Before graduation, students may have to show off leadership skills

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Administrators are mulling how to make leadership activities and community service projects part of a wider curriculum

Before future GW students graduate, they could be required to prove leadership skills they gained from running student organizations or community service projects, as well as create a portfolio of their experiences.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Administrators are mulling over how to make leadership activities and community service projects part of a wider curriculum

Administrators will weigh these changes as they hammer out how to ingrain leadership and citizenship skills into every student’s curriculum as part of the decade-long strategic plan.

The University has ruled out a mandatory leadership course or community service hours – which are already required of student-athletes – but Provost Steven Lerman said a task force will mull over how to convince more students to collect and show off leadership experiences. GW could count leadership workshops or participation in leadership academies.

Lerman said the activities would stretch across a student’s four years at the University and be documented in a written portfolio. Students could choose from a list of approved activities or propose their own to the University.

“I don’t see it as a class. I don’t think one best acquires the attributes of citizenship and leadership through a single classroom experience. I think you acquire it experientially, but in a constructive way,” Lerman said.

The group of faculty, students and staff will report to Lerman by the end of the year. The finalized program could roll out the following year.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed will lead the task force. Deans from every school will recommend faculty members, and members of the Student Association and the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services will suggest sophomores and juniors to sit on the committee. Reed said the group would also consider programs at other schools.

“We need to determine: What are the learning objectives? Before you can design a program, what are we trying to accomplish?” Reed said. “And how do we define citizenship? And how do we define leadership? Are we talking about all leadership? Are we talking about only certain dimensions?”

Lerman will select appointees to the group in the next week, and they will host a series of campus-wide town hall meetings this spring.

Students could also contribute to a blog, attend discussion sessions or write a capstone paper to document their leadership activities, Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said.

The strategic plan lays out goals for students to volunteer or conduct research with organizations in D.C. or around the world, “preferably in contexts where they become immersed in an unfamiliar culture.”

“How do we help students process, digest, reflect – whatever word you want – the experiences they have out of the class and link them to what they’re learning in class a lot around leadership theory, citizenship, being engaged?” Konwerski said.

– Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report.

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