Shout “Go Green!” and Glenn Hodges will respond with an emphatic, “Go White!”

For this “huge Spartan supporter,” the Michigan State University pride runs deep, as it wasn’t all that long ago that the Assistant Professor of Management and Director of the Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership program was an MSU undergraduate student pursuing a major in marketing.

“In fact, I have the opportunity to teach one of the courses that I took back when I was an undergrad,” Hodges says with a smile. “I’m very happy to also have the opportunity to work with graduate students now through the online and Executive MBA programs.”

Hodges’ love for all things MSU is “something I convey to all my students, that I’m truly proud to be a Spartan and that it’s a special community.”

Whether the students are young undergrads sitting in a classroom on campus or the working professionals and business leaders participating in the online Master of Science in Management, Strategy and Leadership program (MSMSL), Hodges makes a point to emphasize that “they’re part of that community just like I am. We have different roles. My role is now teaching, theirs is learning. But it really makes for a great atmosphere.”

Bridging the Academic and the Professional

In the period between his MSU undergrad work and his MSU faculty role lays a 20-plus-year career as a manager and strategist with corporate titans such as Coca-Cola and Chrysler. Hodges’ decision to transition from the ranks of Fortune 500 companies into academia wasn’t a plan B choice, but a long-term goal.

“This was something that I’d known I’d wanted to do for many years,” he explains. “Actually, before I did my PhD, I had already decided that I wanted to have a career in business and then after my career in business, I wanted to go back into the academic environment so that I could share the knowledge that I had gained, both from an academic standpoint as well as from a professional standpoint with students.”

Hodges’ depth of professional experience not only provides a unique perspective to his work as an academic, it also provides his students with additional professional insight. As Hodges explains, “I’ve actually personally seen many of the experiences or many of the issues that are addressed in various management texts.”

In ensuring the MSMSL program continuously bridges the academic research of leadership and its professional application, Hodges mines his own experience, and that of the program’s faculty thought leaders, while also “looking out into the external environment, interfacing with CEOs and other top executives.”

MSMSL students also serve as an invaluable bridge between the academic and professional applications of leadership as they collaborate with faculty and with one another in the leadership laboratory that is the online program.

“I interface with a lot of students each semester and I definitely listen to their issues and their problems and their challenges that they have in their actual working environments,” explains Hodges. “These are things we end up discussing throughout the course of the year and the other professors in the MSMSL program are doing the same.”

Fostering Collaborative Learning with Diverse Leaders

With an emphasis on participatory learning within an active online leadership community, students play a pivotal role in creating the program experience for themselves and their classmates by sharing their own expertise, workplace examples and career goals.

“It’s pretty diverse in this program,” says Hodges. “Someone 25 or 26 is using this as an opportunity to show potential. They plan to move up and [this] signals to others they take career and life goals seriously.”

“A mid-career professional, especially in Fortune 500 companies where you have to have a master’s degree to even apply, they’re looking at that knowledge and credentials. Late career, 45 plus, they’re thinking about staying relevant. They want to continue investing in themselves, demonstrating they’re still interested and engaged, and honing those higher management skills.”

No matter what career stage the M.S. in Management, Strategy and Leadership students find themselves at, their level of success depends on two important factors, according to Hodges: drive and dedication.

“The drive part is something that’s innate,” he says. “So you’ve got that drive to move forward with your career, and that helps lead to the other piece, which is the dedication because if you’re not dedicated to reading the materials, attending the live lectures, doing all the homework, interfacing with the other students in the program, you’re not going to make it work the way you would like to. So, if you’ve got that drive, and you are dedicated to doing those things that need to be done, then you should have a very high level of success.”