These questions recently became a focus
of our strategic planning process, which engaged the creative juices
of the entire campus to consider how Albright can build character
and encourage leadership in our students. At Albright, weve
always believed that the intimacy and rigor of our educational experience
prepared graduates to assume leadership roles in whatever they set
out to do. While we always know leadership when we see it, we havent
always taken the time to examine how leadership ability is fostered
through the college experience.
There is a need for women and men today
who can act positively and influence society. But what are the traits
needed to be influential? A number of studies have shown that three
major skills contribute to an individuals success in life:
communication, critical thinking, and leadership. As we look at
what we have done well over the years at Albright, we believe we
teach students how to communicate effectively with others. Our students
learn to think critically and examine questions from multiple perspectives.
Our students leave Albright with the ability and confidence to influence
positively the situations around them. That is leadership at its
most personal level. As we think of leadership, then, we do not
necessarily think only of corporate CEOs and heads of state. Rather,
leadership derives from character. What are some characteristics
of leadership? A genuine interest in people and the willingness
to take the time to listen. The ability to generate enthusiasm for
ideas. The ability to set positive goals even in the most challenging
situation. And the strength to embrace a given solution not because
it is popular or easy, but because it is right. As I recount these
traits, it seems clear that we at Albright build leaders who are
effective both in the details of life and in person-to-person relationships,
as well as in leading and influencing others in both the small and
the large situations of life.
"Albright’s small size and collaborative learning process lend themselves
to producing leaders and persons of character."
We view the College, then, as producing
graduates who have the ability to inspire others. And while not
many of us have the personal charisma of a John Kennedy or Martin
Luther King, each of us does have the ability to inspire others
by our good example. Each of us has the ability to enlist others
through our willingness to work steadfastly with an eye on a goal.
There are quiet leaders as well as dynamic leaders and Albright
has produced both types in many different fields.
Albrights small size and collaborative
learning process lend themselves to producing leaders and persons
of character. The highly personal relationship between teacher and
student nurtures abilities. The variety of educational and extracurricular
programs ensures that every student has many opportunities to learn,
communicate, think and lead. Our students gain confidence in exercising
sound judgment and become role models for others.
We are now exploring new ways to enhance
Albright's curriculum and extracurricular programs with an even
more pronounced emphasis on leadership. We are beginning conversations
about integrating all that we do and all that we practice around
a revised mission statement and a set of values and goals with this
highly personalized form of leadership at its center. Our curriculum
already does a great job of imparting knowledge and teaching skills,
but I envision enhancements to make it bustle even more with increased
focus on difficult questions about ethics and moral dilemmas. I
envision enhanced opportunities for leadership in student activities
and volunteerism; notable speakers to address leadership and character
building; an annual student conference for students from around
the country to examine questions on leadership themes; and perhaps
even an annual Albright award recognizing distinguished national
or international figures who have exemplified positive leadership
in their fields. I envision an educational environment where an
ability increasingly to think across disciplines and to relate issues
in disparate fields becomes second nature in our students.
In most respects what we are talking
about is not new to Albright. It is the way we have always taught
and learned. We are simply identifying it for what it is: a highly
personalized experience through which our students become effective
and influential in their lives.
I enthusiastically welcome your thoughts
on leadership and character-building. I would very much like to
engage in a dialogue with you, our alumni, and to solicit your experiences
and insights as our societys current and future leaders.