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Students' vision results in Wisconsin LeaderShape '97

When Andrew Kroll and Jessica Rannow returned from the national LeaderShape Institute of Champaign, Ill., last year, they carried home more than just an improved set of leadership skills. These engineering undergraduates brought back a vision of conducting the program locally for fellow UW-Madison students.

On August 26, after a year of hard work and planning, their dream became reality. About four dozen students from the College of Engineering and School of Business gathered at the St. Benedict Center - a 130-acre wooded facility along Lake Mendota - to kick off Wisconsin LeaderShape '97. The national organization provided lead facilitators and support staff, but Kroll and Rannow, in their role as interns, had to carry out the lion's share of the planning process. They worked closely with Kathy Luker and Aggie Trzebiatowski of the Engineering Learning Center.

St. Benedict Center

The scenic grounds of the St. Benedict Center provided an ideal setting for Wisconsin LeaderShape '97. (46K JPG)

The purpose of LeaderShape is to develop leaders of integrity. "Participants learn a lot about interpersonal skills with the other people in the group," explains Ginny Carroll, one of two lead facilitators at the Madison gathering. "Another objective is to help them establish a vision for an organization that they care about."

LeaderShape students divided their time between the learning community, which included all participants, and groups of 11 or 12 called family clusters.

Throughout the next year, as the student leaders pursue the projects they formulated during the six-day program, LeaderShape's national office will stay in touch with them, says Carroll. "We also encourage them to establish mentors on campus that they'll share their project with and that will help them get to their final goal, which is their vision."

A sample of responses gathered after Wisconsin LeaderShape's final session seems to indicate that participants were pleased with the program.

"I gained so many new insights and learned a lot about myself while working with others," says Aimee Bruederle, a senior human resources major in the School of Business.

Students working in teams

Teamwork was essential at this six-day program. (33K JPG)

Adds mechanical engineering senior Mike Moyer, "I was able to carry on meaningful conversations with peers whom I had only known for a short time. In fact, I could tell my fellow LeaderShapers more than I could ever tell to some of my life-long best friends."

Alisa Hansen, a senior chemical engineering major, says LeaderShape went beyond her expectations. Going into the week, she notes, "I didn't expect to have the support and encouragement of the entire group. But we are all determined to help each other on our path toward our visions."

Industrial engineering sophomore James Luedtke was also impressed. "I was afraid it might be some kind of cheesy blah-blah-blah experience, but it wasn't that at all. I really came away with a lot of lessons that I think I will use throughout life."

And Bert Debusschere, who is half way through in PhD work in mechanical engineering, describes LeaderShape as "a succession of great exercises and discussions."

Co-planner Rannow says that although it was difficult at first to get students interested in attending Wisconsin LeaderShape, there's enough interest now to make this an annual event. "It's going to be pretty easy because these participants are going to be talking to their friends." And, she adds, "we want to expand participation to the entire campus."