Human learning and development, leadership education, leadership identity development, critical perspectives of leadership theory, relational and social change leadership, developmental sequencing and scaffolding in curriculum design

Dr. Rocco serves as Director for Leadership Studies and Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Higher Education, Student Affairs, and International Education Policy graduate program at the University of Maryland. Through her research and teaching, Dr. Rocco seeks to challenge dominant narratives of leadership by exploring the intersections of identity development and leadership understanding. Dr. Rocco maintains a scholar-practitioner focus by employing transformative learning design for leadership education initiatives that center equity, justice, and global perspectives.

Dr. Rocco's professional background includes leadership education and development work in a variety of higher education, non-profit, and business settings. Her research, teaching, and curriculum design experience includes faculty roles in leadership studies at the University of Maryland, University of Southern Maine, and The Ohio State University. Her higher education practitioner background includes work with co-curricular leadership programs, student activities, and fraternity and sorority life. Dr. Rocco has also designed and facilitated hundreds of leadership development programs for higher education institutions and non-profit organizations around the world, and serves as a Co-Lead Facilitator for LeaderShape, Inc. Prior to her work in higher education, Dr. Rocco consulted with Fortune 100 companies on organizational change and learning initiatives as part of Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice.

Dr. Rocco's record of professional service includes commitment to leadership educator and student development practitioner preparation initiatives across associations in higher education. Most notably, she serves as Director of the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP) and as national representative to the Inter-Association Leadership Education Collaborative, a joint taskforce between the major higher education/student affairs professional associations. Previously, she has served as co-chairperson for both the National Leadership Symposium and Leadership Educators Institute, two intensive professional development programs for practitioners and scholars sponsored through ACPA College Student Educators International, NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs (NCLP).

Dr. Rocco received her PhD in Higher Education, Student Affairs, & International Education policy from the University of Maryland.  She also holds an M.A. in Higher Education & Student Affairs and a B.S. in Business Administration both from The Ohio State University.

  • Global Classrooms Initiative Faculty Fellow & Teaching Innovation Grant - University of Maryland (2020, 2021)
  • International Alumna of Distinction Award – Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity (2017)
  • Representative to the White House National Summit on Sexual Assault Prevention (2016)

  • SPARC Research Award – University of Maryland (2016)
  • Mac and Lucile McEwen Research Award – University of Maryland (2016)
  • Higher Education & Student Affairs Emerging Professional Award – The Ohio State University (2013)
  • Student Leader Mentoring Award – The Ohio State University (2012)
  • National Community Involvement Award – Deloitte Consulting, LLC (2007)
  • Meritorious Service Award – The Ohio Association of Student Leaders (2007)
  • Representative to the Deloitte National Development Council - Deloitte Consulting, LLC (2006)

Select Publications

Rocco, M. L. & Beatty, C. C. (forthcoming for 2023). Pedagogical practices and innovation through the lens of liberatory pedagogy. In S. R. Komives & J. E. Owen (Eds.) A research agenda for leadership learning and development through higher education. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Jenkins, D. M. & Rocco, M. L. (in press). Conducting leadership program reviews in U.S. higher education: A comparative case study. Journal of Leadership Education.

Rocco, M. L. (2021). Building leadership efficacy through critical self-reflection. In J. Pigza, J. E. Owen, & Associates (Eds.), Women and leadership development in college: A facilitation resource. Stylus Publishing.

Beatty, C. C., Irwin, L., Owen, J., Tapia-Fuselier, N., Guthrie, K., Cohen-Derr, E., Hassell-Goodman, S., Rocco, M. L., & Yamanaka, A. (2020). Priority 1: A call for centering social identities in the National Leadership Education Research Agenda. Journal of Leadership Studies, 14(3), 39-44.

Rocco, M. L. (2020). 'Living leadership' case studies. In K. Guthrie & D. Jenkins (Eds.) Transforming learning: Instructional and assessment strategies for leadership education (pp. 33-36). Information Age Publishing.

Rocco, M. L. & Pelletier, J. (2019). A conversation between student affairs leadership educators. New Directions for Student Leadership, 2019(164), 39-53.

Rocco, M. L. (2017). Change. In K. C. Skendall, D. T. Ostick, S. R. Komives, & W. Wagner (Eds). The Social Change Model: Facilitating Leadership Development (pp. 181-194). Jossey-Bass.

Rocco, M. L. (2017). Interpreting leadership theory using critical perspectives. In J. P. Dugan, N. T. Turman, A. Barnes (Eds.). Leadership Theory: A Facilitator’s Guide for Cultivating Critical Perspectives (pp.13-22). Jossey-Bass.

Rocco, M. L. (2017). Our evolving understanding of leadership. In J. P. Dugan, N. T. Turman, A. Barnes (Eds.). Leadership Theory: A Facilitator’s Guide for Cultivating Critical Perspectives (pp. 93-103). Jossey-Bass.

Torrez, M. & Rocco, M. L. (2015). Building critical capacities for leadership learning. New Directions for Student Leadership, 2015(145). 19-34.

Select Proejcts

Research Director – Socially Responsible Leadership Scale (2021 – Present): Direct the administration of an internationally-used scale to measure socially-responsible leadership outcomes associated with the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. Funded through the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.

Co-Principal Investigator – Exploring Leadership Program Reviews in Higher Education (2019 – 2021): National study to explore the process of and best practices in conducting program reviews for curricular and co-curricular leadership programs in higher education.

Co-Investigator – Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (2020-2021): Campus-based administration of international study that explores the influence of college experiences on student development of socially-responsible leadership. Funded through a grant from the Bezos Family Foundation.

Co-Principal Investigator - Leadership Educator Identity Development for Student Affairs Leadership Educators (2018 – 2020): National study to understand the personal and professional development of student affairs professionals who design and facilitate co-curricular programs about leadership for college students.

Principal Investigator - Moving Beyond Common Paradigms of Leadership: Understanding the Development of Advanced Leadership Identity (2017 – 2018): National, multi-case study to examine forces and factors that contribute to the broadening of leadership assumptions and practices beyond dominant narratives. Funded through grants from the University of Maryland College of Education.

Principal Investigator – Increasing Complexity in Student Leadership Development (2014-2015): Institutional study to examine forces and factors that contribute to the development of advanced leadership identity in college students.

Co-Investigator - Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) (2012): Campus-based administration of a national, multi-institutional survey designed to examine development of socially responsible leadership skills and practices in college students.

  • EDCP 774: Advanced Seminar in Theories of College Student Development
  • EDCP 694: Student Leadership Development
  • HESI 418E: Strengths-Based Leadership
  • HESI 417: Advanced Leadership Seminar
  • HESI 321: Advanced Social Action Seminar
  • HESI 320: Social Action Seminar
  • HESI 318A: Leadership in Film
  • HESI 318W: Leadership in the Workplace
  • HESI 315: Student Leadership in Groups and Organizations
  • HESI 217: Introduction to Student Leadership