Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

by Renee Charles
Photography by Duane Zehr

Opportunities to build leadership skills abound.

President John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Bradley University agrees. Lydia Moss Bradley founded the university with the goal in mind of teaching people how to do practical things and preparing them for living in the modern world. In today’s world, leadership skills will indeed help students prepare for their careers… and for life in general.

Opportunities for Development
Leadership is one of the pillars of the Bradley experience, and it happens both formally and informally. Take, for example, the Lewis J. Burger Center for Student Leadership and Public Service. It was established in 1996 as a tool to educate and prepare students to be committed and effective leaders in their careers, families and communities by providing leadership development programs and service opportunities.

Within the Center, Bradley offers a four-year Fellows Program that provides scholarships each year to 15 freshmen who are committed to leadership and service. Former State Senator George Shadid recently donated $25,000 from his remaining campaign fund to the George P. Shadid Jr. Scholarship fund, which supports the Fellows Program. Another opportunity offered through the Center is a leadership lifestyles floor at University Hall. Open to freshman women interested in leadership development and service-learning opportunities, it helps them connect to other young women who have similar interests. There is also a senior capstone leadership organization for which students put together a leadership retreat for emerging student leaders during the spring semester.

A Growing Interest
Bradley also offers a Leadership Studies Minor (LSM), through which students have opportunities to learn about leadership and apply theories to their own disciplines. The minor is a collaboration between the Burger Center and the College of Education and Heath Sciences’ Department of Leadership in Education, Human Services, and Counseling.

LSM co-advisor Chris Lucas points out that research has demonstrated leaders have the single most powerful impact upon the culture of an organization—which is why it’s important for Bradley to teach these skills. “We should seek to positively impact all of our professions,” Lucas says. “The learning outcomes, course materials, service opportunities, instructional strategies and capstone requirements of the LSM ensure that students become more comfortable and confident in their leadership abilities.”

Nathan Thomas, interim vice president for student affairs, says the minor welcomes students from all majors. “The core classes are co-taught by faculty and staff from Student Affairs. We bring student organizations into the classroom and immerse the students into leadership. The goal is for them to apply what they learn in their daily lives. Whether taking the skills into student organizations or class projects, we want them to use what they have learned.”

Max Sawa, a senior mechanical engineering major, is enrolled in the minor. At first he wasn’t sure if it was a good fit, but after looking back on the courses and instructors, he says he was able to connect the dots. “I realized that being an engineer made the experience even more beneficial and unique. Blending these skills into my summer internships ensured that these skills would definitely be applied in my future. Many times, it’s difficult to join and then to motivate a team while in the middle of a project, or even communicate your strengths as credible in an effective way. Now I can safely say that, without a doubt, every new experience in engineering—or even in life—I am constantly reaching into my pocket of leadership studies and pulling out applicable lessons.”

Interest and enrollment in the LSM reflects a steady and growing interest in leadership. According to Lucas, there are currently 70 students in the minor—an all-time high. “In the past two years, more and more students are enrolling in the various courses. The number of students enrolled… has risen nearly every semester, from 94 in Fall 2010 to 168 this year. And students from many academic majors are included.”

Empowering and Inspiring Others
Bill Gates has said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Overall, Bradley student-leaders are empowering and inspiring others, especially when it comes to public service. They are very involved and making a difference in the lives of people all around the region. During the 2012-2013 academic year, Bradley students raised approximately $198,000 for more than 75 different charities and volunteered more than 50,200 hours. Through numerous clothing, food and blood drives, they donated more than 6,000 articles of clothing, 2,500 cans of food, and 820 pints of blood. From the Volunteer Fair held the first week of school to the Welcome Week Service Project that drew more than 200 students to the monthly Service on Saturday program, students are learning about leadership through service.

Sawa believes strongly that the leadership skills he has developed at Bradley will be a great asset to his career—and for life in general. “When it comes to being a leader, motivating a project team or propelling a company to transform an industry, your position of leadership and the degrees beneath your name are simply the seed. The content of your character and the worth you give to those around you are the soil in which you need to plant it.” iBi

Renee Charles is university spokesperson and executive director of public relations at Bradley University.

 

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