The Charger Blog

Grad Students’ Research Examines Importance of Inclusive Leadership

With the support of their faculty mentor, Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. and Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. have conducted important research exploring the impact that inclusive leadership can have on the ability of employees to cultivate sustainable careers. Their work has already captured the attention of the Charger community – and beyond.

May 2, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communication

Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. (left) and Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. presented their research to the Charger community.
Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. (left) and Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. presented their research to the Charger community.

For Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S., taking a "Multicultural Issues in the Workplace" class at the University of New Haven was a pivotal experience in her education. It inspired her while opening her eyes to the complexities of diverse workplaces and the challenges that employees face. It was also the beginning of her exciting research journey.

Ponnuswamy and her classmate Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. were inspired by today’s ever-evolving global landscape, and they recognize how important it is for employees to have the opportunity to cultivate sustainable careers. Intrigued by the importance of inclusive leadership and its potential to foster psychological capital, they believed it could contribute to sustainable career development.

The student-researchers began by conducting an extensive literature review. While exploring theories and empirical studies, they analyzed academic papers and identified areas where more research was needed. They collaborated to develop a conceptual model that explained the relationship between inclusive leadership and sustainable careers, proposing that behaviors of inclusive leaders – including respecting diversity and valuing uniqueness – could enhance employees’ psychological resources.

“We engaged in thought-provoking discussions, challenged each other's assumptions, and constantly refined our ideas,” recalls Ponnuswamy, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in human resources. “The teamwork aspect not only strengthened our research, but it also fostered personal growth and a deeper appreciation for diverse perspectives.”

‘Incredibly rewarding’

Ponnuswamy and Almoustafa recently presented their research paper, titled “How Inclusive Leadership Fosters Sustainable Careers: The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital," to their fellow Chargers as part of a graduate student research showcase at the University. The Office of Graduate & International Student Life recognized their work, awarding them a best research project award.

“Earning the award for our research project was incredibly rewarding after dedicating considerable time and effort to it,” said Almoustafa, a candidate in the University’s M.S. Human Resources program. “Being recognized among 60 projects reflects the value and impact of our topic, reinforcing our commitment to advancing knowledge in this area. It serves as validation of our hard work and underscores the significance of investigating the relationship between inclusive leadership, psychological capital, and sustainable career development.”

Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. and Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. displayed their research on campus.
Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. and Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. displayed their research on campus.
‘Responsible management education isn’t confined to textbooks’

Khadija Al Arkoubi, Ph.D., the students’ professor, served as their co-author and faculty mentor. Writing a paper that explored inclusive leadership was one of the students’ options for their final project in the "Multicultural Issues in the Workplace" class. Dr. Al Arkoubi says Ponnuswamy and Almoustafa eagerly accepted the challenge, calling them “exceptional students” who became “true research partners.

“Our collaborative effort yielded more than a research paper,” said Dr. Al Arkoubi. “It forged lasting connections, ignited intellectual curiosity, and instilled hope. Amina and Indra, now ambassadors of inclusive leadership, continue to inspire others.

“To me, mentoring them remains a source of profound fulfillment,” she continued. “It’s an affirmation that responsible management education isn’t confined to textbooks. It thrives in shared experiences and in making an impact on our communities and workplaces."

‘Unlock the full potential of their workforce’

The project was an incredible opportunity for Ponnuswamy and Almoustafa to build far more than their research skills. Almoustafa says that while researching inclusive leadership, she too grew as a leader. She also developed her teamwork and communication skills while learning how to navigate the challenges that can arise while conducting research.

The student-researchers say the course helped prepare them for their project, as the lectures and discussions offered a robust foundation of workplace knowledge. The class also ensured they understood research methodologies and had the analytical skills necessary to begin the intensive research project.

Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. (center) and Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. (right) discussed their work with their fellow Chargers.
Amina Almoustafa ’24 M.S. (center) and Indra Ponnuswamy ’24 M.S. (right) discussed their work with their fellow Chargers.

For Almoustafa, the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from said Dr. Al Arkoubi helped her develop her confidence while strengthening her research skills.

“Working with Dr. Al Arkoubi was an enriching experience,” she said. “She provided unwavering support, guidance, and encouragement at every step of the research process. Her expertise and dedication helped us refine our ideas and communicate our findings coherently.”

The project hasn’t just been recognized by the Charger community – it is gaining attention in the field as well. The students will soon be presenting their work at the Eastern Academy of Management Conference in Providence, RI.

“We hope that our research will contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying sustainable career development and encourage organizations to adopt inclusive leadership practices,” said Ponnuswamy. “By nurturing psychological capital, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce, enabling employees to thrive and adapt in an ever-changing career landscape.”