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Undoing leadership for more equitable learning spaces

April 10, 2024

Graduate student Matthew Barbas is pictured outside the MacLaurin Building.

Matthew Barbas is a UVic graduate student who is working toward a Master of Education in Leadership Studies. He’s a trained cardiac ultrasound technologist with an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. With several years of professional experience under his belt, he’s now an instructor at Camosun College, teaching cardiac ultrasound courses and ultrasound physics. Looking ahead, he plans to work toward leadership positions within a post-secondary environment. We spoke with Matthew as he approaches graduation this summer. 

Tell us about the program, Master of Education in Leadership Studies
Most of the program is courses in Leadership Studies, but all different approaches. I’ve learned about adult educational theories and different forms of leadership. I chose UVic because the program has in-person classes, group projects and lots of opportunity for open discussions—something I knew I wouldn’t get online.

In your words, what is the course EDD 540: Gender & Leadership about?
The course explores how the concepts of gender and identity impact the way we navigate the world. It focuses on many forms of inequalities that exist in leadership through gender and sexual identity, race, ethnicity, social status and disability. We had many class discussions about various leadership practices and looked at examples. I learned about terms like intersectionality, undoing leadership, and imaginative leadership.

What is intersectionality as you understand it?
Intersectionality looks at how different combinations of identity within society have historically determined how someone is oppressed or receives privilege. This was a striking concept to reflect on. My personal intersections of race, gender, physical body, and education give me privilege and power that others don’t receive. This is especially important to understand as an instructor and leader because I have students with varied backgrounds. It's my responsibility to create an inclusive and respectful classroom that embraces diversity, and then try to model that behaviour.

Tell us more about ‘undoing leadership’
Undoing leadership is looking at leadership from a feminist and a decolonial perspective, which are two forms of leadership that we don't often hear about in the news or mainstream media. So, in this course, you'll be introduced to these types of leadership and explore how people have used them through many different forms of work. 

What’s ‘imaginative leadership’?
A great example is the Raging Grannies! They’re a social justice group that started here in Victoria. They’re ordinary grandmothers, but they wanted to stand up for social causes in an imaginative way. They sing satirical songs, describing ways that we can bring awareness to important issues. They have inspired other Raging Grannies across North America. 

How has this course influenced your personal approach to leadership?
I want to be the kind of leader who has an awareness of the people dynamics in the room, and how other people will inevitably have different perspectives than my own. When I think about my future in a leadership role at my workplace, I’ll think back on this course and what I learned about intersectionality.

What would you say to somebody who's thinking about taking courses or a program in Leadership Studies?
I would say, this is a good course for anyone interested in social justice and leveling up your leadership skills. If you’re already asking the question: ‘What can we do to make this world a more equitable place to exist?’ Then, this would be a great course for you.

Explore Leadership Studies programs

Are you curious about taking courses in Leadership Studies? The Faculty of Education offers a Masters program in Leadership Studies, a minor in Applications of Psychology & Leadership and electives on a variety of Leadership Studies topics. Learn more on the Educational Psychology & Leadership Studies department website