The ILE Experience

Most sessions will be held in the Amphitheatre (Room 106) of the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building. The Honors Building also
 offers lounge and study areas, a library, data ports and Wi-Fi, student-accessible computers and printers, drink and snack machines, and a student kitchenette.

The Institute is a one-week, three credit hour course, held each year during the first week of S1 May Term. The daily schedule is flexible but will generally follow the outline below.

Monday - Fridayhonors
9:00 - 10:25 :: Activities/Discussion
10:25 - 10:40 :: Break
10:40 - 12:00 :: Activities/Discussion
12:00 - 1:30 :: Special Guest Speaker & Lunch
1:30 - 2:30 :: Activities/Discussion
2:30 - 2:45 :: Break
2:45 - 4:00 :: Activities/Discussion
4:00 - 4:15 :: Break
4:15 - 6:00 :: Activities/Project Work

As you can see, you will participate in a highly intensive and remarkably unique experience involving a carefully designed sequence of lectures, discussions, activities, and reflective exercises focused on developing your understanding of and ability to apply critical leadership principles and skills.

Lunchtime Leadership Lectures

The Lunchtime Speaker Sessions scheduled as part of the Institute (and included with the FREE lunch) will provide students with the opportunity to hear from and interact with a number of highly accomplished leaders.

Consistent with the Institute's multidisciplinary approach, lunchtime speakers are carefully chosen to represent a wide variety of professions including arts, sciences, sports, politics, volunteer organizations, businesses, and community-based organizations.

Our speakers are very successful in their chosen fields and are eager  to share their thoughts about what it means to exercise leadership. Interacting with them will help you see how to apply what you're learning in the classroom to challenges you will face as you begin your own career after college.


The Institute is conducted jointly by Dr. Deana Raffo, Dr. Earl Thomas and Dr. David Foote, with assistance from other MTSU faculty members for certain topics and activities.

Institute Director

Dr. Deana RaffoDr. Deana Raffo is an associate professor of management in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business. She has spent her entire professional career at MTSU and has figured out a way to stay in college forever.  She has had rich professional experiences involving student services, student affairs, and leadership education. After 9 years as an academic advisor, Dr. Raffo served as Director of Leadership Development where she spearheaded an effort with faculty to develop a minor in leadership studies.  In addition to serving as Director of the Institute of Leadership Excellence, she is Coordinator for Leadership Studies which was the recipient of Association of Leadership Educator’s Outstanding Program Award in 2009.  With expertise in leadership and personal development and leadership education, she particularly enjoys exploring the introspective qualities in leadership.  She and has presented more than 25 papers at national conferences and has served in leadership roles in state, regional, and national professional associations.  Her research has been published in numerous journals including Journal of Managerial Issues, Journal of Leadership Education, Academy of Strategic Management Journal, Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, Gender in Management, among others.  In 2014, she was a contributor in the book, Leading with Spirit, Presence, and Authenticity, with a chapter entitled “Reflection and Authentic Leadership.”

Faculty Coordinator

Dr. Earl ThomasDr. R. Earl Thomas is a professor of management in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University. Prior to his current appointment, he served as vice president and executive assistant to the president at MTSU. Dr. Thomas has over twenty years of experience in managerial and leadership positions with the majority of that time in senior level management. Dr. Thomas earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from MTSU, and received his doctorate from Vanderbilt University in 1984. He completed post-doctoral work in 1995 at the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management. His teaching and research interests include leadership and motivation, managerial decision making, and issues in organizational behavior. Dr. Thomas has served as a consultant and made presentations to a variety of organizations on these topics and has published in a number of journals including the Journal of Business Leadership, Journal of Academy of Business and Economics, SAM Advanced Management Journal, and Ethics and Critical Thinking Journal. He is a member of various professional organizations and is active in community and civic affairs.


DirectorA retired naval officer, Dr. David Foote earned his MBA and Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from the University of Kentucky, where his dissertation research focused on the implementation of a team structure in a highly unionized organization. Dr. Foote is a tenured professor of organizational behavior and Associate Dean in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University. His research interests include equity sensitivity, leadership, and moral disengagement, and his work is published in Journal of Managerial Issues, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Human Resource Management Review, Contingent Staffing, Marketing Education Review, Advances in Consumer Research, and Management Decision. In addition, he is an active consultant in management, team skills, and leadership development, and is an avid Civil War re-enactor portraying the real-life war correspondent Junius Henri Browne of the New York Tribune. 

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