Leadership class builds qualities that future employers want

Monday, July 28, 2008 | 2:13 p.m. CDT; updated 3:09 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 28, 2008

In the summer of 2007, Janai Norman, 19, learned about a relatively unknown leadership class at MU called the Chancellor's Leadership class. It is a yearlong, two-credit class for incoming freshmen, where students learn about leadership and then put the lessons into practice through service opportunities and class assignments. A friend of Norman's, whom she knew from her high school, had gone through the class as a freshman and encouraged her to apply. So she did, "reluctant, not really knowing what to expect from it," she said.

As with anything new, there is always the unknown. Getting involved in college, outside the classroom, is no exception. Usually fear can hinder or stop you from taking that next step, especially when it involves opportunities for leadership development. But what will you miss if you choose to stay only in the classroom?

Get involved

Get involved in leadership through the Center for Leadership Development office.

Return the interest form from their flier you received in the mail.

Check out the Web site at

This a good place to register for leadership programs and find links to other service-oriented Web sites.

Go to the Student Life Office on the lower floor of Brady Commons (A-O22) and find the Leadership office straight back toward the right-hand side.


Call: 882-8291



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Dave Roberts, senior coordinator for the Center for Leadership Development at MU, stresses the importance of getting outside the classroom and involved on campus or in the community. He says it not only helps students do better academically, but they learn "developmental qualities" that employers are looking for in graduating students - leadership skills, communication skills, ethical skills, team work and group dynamic processing. It's these everyday skills used in the marketplace, Roberts says, that make graduates stand out.

"You can get a degree in engineering, but what is going to set you apart from everyone else who got a degree in engineering? Employers know you can get a degree. What they really want to know is what kind of leadership skills you have. "

This is where the Center for Leadership Development can help. Dave Roberts and his staff will direct you toward programs and activities that fit your goals. The office has several leadership programs and activities, but it also partners with the Office of Community Involvement, which connects students with volunteer opportunities and service leadership experiences with local and national agencies. With more than 800 organizations on campus and a variety of service-oriented agencies in Columbia, there is likely to be something for everyone's interest.

The Leadership Development office understands that some of its programs have limited space and are geared only toward freshmen. So the staff has created the Leadership Certificate Program that any student can participate in, regardless of class rank.

"The biggest question we get is, ‘I'm a senior. Can I still do (the program)?' Yes. We will honor whatever past involvement they've had," Roberts says.

The Leadership Certificate Program is similar to an awards program. Participants are awarded points for their involvement in community service, academic and career-oriented activities and campus involvement during their undergraduate years. These activities and points are tracked through an online system. Once a participant has completed 120 points, he or she earns the certificate. It's a way to encourage students to get involved and to stay involved. But it also has big dividends once you graduate from college.

The biggest incentive is that students will leave MU with a leadership portfolio - documentation listing all your experience, recommendation letters and a formal resume - that you can hand to a potential employer.

Roberts says: "After graduating, how many people really think about their (out-of-classroom) experiences? This is a way to sell yourself and your experiences. The more self-aware you are, and the more you can go back to these experiences and sell that to an employer, you're going to get the job."

Norman was chosen for the Chancellor's Leadership class. As it turned out, she says it was the best decision she has made. With the excitement and intensity of one who has been extremely fortunate, she says, "My freshman year was amazing." She now has opportunities open to her that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. Asked about the advice she would give to incoming freshmen, she says, "Realize that you have nothing to lose."



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