Molly Ott

Assistant Professor

Higher & Postsecondary Education Program Coordinator

Faculty Affiliate, Center for Organization Research & Design

Faculty Affiliate, Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education

Arizona State University









Descriptions of Courses Developed and Taught at Arizona State University


HED 573 Applied Inquiry in Higher Education

The focus of this course is on learning about and demystifying the process of scientific inquiry, with the intent of translating that knowledge to regular practice in a higher education professional career. It is not a highly technical methods course – no advanced knowledge of statistics or qualitative techniques is assumed – but instead gives practitioners a foundation in educational research design as well as the tools to be literate, thoughtful, critical, and frequent consumers of research.  HED 573 also will prepare students for the Higher Education master’s degree capstone course, HED 593 Applied Project.  This course uses a flipped classroom design, and lectures are publicly available for viewing on my  YouTube channel.


HED 593 Applied Project

To improve their practice, postsecondary educators often draw on research that informs their phenomenon of interest. While journal articles, books, and academic reports provide guidance to strategic planning and decision-making, they may not address important details of one’s local context. To overcome this particular limitation, it is critical that educators personally engage in ongoing practice-centered inquiry. This allows educators to ground reported findings gathered from published scholarship in their own educational environments. To that end, building on HED 573: Applied Inquiry, this capstone course allows students an opportunity to carry out a small-scale inquiry-based project in a postsecondary context in which they possess some familiarity. As such, a central learning outcome of this course is to enhance students’ abilities to gather, make sense of, and present data in a manner that improves higher education practice.   In addition to gaining the aforementioned skills, as a capstone experience, Applied Project provides a purposefully reflexive environment in which students critically consider their tenure as graduate students in Arizona State University’s Higher and Postsecondary Education program as well as their future as higher education practitioners.


HED 510 Introduction to Higher Education

American higher education is a diverse and complex enterprise with over three centuries of history, tradition, and social change.  Colleges and universities serve large segments of the U.S. and world populations and influence many aspects of national and global society.  American higher education certainly has relevance far beyond any individual college or university campus.  Therefore, the study (and practice) of higher and postsecondary education must be contextualized within the larger historical and societal milieus. This course provides an overview of the field of American higher education with particular attention to the philosophical, social, organizational, and historical dimensions of current practices and issues.  Lectures, discussion, and class activities will introduce students to:

Š      The social and historical foundations and organizational structure of American higher education 

Š      The major roles and responsibilities of participants and constituents of higher education

Š      The opportunities and challenges that contemporary higher education faces now and into the future

In addition, this course will socialize students to graduate study in the field of higher education at Arizona State University.


HED 598 Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics (with Jean Boyd)

Arizona State’s President Michael Crow often characterizes intercollegiate athletics as the university’s “front porch.” As his metaphor suggests, athletics (more than any other aspect of the institution) receives considerable attention from students, alumni, faculty, and the general public. Much of this interest focuses on the playing field, however, and few observers fully appreciate the complexity involved in leading, administering, and supporting an intercollegiate athletics program. 


This course is designed to prepare current and future athletic administrators for the challenging, intense, yet (we would argue) incredibly worthwhile work that occurs off the field.  Higher education professionals not directly employed by an athletic program will also benefit from the course by improving their understanding of how athletics fits into, impacts, and is influenced by the larger campus. All students will develop a working knowledge of intercollegiate athletics as a field of study and an appreciation for how faculty and staff can support college athlete success. 


We will draw from the growing body of scholarship specific to college sports to explore the national structure of intercollegiate athletics in the United States, the organization and administration of individual programs, and contemporary issues that face the enterprise.  Our approach will be framed by the historical, sociological, and philosophical bases of intercollegiate athletics, but we will emphasize practice through the use of case studies, guest speakers, and other experiential learning activities.


HED 688 Organizational Theory

Learning about colleges and universities as organizations not only emphasizes conceptual models and multiple theoretical ways of thinking about the functions, activities, and issues pertaining to postsecondary schools, but also how to overlay these models on real contexts and problems.  The framework for the course emphasizes four “frames,” or perspectives for understanding organizations. Each frame provides a distinctive view, and when taken together the four frames encompass much of the existing theory and research on organizations:

Š      A structural frame that emphasizes goals, roles, formal relationships, and the rational side of organization.

Š      A human resource frame that emphasizes needs, attitudes, skills and the human side of organizations.

Š      A political frame that examines power, conflict, and coalitions among organizational participants who have interests and agendas to protect and advance within a context of scarce resources.

Š      A symbolic frame that explores how organizations create meaning and belief through symbols, including myths, rituals, and ceremonies.


As we learn about each frame and how to use them simultaneously in organizational analyses, we will rely heavily on case studies pertaining to different functional areas, topics, and problems in higher education.