Alice MacGillivray

Associate faculty

Leadership Studies
Environment & Sustainability
Interdisciplinary Studies

Most of Dr. Alice MacGillivray's research focuses on organizational learning and change. She is interested in leadership, knowledge work, sustainability and thriving in complex environments. 

One of her niche interests is exploring how principles from nature can inform leadership. She has published in peer-reviewed journals including The Learning OrganizationEmergence: Complexity and Organization, and Challenging Organizations and Society: reflective hybrids®

MacGillivray has presented at conferences in Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia for groups including the International Society for the Systems Sciences and the Society for the Social Studies of Science. 

At Royal Roads, she deeply values opportunities to work with the accomplished adult learners who choose to study at this university.


MacGillivray's clients have included the Canadian Parks Council, the Auditor General of British Columbia, the British Columbia government, a PhD program in Oregon, and the research arm of the Canadian military. 

She has leadership experience with BC Ministries of Education, Transportation, and Environment, Lands and Parks, Kananaskis Country, Parks Canada and not-for-profit boards. MacGillivray joined Royal Roads in 2000, leading development and delivery of knowledge management graduate programs. 

She has supervised or been on committees of more than 60 dissertation, thesis and capstone projects. Her committee work includes risk management and e-learning at Royal Roads. At Fielding Graduate University, she participated in governance and chaired the Alumni Council.

See list of supervised graduate student projects. 

Memberships and Committees

Recent and current memberships committees include: 

Fellow with the Institute for Social Innovation: Fielding Graduate University 
Member of search committee for a doctoral faculty member (an American University)
Member of Academic Strategic Planning and Re-organization committee: Royal Roads University
Member of president's sustainability advisee group: Fielding Graduate University 


PhD in Human and Organizational Systems

Fielding Graduate University

Master of Arts in Human Development

Fielding Graduate University

Graduate Diploma in Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement

Fielding Graduate University

Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University

Royal Roads University

Bachelor of General Studies

Athabasca University


Doctoral research grant and conference travel grants


Athabasca Governing Council Scholarship


Dean's List


Cabinet committee recognition for land use planning work



Research interest

Human-nature relationship and worldviews

Natural system-leadership relationships

Diversity Including biodiversity


MacGillivray, A. & Steier, F. (approaching submission). Systemic phenomenography: A qualitative method for complex system research. 

MacGillivray, A. (2023) What is the real opportunity? In Hamilton, D.N., Kool, R. & Childs, E. (Eds). (2023) Active Learning for Real-World Inquiry. Royal Roads University

MacGillivray, A. (2023). Let's try another viewpoint. In Hamilton, D.N., Kool, R. & Childs, E. (Eds.) (2023) Active Learning for Real-World Inquiry. Royal Roads University.

MacGillivray, A. (2022). My friend is injured and the ferry’s not running! In P. Ballamingie & D. Szanto (Eds.), Showing theory to know theory: Understanding social science concepts through illustrative vignettes. Showing Theory Press.

MacGillivray, A. (2021). Leadership as an ecosystem for sustainability. In R. P. Applebaum, F. Steier, P. Stillman, & D.B. Willis (Eds.), Leadership in sustainability: Perspectives on research, policy, and practice (pp. 124-139). Fielding University Press.

Hogan, N., Hannigan, J. & MacGillivray, A. (2020). Can sustainability research inform leadership in complex systems? [Book Review]  Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 20(4).

MacGillivray, A. (2018). Leadership as practice meets knowledge as flow: Emerging perspectives for leaders in knowledge-intensive organizations. Journal of Public Affairs 18(1).

MacGillivray, A. (2017). Social Learning in Higher Education: A Clash of Cultures? In J. McDonald and A. Cater-Steel (Eds.), Communities of Practice – Facilitating Social Learning in Higher Education.

MacGillivray, A., Litwin, A. (2016). Are we there yet? Are Perceptions of Results Shaped by Gender?  Challenging Organisations and Society. reflective hybrids® 5(2), 936-949.

MacGillivray, A. (2015). Leadership, Boundaries and Sustainability. In J.P. Isbouts et al. (Eds.) Sustainability Leadership: Integrating Values, Meaning, and Action: Volume 5 (Fielding Monograph Series).

MacGillivray, A. (2015). Consulting on the edge: use of strategies rooted in nature. Challenging Organisations and Society. reflective hybrids®. 4(1), 707-718.

MacGillivray, A., Gallagher, K. (2012). A policy paradox: social complexity emergence around an ordered science attractor. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 14(4), 67-85

MacGillivray, A. (2010). Metaphors from Nature for Knowledge Work in a Complex World. In A. Tait & K. Richardson (Eds.), Complexity and Knowledge Management: Understanding the Role of Knowledge in the Management of Social Networks. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.

MacGillivray, A. (2010). Leadership in a network of communities: a phenomenographic study, The Learning Organization, 17(1), 24-40.

MacGillivray, A. (2009). [Digital Habitats: Stewarding technologies for communities.] Review of the book by Wenger, E. White N & Smith, J.D. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 11(4), 99-104.

MacGillivray, A. (2009). Perceptions and uses of boundaries by respected leaders: a trans-disciplinary inquiry. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (UMI 3399314)

MacGillivray, A. (2009). Knowledge intensive work in a network of counter-terrorism communities. Hershey: IGI Global. This chapter/paper appears in the Handbook of Research on Knowledge-Intensive Organizations edited/authored by J. Kociatkiewicz & D. Jemielniak (Eds.), Copyright 2008, IGI Global,

MacGillivray, A. (2008). [Managing Uncertainties in Networks.] Review of the book by Koppenjan, J. & Klijn, E.  Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 10(2), 129-132.

MacGillivray, A. (2007). Learning at the edge—Part 2: scholar-practitioner reflections on boundaries. Emergence: Complexity and Organization 9(4),

MacGillivray, A. (2006). Learning at the edge – Part 1: Transdisciplinary conceptions of boundaries. Emergence: Complexity and Organization. 8(3), 92-104.

MacGillivray, A. (2006). [Complexity and the Experience of Leading Organizations.] Review of the book by Ralph Stacey. Emergence: Complexity & Organization. 8(2), 124-127.