In the fall of 2015, the Georgia State Honors College kicked off its Leadership Certificate program and 25 first-year students were selected to participate in our brand new four-year certificate program. These students, from different majors and backgrounds, were selected to be a part of the first cohort of LEAD with Honors, a leadership program meant to develop Honors College students into effective leaders and change agents.
According to Dr. Cynthia Searcy, Faculty Associate for Innovative Programs who oversees LEAD with Honors, LEAD was created as the brainchild of Stephen Bradshaw, a supporter of the Honors College. Mr. Bradshaw has had concerns about leadership failings in all sectors of society. Dean Larry Berman, founding Dean of the Honors College at Georgia State University, used those concerns to work with faculty and staff to create a four-year certificate program that would “expose high-achieving students to leadership theory and practice and develops them into tomorrow’s future leaders.”
LEAD kicked off its first semester in the form of a seminar-style course. Every class consisted of a brief discussion based on reading from “Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference” by Susan R. Komives, Nance Lucas, and Timothy R. McMahon. The students also took a strength assessment to determine some of the leadership qualities they already possess. Throughout the course, several speakers including Julie MacGregor and Bill Bolling visited to describe their own leadership experiences and to offer advice on the keys to becoming an effective leader.
Participation in the LEAD with Honors program consists of taking specialized classes with other LEAD students, completing internships, leading service projects, and attendance at annual LEAD retreats.
The first LEAD Retreat was completed March 13, at Pigeon Mountain Crossing. For students like Brianna Valentine and William “Volf” Wittstock, this retreat was much anticipated. Stories of talent shows, smores, and canoeing will live on in the memories of this first cohort; these same stories will pave the way for all of the retreats to come.
This ground-breaking program is the source of much excitement. Dr. Searcy says, “My aim is for the leadership program to be a national model of scholarly leadership development. I also hope to track each student who completes the certificate to measure their leadership impact in society over time.”
Even this first cohort of LEADers, who were evaluated on merit, leadership potential, and written statements, are thrilled at this opportunity to network and develop leadership skills. Colin Luck, a marketing major, says he joined LEAD to engage in an opportunity for leadership development with other similarly minded students. Paula Garzon is majoring in biology and is interested in gaining experience leading others.
All of the students joined LEAD for unique reasons, but they all share one thing in common: a desire for personal growth and a desire to grow with the people around them.