ATHENS, Ga. — Students in the University of Georgia's Institute for Leadership Advancement (ILA) are learning that today's business leaders are expected to be community leaders, committed to making the communities in which they live better.
"Leadership is not just about you, it's about giving back to others," said Chris Riordan, director of the Institute for Leadership Advancement, a unit of UGA's Terry College of Business. "We hope that our students will leave here recognizing that the world is not just about for-profit businesses or about becoming a CEO as quickly as you can, but about being a contributing member of a community."
Riordan's comment reflects the philosophy of the ILA and its two undergraduate leadership programs. The highly selective Bebe and Earl Leonard Leadership Scholars Program chooses 30 rising Terry College juniors to participate during the final two years of their undergraduate education.
The idea of servant leadership is stressed throughout the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program and applied during the two-semester project known as the Capstone Service Learning Project (CSLP). The purpose of this innovative outreach program is to provide students an opportunity to serve others by sharing the leadership knowledge and skills they have acquired from being a part of the scholars program.
Modeled on service learning, the project presents real-world opportunities for scholars: to understand that as a leader there is an expectation for lifelong service leadership, to experience firsthand the leadership concepts of contributing to the community and giving back to others, to integrate program learning, and to learn more about individual and team leadership capability.
The 30 scholars are placed on five-member teams, which are assigned to six clients. The teams are instructed to think of themselves as a consulting company. They create team contracts, hold client meetings, create a document of understanding related to the expectations, needs and deliverables for the project, manage a budget, and execute the project.
The ILA has benefited from strong relationships with six nonprofit organizations throughout the state to create challenging and meaningful projects for each team. The nonprofit agencies and a description of the service projects follows:
Athens Regional Medical Center, Athens - The student team has collaborated with Athens Regional Medical Center since September to create a program for all women to learn the latest health developments from leading health practitioners. The student called the program "Healthy Hour" and initiated a free women's health speaker series by organizing an event at the Foundry Park Inn in Athens. There were more than 150 community members at the kick-off event, and more than 75 women have attended the monthly programs. Programs are currently planned through August. ARMC Director of Corporate Communications Elaine Cook said, "The students have been truly inspirational. They have taken this project to the next level, and it is so reassuring to see that the best and brightest know they can do well by doing good."
Boys and Girls Club, Athens - The scholar team worked in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Athens to develop a series of classes focused on preparing for life after high school. The intent of the Life Success series was to expose middle school students to the various options available to them, as well as to encourage them to start planning for their future today. Class topics included job skills, college/technical school prep and study skills, and careers in the military/ROTC. A celebration barbecue was held at a UGA baseball game for students who successfully completed the program.
Central High School, Macon - Central High is a very diverse high school, whose students come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences with sharply differing prospects for the future. The classes that need the most attention and guidance are the incoming freshmen, current freshmen class, and sophomore class. Central High wanted a leadership program that could cater to all types of students while striving to emphasize the importance of both personal leadership and teamwork. The scholar team planned and conducted a leadership training program for emerging leaders in the school.
Fanning Leadership Institute, Athens - This scholar team developed a Web presence for the institute's Georgia Rising program. Georgia Rising is a leadership program focused on preparing college students to face the economical, political, and environmental issues facing Georgia communities. The team developed detailed content describing and promoting the program, as well as the Web site.
Gilmer High School, Ellijay - The scholar team delivered the capstone event for the Gilmer High Leadership Summit Series. This series is a yearlong program designed to equip students with the skills needed to be leaders at school, in the community and at home. The scholars delivered a day of training that focused on leading with a purpose and servant leadership. Activities focused on helping students recognize the value within each person, and the role of the leader to unlock and amplify that value.
Shepherd Center, Atlanta - The Shepherd Center is a catastrophic injury rehabilitation facility in Atlanta. The center also strives to advocate making smart life decisions to avoid incident of injury and needed marketing materials for the promotion of its injury prevention program, ThinkFirst. The scholar team developed a brochure that will be used to recruit volunteers. Additionally, the team helped identify contacts for satellite ThinkFirst programs in Athens and elsewhere around the state.
Now in its fourth year, the ILA's Capstone Service Learning Project continues to be a vibrant and vital portion of the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program, Riordan said. "The CSLP has had a major impact on not just the organizations served, but on the students as well," she said. "This project is consistently ranked as one of the top experiences in the scholars program. It is encouraging to know that tomorrow's leaders are excited and committed to making a difference in their communities."