Ethical Leadership Course

Co-taught in the W&M Washington Center by James Comey '82 and Drew Stelljes


  • The Fall 2018 course is closed
  • The Spring 2018 course is closed -- no additional spaces are available after the DC Semester students and MPPP students registered.

Course Description: 

Ethical leadership is centered on values, like truth, integrity, fairness, transparency, and decency.  It is also a kind of leadership that takes the long view, emphasizing both individual and institutional values.  Good leaders crave truth and try to create cultures in which people will tell them the truth.  The best leaders are confident enough to be humble, attract talent because they care deeply about their people, and care more about lasting values and institutions than they do about themselves or winning the dispute of the moment.
Ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth.  Building and maintaining that kind of leadership, in both the private sector and government, is the challenge of our time. 
This course is not just for leaders or those who aspire to lead.  Whether we are in positions of authority or not, we should care about ethical leadership because, as voters, stockholders, and employees, we play a vital role in choosing our leaders.  And who we choose makes a big difference in our lives.  This class is intended to challenge students to think critically about leaders, sources of authority for decision-making, and the challenges and opportunities involved in shaping human cultures and motivating people. 

Course Details:

The 3-credit Public Policy course will be in offered through the William & Mary Washington Center in the Fall 2018, Spring 2019, and Summer 2019 semesters.  The course will give W&M students the opportunity to learn about leadership from former FBI Director James Comey and Drew Stelljes, the Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Leadership and Executive Assistant Professor of Education at W&M.  

Upon completing this course, students will be better able to recognize and understand the following:

(1)  Foundations of western conceptions of leadership and the reasons leaders seek to lead.

(2)  The manner in which human beings seek meaning through groups, and the ethical implications of human group behavior, especially in a modern, globalized western world.

(3)  Theories of organizational culture and motivation, and the ability and limitations inherent in shaping culture.

(4)  Influence of current political, social, and cultural norms on shaping modern conceptions of effective leadership

(5)  Sources of authority for ethical decision-making.

(6)  Effective leadership communication to diverse audiences, with special emphasis on preconceptions and biases.

(7)  The value, challenges, and opportunities in building diverse teams.

This course will be taught in seven modules.  The first six are focused on exploring the principles and foundations of leadership, including the nature of moral decision-making, the nature of people, especially in groups, the nature of culture, the importance of diversity, etc.  The seventh module will focus on applying these principles to real-life cases. Assignments will include, among others, an array of texts and readings, in class discussion, oral presentation, and a comprehensive culminating paper. 

Course Schedule/Credits

During the fall and spring semesters, the course will meet on Fridays from 4:00-7:00pm.  Half of the Fridays will take place in the W&M Washington Center and half on main campus.  This Public Policy course is open to all students, with potential cross listings in other programs and departments.

Enrolling students:  
Students receiving priority enrollment for the course include:
  • Undergraduates who are enrolled in the W&M Washington Center’s Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 DC Semester Program.
  • Graduate students in the Public Policy Program (spring 2019 only).

As space allows, other students at W&M may also enroll in the course, provided that they are able to travel to Washington, D.C. for the sessions to be held there.


Frequently Asked QuestionsWashington Post Article About the Course

Questions about logistics?  Contact the [[wmdccenter,W&M Washington Center]]

Questions about the topic?  Contact [[adstel,Professor Drew Stelljes]]


James Comey
James Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama.   A Yonkers, New York native, Jim Comey attended the College of William & Mary and the University of Chicago Law School. After law school, Comey returned to New York and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. There, he took on numerous crimes, most notably Organized Crime in the case of the United States v. John Gambino, et al. Afterwards, Comey became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he prosecuted the high-profile case that followed the 1996 terrorist attack on the U.S. military’s Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Comey returned to New York after 9/11 to become the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. At the end of 2003, he was tapped to be the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ) under then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and moved to the Washington, D.C. area.

Comey left DOJ in 2005 to serve as General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Five years later, he joined Bridgewater Associates, a Connecticut-based investment fund, as its General Counsel. In early 2013, Comey became a Lecturer in Law, a Senior Research Scholar, and Hertog Fellow in National Security Law at Columbia Law School.

Drew Stelljes
Dr. Andrew D. Stelljes serves as the Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Leadership at William & Mary. He provides leadership and direction for an integrated portfolio aimed at enhancing student development. 

Stelljes is the author of Service-Learning and Community Engagement: Toward Long-term Developmental Social Concern and his engagement model has been widely published. He has authored an array of journal articles on placing students intellectual and developmental needs at the center of the learning endeavor, service-learning, community based learning, education policy reform measures, impacts of alternative breaks and measures of the efficacy of college based tutoring and mentoring programs. 

He is a graduate of William & Mary with an earned PhD in Educational Policy. In 2008 Drew was selected as an inaugural member of the Engagement Academy for University Leaders. He has held an executive board seat on a variety of local non-profits and on the Governor’s Advisory for National and Community Service where he chaired the annual selection process for statewide Americorps funding. Stelljes is the faculty member for the DC Office Summer Institute on Leadership and Community Engagement and he teaches the class Urban Education: Policy, Practice and Leadership through the W&M Washington Center.