Developing Leaders, Student Success

Despite serving in both local and regional leadership positions in Phi Theta Kappa, Janet Walker considers herself a wallflower. Still, she joined Cohort 15 of the Leadership Development Study Group on Facebook and was one of 11 to complete the course.

“I was able to observe the discussion of how other members and students view and understand what leadership is all about,” said Walker, who is the interim president of the Beta Beta Tau Chapter at Atlanta Metropolitan State College in Georgia. She’s also the former chapter co-president and the former Georgia Regional Chapter Relations Representative. “I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses to the discussions and how we each interpreted those discussions.”

Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Studies program is grounded in the humanities and offers a diverse, interdisciplinary approach to leadership instruction. The curriculum is accessible and relevant to all, regardless of whether a leadership position is held.

The development of a personal philosophy of leadership is only one example of how participation in Phi Theta Kappa programs can contribute to student success. Even if a member is not currently serving in a position of leadership, the skills gained through the program will be highly sought after by a future employer.

Two separate surveys – the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2012 survey and the Center for Creative Leadership 2012 Leadership Insights survey – found that the qualities employers most look for in recent college graduates are leadership skills:

  • 79.8 percent of employers look for the ability to work in a team on a candidate’s resume;
  • 77.2 percent want to see leadership skills;
  • 95 percent of employers believe leadership development should begin by age 21;
  • 90 percent believe leadership development opportunities should be part of every student’s educational experiences.

“There is a lot in the scholarly literature about leadership that focuses on the exercise of leadership regardless of position or authority,” said Monika Byrd, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Leadership Development and Service Learning. “Our Honors in Action Hallmark Award rubric, for example, is worded to encourage a broad and emergent, collaborative interpretation of the concept of leadership.’ “

Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development Studies program was recognized by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as one of only eight Exemplary Leadership Development Programs in Higher Education. Selection was based upon effectiveness, philosophy, sustainability, comprehensiveness and targeted training, development and support for program facilitators.

“Throughout the course you learn about leadership skills that give you an understanding of what it is to work with a team,” said Elvira Avdeyeva, a member of the Tau Eta Chapter at Allen County Community College in Kansas and the Vice President of the Southern District in the Kansas Region. “This course will also enlighten you in areas such as decision making, team-building and servant leadership.”

Cohorts of the Leadership Development Studies Study Group on Facebook run throughout the year for roughly eight weeks at a time, and discussions explore the readings found in all 11 units of Phi Theta Kappa Leadership Development Studies: A Humanities Approach as well as other key topics related to leadership. While the study group is free and open to anyone, the leadership textbook is required.

Cohort 17 runs Thursday, September 25, through Wednesday, November 26.

“I really benefited from this cohort in more ways than I can express,” said Theodore McCreadle, who signed up for and completed Cohort 15 upon being elected president of the Beta Gamma Sigma Chapter at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Ohio. “Not only did I read the book, but the discussions between those who had participated was valuable.”

In addition to the Facebook group, many colleges offer a leadership class based on Phi Theta Kappa’s curriculum and textbook.

“I have seen amazing results and transformative experiences for students,” said Dr. Jennifer Lane, Honors Program Coordinator at Glendale Community College in Arizona. “This course is working wonderfully on our campus.”

Those interested in teaching the course must become certified through a Leadership Instructor Certification Seminar – more than 2,700 educators from over 700 institutions have been certified since 1992.

“This course is invaluable as a tool for chapter development,” said Steve Fritts, co-advisor of the Alpha Psi Tau Chapter at Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri and Associate Regional Coordinator for the Missouri Region. “You will hear our students quote the text and the principles learned in the course and see evidence of behaviors that were directly impacted by the material.”

Leadership Instructor Certification Seminars are being scheduled for July 2015. Email Monika Byrd for more information.

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