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Students learn lifetime leadership skills at six-day LeaderShape event

Sporting gray T-shirts with the choices "Lead," "Follow" and "Get out of Way" emblazoned across the back, 52 students, six professional facilitators and two student interns gathered recently in the stately St. Benedict's Center and around its lush, scenic grounds north of Middleton for a week of team-building activities at LeaderShape.

And in the spirit of the event's leadership-focused activities, the obvious choice, "Lead," was indicated on the shirts with a bold red check mark.

LeaderShape students play catch

Students participate in "Videre," an exercise that enhances trust, team-building and problem-solving. (large image)

First held in Wisconsin in August 1997 for 42 students from the College of Engineering and the School of Business, the LeaderShape Institute began more than a decade earlier in Champaign, Illinois, to expose students to aspects and issues relating to leadership development. Through intensive daily sessions focusing on such topics as components of effective communication, the power of vision, group behaviors, decision-making and building relationships, students explore their personal characteristics, expand their leadership knowledge, share ideas with peers and leaders, and create a vision for themselves or a campus organization.

The 1999 Wisconsin program fulfills senior Jennifer Salna's goal to include students from other colleges and schools within the university in LeaderShape. Salna, who attended LeaderShape in 1998 and returned this year as a student intern, worked to expand the program to include not only students from the College of Engineering and the School of Business, but also the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Human Ecology, the College of Letters and Science and the School of Education.

Students who attended this year's LeaderShape say they've learned how to be more productive, more effective leaders and better communicators. And though the program is but six days long, they've developed skills that will last a lifetime.