Last month, the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland participated in its first LeaderShape Institute. This retreat is designed to challenge students to lead with integrity and explore what they want to do, as well as who they want to become as leaders.
This institute was one of 90 campus-based sessions in the country and involved 49 undergraduate students, mostly from the Smith School. It took place from Jan. 12 to 17, 2014, at Camp Letts, a YMCA summer camp in Edgewater, Md.
“The LeaderShape Institute is a six-day leadership program for college students,” explained Jason DeSanto Jones, associate director of undergraduate studies and LeaderShape program coordinator. “We want to grow leaders by empowering them to think about the world and what could make it a better place. LeaderShape was a way to challenge them to start taking those first steps.”
The program was broken down into daily themes for students to discuss and for activities to revolve around. Some of the themes included creating community and exploring yourself and what makes you, well, YOU.
“We want to inspire our students to do great things and one of the ways to do that is to develop a community of leaders – once you have developed this community, you have the ability to explore dangerous ideas. We wanted to give students the ability to stem outside of the classroom and develop themselves as leaders of the future.”
Students often broke into smaller “family” clusters of about 10 students to work on group projects, such as participating in team challenge courses in the wilderness and developing visions about issues in the world. Each project was designed to build communities around like-minded ideas so students could work together on shared interests.
“One thing we asked them was, ‘If you could revolutionize one thing about the world and knew you couldn't fail, what would you revolutionize?’” DeSanto Jones said. “We wanted them to discuss what these burning issues are. The purpose of the whole week is to eliminate initial barriers and challenge yourself to take your first step toward solving a problem. The first step is one step closer to achieving your vision.”
In addition to group activities, the program included a guest leader night during which three guest speakers spoke to students about what leadership is to them. They also gave advice on how to take that first step toward solving a problem when the first step is so daunting – something each had experienced in their careers.
“These types of programs are great because students come away with such a positive experience,” DeSanto Jones said. “We want the Smith experience to be something the students look back on in a positive light and this is one type of program they can look back on and think, ‘We did this with the Smith school and it was an amazing time.’”
DeSanto Jones, who attended the whole week of camp, said his favorite part was commencement: “Everyone comes together and we do recognitions. We reminisce about the week behind us and talk about the future. There is a real emotional output during the commencement ceremony and you see how far people have come. They start off not knowing each other and by day six everybody knows everybody.”
Victor Mullins, associate dean of the Undergraduate Program, attended Smith first-ever LeaderShape commencement: “I am so pleased with Smith's new undergraduate initiative. While I wish every single student could experience LeaderShape, I am convinced that the Smith students who attended our inaugural program at Camp Letts will take what they learned and share it with their peers. What an exciting time to be at Smith!”
Jessica Smith, Office of Marketing Communications