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Colleges Add Leadership Studies to Course Offerings

June 17, 2010

by Agnes Jasinski

Courses and programming in leadership and leadership studies are the latest trend on college campuses looking to boost students’ resumes in a tough economy and competitive job market, and students at many of the schools have been signing up in droves.

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed described coursework at a number of colleges that focuses on both theories of leadership taught in the classroom, and practical experiences through internships and off-campus opportunities. While you can’t yet major in leadership, many schools are offering certificate programs in the field as a way for students to boast that specialized skill on their resumes and transcripts.

At the University of Iowa, students this fall will be able to enroll in a seven-course, 21-credit certificate in leadership studies, according to the article, that will supplement courses already offered by the school’s College of Business. According to administrators there, it was the students who wanted more than the college was already offering in terms of teaching them how to be leaders in not only business settings, but in all fields of study. Students who complete three classes in the sequence are then urged to take three credits in an internship setting, on-campus leadership position, or service-learning course. According to the article, administrators hope the work students have done up to that point learning the theories of leadership will translate to these experiences outside of the classroom.

What do you think? Should colleges be offering certificate programs in leadership, or instilling the values of leadership instead in existing coursework and internship opportunities? There is some criticism of the trend in Inside Higher Ed. Ed Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, says leadership isn’t the main thing employers look for when determining whether to hire a recent graduate. A student’s experiences rather than a certificate mentioned at the bottom of a resume may be more telling of leadership skills anyway, he said.

So how do you boost your leadership potential? Get involved in volunteer activities, or ask for more responsibility at your part-time job. Consider joining a club or campus group that could give you some experience organizing projects and working as part of a unit. While leadership is a good trait to have, so is the ability to work in a team and meet expectations. Expose yourself to a number of different experiences both on and off-campus to make yourself the best candidate for a job after college.


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1 Comment(s)

Jennifer W on 6/18/2010 2:33:27 AM

It honestly sounds silly to be offering certificate programs in leadership because it's something that can't be taught. It is learned through experiences in which the individual internalizes what he or she realizes about something. Creating certificate programs in leadership will only boost the individual's ego and make them more proud of themselves--that isn't being a true leader. A true leader is someone that is humble and selfless.

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