In order to help freshmen develop their leadership skills and build foundations to help them throughout their college career, McDaniel has offered the LEAD program to accomplish these goals.
The title of the program, LEAD, is actually an acronym which stands for leadership, engagement, and development.
“One of the biggest things that we try to do in the program is to get the students to see that everyone has a different perspective on leadership and that everyone has their own kind of leadership identify and leadership identify development,” said Ben Cowman, a McDaniel alum who graduated in 2010, and the new Special Projects Coordinator for the Department of Student Affairs.
The program started during the 2010-2011 school year as a pilot program and then was officially launched this past year to first year students.
“Our pilot program started out with 11 students and this year we had 26, so it has definitely grown,” said Cowman.
LEAD was developed by a number of members from both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs and originated from a grant presented to the college titled Theory to Practice. The team of folks included Beth Gerl, Dean and Vice President of Student Affairs, and Sarah Stokley, former Associate Dean of Student Academic Life.
“Both student affairs and academic affairs were interested in leadership development and it was the first program that really evolved that both offices actually got to work on together,” said Cowman.
Students who decide that they would like to join the program submitted an application with their basic information along with any leadership roles that they held while in high school. They also were required to attend a 15 minute interview where they were asked about any of their current or previous leadership positions and why they wish to be a part of the program.
Once accepted into the program, students came to campus for a week-long retreat that included sitting in on seminars hosted by community and student leaders, participating in a community service project, and also participating in team building exercises.
Tiffany Patton, a freshman from Baltimore, Maryland, decided to apply for the LEAD program as a resume building activity and as a way to be more involved on campus. But, after attending the weeklong retreat, she learned that the program offered her so much more.
“Beyond just training you to be a leader on campus and in the community, I think that it bought me a really good opportunity to bond with people on campus who I never knew before,” Patton says. “It was like we were more of a family.”
Patton said she learned what it takes to be a leader by going through the program.
“Leaders aren’t just leaders,” she said. “They have to follow people, they have to learn from others, and they can’t be arrogant or self-centered. They have to be willing to serve the people that follow them.”
Patton also noted that being a part of the program and the experience it offered her could be very beneficial once she graduates McDaniel and becomes a high school English teacher.
“The program developed me not just as a leader, but as a person,” she said.
While Patton enjoyed her time spent within the program, not all participants have the same perspective.
Kaitlyn Kivi, a sophomore, was a part of the pilot program in 2010 and says that she wishes some things about it would have been different.
“It was very redundant. There is only so much you can say on the topic of leadership,” she said.
While she did enjoy listening to the student leadership panel, the mandatory events and meetings each week after the retreat just weren’t worth it, she said.
“It definitely has social benefits, but I don’t know how much the material had benefits,” Kivi said.
Kivi did mention, however, that the program had been somewhat beneficial since many of the pilot program’s members are now the most involved students of her class on and off campus.
In response to some of the pilot program members’ reactions, LEAD went through a few changes this year in order to help smooth out the rough edges.
“Rather than meetings every week, we gave the students a list of options to choose from of different things going on around campus to participate in,” said Cowman. “These events ranged from attending campus 411 sessions to career preparation workshops.”
The program also added a service project to the week-long retreat to help students develop leadership qualities while participating in a community event. This year’s project was helping local Carroll County schools participate in “A Day On, Not a Day Off,” on Martin Luther King Day. During this event, LEAD members helped elementary school children participate in projects that taught them about Martin Luther King Day.
An off-campus trip was also added to help break up the long days the students were spending on campus, students said. A day trip to Washington, D.C. was planned where the students got a chance to hang out and visit museums.
While in D.C., LEAD members were asked to identify a leader from history based on the leadership qualities they had learned throughout the program. This allowed them to identify and practice with the skills they had learned during the program.
The program may still have some areas to smooth out and changes to make, Cowman said, but that hasn’t stopped him from making sure the program’s goals are obtained.
“There are different perceptions about leadership to different people,” he said. “Recognizing that and being exposed to all that is the goal of the entire program.”