message from the president

Leadership, Scholarship and Character Building at Albright

What do you think of when you say “leadership?” What character traits does a leader possess? How do we identify these traits and provide an educational environment that allows our students to incorporate these traits into their life experiences? Why should we be concerned about leadership at Albright?

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, we’ve 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 haven’t 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 individual’s 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.

Albright’s 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 society’s current and future leaders.