Alice MacGillivray

I was the first in my family to attend university.  As a “mature student,” I began my undergraduate degree in natural sciences. I worked in organizational cultures where advanced degrees were not valued.  When it came time to explore graduate studies, I researched options carefully. One day, a colleague asked if I had heard about the new MA in Leadership at Royal Roads. Catalyzed by Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s research, my Assistant Deputy Minister and I had been talking about leadership. It didn’t take long to decide this was “my” program.

I appreciated the diversity of learners. A team might include a public servant, not-for-profit worker, entrepreneur (I had experience with each of those) and a military person (my father served as an officer in WWII, ending with the liberation celebrations in Nijmegen).  The faculty team was cohesive and passionate. Most set aside more lucrative work for part of the year to help others learn. The program modeled what it taught: leadership, constructivist learning, work with emergence, respect for diversity and integration of scholarship and practice. Studies on campus were then five and four weeks in duration, setting the stage for truly transformative learning.

One guest speaker had a significant impact. Susanne Kelly was a corporate VP who co-authored The Complexity Advantage, an award-winning book about leading in uncertain times. She exposed me to a field that has fascinated me ever since.

In professional work, I continue to draw on the strengths of the Royal Roads leadership program (such as problem-based learning).  In scholarly work, most of my research and publications have related to work in complex systems. I have consistently been involved with Royal Roads University in a range of capacities, hoping to give back and nurture a relevant and responsive culture that is so special in higher education.



Alice MacGillivray, PhD is a consultant who specializes in leadership development in knowledge-intensive environments. She has published several peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in these fields, as well as a book about work and communication with horses, Riding Horseback in Purple. Alice works with several universities. At Royal Roads, she teaches and supervises major projects and theses.

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