance with student needs.

What is your professional background (including degrees) as an educator? 

I earned a B.S. in psychology from West Chester University (then a state college), an M.S. in Educational Administration from Temple University and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.

I had a long administrative career in the private and public education sectors before coming to Holy Family University. I was Dean of Students at Girard College in Philadelphia for many years before accepting administrative assignments in the Allentown, Morrisville, and New Hope-Solebury school districts in Pennsylvania.

I have administered schools and supervised faculty at all three divisions – elementary, middle and high school. I retired from the public school system in 2011 and am currently the Director of Field Placements and Coordinator for Educational Leadership at Holy Family University.

Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you become interested in education?

My father was a career Naval officer and my family moved a great deal as a consequence. I was born in London, England, and spent time as a child in Texas, Virginia, Bermuda, Florida, Midway Island, Hawaii, and Annapolis, Maryland. I was the youngest of three boys. My mother was the consummate officer’s wife, charming, graceful and a wonderful hostess.

Although the incessant moving was challenging for my mother, I loved it. I had the opportunity to experience different cultures and meet a great variety of people. I experienced both the segregated South and the hostility native Hawaiians directed towards outsiders. These experiences shaped my understanding of the human condition and from this evolved my interest in education as a means to improve it.

What would you tell prospective students considering your program about yourself? What something that students and colleagues should know about you?

I believe that effective leadership is essential for organizational success and that leaders can be developed. Leaders are not necessarily born ready-made, although some individuals do have a natural aptitude for it. Anyone with a passion for doing good in the world should seek opportunities to extend their positive influence to the fullest extent possible.

Our principal preparation program is the perfect vehicle for building school leaders. It is ideal for working professionals. The coursework is carefully constructed to afford students the opportunity to apply theory to practice both in the classroom and in the field. Our professors are current and/or veteran school leaders with a strong service ethic. They are eager to help grow the profession and the leaders who define it.

I believe that among all the possible roles in a school system, the principal’s job is the most interesting and rewarding. Every aspect of school life – culture, climate, instruction, assessment, staff development, scheduling, budgeting, etc. – falls within the principal’s purview. There is no greater opportunity to touch the lives of others in a meaningful way than occupying the principal’s office.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing their educational leadership degree? How can people stand out in this field?

Take the first step and keep moving! Complete an application for acceptance to the program and make a commitment to keep to the course sequence. Look for ways to relate your theoretical study to your lived experience. Assume formal and informal leadership roles whenever possible. Study the actions of leaders in your domain and reflect on the qualities and processes that effect positive change and those that impede progress. Learn from both the good and bad examples in your experience.

Read widely in the field and beyond. Make it a point to stay informed about current events, local, state, and national politics, and advances in the arts and sciences. But, most importantly, begin to cultivate the right habits and skills. Adopt a set of values and live by them. Work on your skills – communication, decision-making, problem solving, collaboration, leadership – and practice them courageously. Distinguish yourself by helping others fulfill their human potential.