Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Following the Leaders

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Following the Leaders

Article excerpt

Leadership Development Becomes Priority for Many Institutions

Colleges have always prided themselves on teaching the next generation of leaders. But it has only been over the past decade that they have begun to formalize that training.

"Some think the students will get leadership skills in student government, hut they must do more," said Gwendolyn Dungy, executive director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Because historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were established to produce leaders, Dungy said, it is surprising that so few of the schools are offering extensive training in leadership studies.

"A lot of it is done through mentoring and role modeling at HBCUs, but it needs to be more formal and broadened," Dungy said.

Which is exactly what Morehouse College officials are planning to do by creating a new Leadership Development Center (LDC), which has as its mission to "provide a focal point for Morehouse's efforts to develop graduates equipped to assume leadership roles in a variety of settings and assist practicing executives and other leaders in developing positive approaches to current challenges.

The Morehouse Legacy

Since the early days of Morehouse, when its president, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, developed a set of leadership principles that students at the college would have to follow, teaching academics and preparing students for leadership roles has been an important part of the school's curriculum. The success that the institution has in producing leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has come to be known as `The Morehouse Mystique' -- a phenomenon that many graduates say is appropriately named because it is hard to explain how the process works.

However, Dr. Willis Sheftall, director of the LDC, said, "It doesn't have to be a mystique anymore. We know and should know what we do and now we are formalizing it."

Dr. Frank Jones, director of program development for the project, agrees. Jones, who comes to Morehouse from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), added that he believes a leadership center at the school is timely because, "A lot of things have happened that have destroyed the foundation rocks that the mystique was built on.... The mystique is more appearance than reality, which is a huge issue that has to be dealt with."

In addition, because Morehouse's enrollment has gone from several hundred students in the early years, which made informal leadership mentoring easier, to 3,000 students today, Jones said, "The need to formalize leadership activities in the curriculum is greater than it was before."

A Decade of Growth

In the past, such programs have been headquartered in business schools. Now, however, they are cropping up in departments ranging form psychology and political science to women's studies and history.

According to a report by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), leadership courses and programs have increased tremendously over the past decade. Most schools are offering a few courses in leadership studies and according to CCL, ninety-three community colleges across the country are now offering at least one leadership course.

In 1992, the University of Richmond broke ground by becoming the first institution in the U.S. to have both a major and minor degree program in leadership studies. An extensive list of courses are offered to approximately eighty juniors and seniors accepted into the program at the school each year. CCL also cites Stetson University, North Central College, Columbia College, and Alberson College as offering minor degrees in leadership studies.

Currently, Morehouse is the only HBCU to announce the development of a full-fledged leadership center. But many other HBCUs are creating courses for the first time or adding on to what they have done in the past. …

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