You may treasure the movie or the original book portraying the story of the Wizard of Oz.  You may have even read one or more of the thirteen Oz sequels written by L. Frank Baum (1856-1919).  But, you may not have realized that a set of lessons for learning and developing leadership talents can be distilled from the story’s content and the history, life, and times of the story’s intriguing author—a man, who in his lifetime became an actor, breeder of rare chickens, director, gardener, lyricist, merchant, movie producer, philatelist, photographer, playwright, printer and newspaper publisher, salesman, theater manager, window dresser, and, of course, celebrated author.  Enter The Way of Oz: A Guide for Wisdom, Heart, and Courage and its roadmap for traveling life’s yellow brick road.

The Way of OzImagine the characters of Oz bearing special symbolism for learning, caring, serving, focusing on the future, and humility.  You can probably guess the associations: the Scarecrow for wisdom and learning, the Tin Woodman for heart or loving, the Cowardly Lion for courage and service, Dorothy for leadership and a focus on the future, and the Wizard for humility and related virtues.  For the purposes of this short essay let’s focus on the Scarecrow and his character as a metaphor for wisdom and learning.  At end we’ll see how wisdom and learning are tied intimately to the traits of the other major characters of Oz.

Veteran teachers know that learning comes from thoughtful reading, writing to organize thinking, communicating through writing and speaking—to share and test ideas and seek the views of others, and experiencing life through human relationships, reflection, and travel. When you bring these efforts together through caring and serving of humanity and our planet—including all of its creatures (referred to in The Way of Oz as the “Toto Perspective”) you evolve a powerful approach for growing: intellectually, emotionally, and socially.  Indeed, the caring and serving are absolutely essential to making the transition from learning “for learning sake” to wisdom—learning driven by a need to apply that which is learned for the good of others and our planet.  Also, learning is enhanced dramatically when it is integrated with “active learning” or internships, service-learning courses and experiences, research, and study-abroad experiences.  Most university faculty members and administrators know and promote active learning—in essence “hands-on learning”—because of its power to reinforce all that is learned in traditional classroom, laboratory, and studio settings.

Thus, the Way of Oz approach to learning, involving reading, writing, communicating and participating in active learning, fortified by planning, an understanding of diversity, science and sustainability, and personal responsibility—all with ethics in lead—prepares one for a life of personal and professional fulfillment.  And, seeing the coherence among the Way of Oz principles and their positive effects on the lives of others—particularly adolescents—provides a powerful model for living, loving, and serving.  These elements of the Way of Oz and the new book of the same name—enriched by the intriguing graphic characters created by Dusty Higgins and video content portraying students, teachers, and staff engaged in learning of all types—can make a significant difference in lives of seekers and future leaders of our world community.  Many have found—in these thoughts—the true magic of The Way of Oz.  Perhaps you will as well! 

Here are the main Oz characters in The Way of Oz as conceived by Dusty Higgins.  Can you name them all?


For a complete set of answers see The Way of Oz (an Introduction from Dr. Smith) video: 

The Way of OzRobert V. Smith serves as Provost and Senior Vice President at Texas Tech University (TTU). He has oversight responsibility for fourteen colleges and schools, along with the libraries and several other academically related units and programs.  Prior to joining TTU, he served as the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2000-2008); Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Connecticut (1997-2000); Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School (1987-1997) and Dean of the College of Pharmacy (1985-86) at Washington State University; James E. Bauerle Professor (1983-85) and Director of the Drug Dynamics Institute (1978-85), Professor (1977-83) and Associate Professor (1974-77) at the University of Texas at Austin; Associate and Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry (1968-74) at the University of Iowa.  Bob’s Ph.D. (1968) and master’s (1964) degrees (Pharmaceutical Chemistry) were earned at the University of Michigan.  He received his B.S. degree (Pharmaceutical Sciences) cum laude from St. John’s University in New York (1963). 

He is the author or co-author of more than 320 articles and nine books.  At Texas Tech, he is also editor-in-chief of the online journal All Things Texas Tech ( and co-produces AcademiCastÔ (—a podcast series including interviews with TTU faculty members and students. 

His most recent book, The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart, and Courage (Texas Tech University Press, 2012) will be published in the Fall of 2012.