One of the first emails I received after being accepted at K-State was an invitation to take Lead 212, Introduction to Leadership Studies. I had toured the Leadership Studies Building during my campus visit, and the class sounded interesting. I also figured a leadership minor would be a good boost to my resume. After taking the class, I quickly changed my mind.
The class is divided into two segments. The first part of the class is a large lecture where a teacher goes over different theories of leadership. After the hour-long lecture, students join their small groups, or learning communities, for an additional hour where an upperclassman that has already taken Lead 212 talks about key points of the lecture and guides the group through two community service projects.
The lecture portion wasn’t completely useless. We discussed StrengthsQuest in great detail, as well as the Myers-Briggs Personality test. I’ve used the results from both of those quizzes to answer prompts in scholarship and internship applications. Those were probably the most beneficial parts of the class for me, but neither really have much to do with leadership. They also aren’t worth the steep price of $261 a credit hour.
The community service projects were a disaster. Putting a bunch of “leaders” in a group and expecting them to work together is one my biggest problems with leadership studies. People had their own opinions and own ideas on how the projects should be run, and no one was willing to make compromises. Some people wouldn’t communicate, some wouldn’t follow deadlines and some exhibited no leadership attributes at all, making me wonder what criteria are used to invite people into the program in the first place. It isn’t just an issue in the intro class either; my roommate is currently in an upper-level leadership class and still comes home frustrated about her group projects.
Honestly, the whole leadership studies minor boils down to one question: Can you teach someone to be a leader? Sure, you can provide personality tests, give examples of great leaders, talk about different leadership theories and thrust people into community service projects, but can you actually teach them to lead?
After taking the class, which is designed around the premise that yes, anyone can be a leader, I disagree. The group projects actually enforced my views on this. Even after learning our strengths and what qualities make a good leader, I didn’t see anyone’s leadership qualities change over the course of the semester.
Many people enroll in the minor because they believe it will help them stand out in the job market. This is only half true. According to the cnbc.com article, “Six college courses that help grads land jobs” by Kelli Grant, many employers are more interested in graduates from STEM classes, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially for liberal arts majors who usually have a gap in that area of their education. The article said that a leadership studies minor is helpful for the natural science or math based majors, since they do not take many classes teaching teamwork or other types of social interaction.
However, when I took the class, I was the only biology major in my group, and there were no engineering or math majors. Most of the students were political science or kinesiology majors, which are among the majors shown to not benefit from having a leadership studies minor.
There’s also the question of the Leadership Studies Building itself. I understand that K-State does not really control where money goes for different buildings. People donate large sums of money with the stipulation that the money be used for a designated project. For example, Dave and Kristen Dreiling donated $500,000 to be used for the new College of Business Administration building, and Dolese Bros. Co. donated $70 million to be used in the College of Engineering, according to the K-State website. However, it still seems strange to me that arguably the nicest building on K-State’s campus was built for a minor. I’ve had classes in some pretty disgusting lecture halls and hear talk from both students and professors in different colleges about the terrible conditions and lack of space in their buildings. So why do we have a beautiful building devoted to one minor, when we have countless majors that share buildings that are falling into disrepair?
I’m not saying that there aren’t good qualities about the leadership studies program. The volunteer organizations, like HandsOn Kansas State or the international service teams have helped countless people in the Manhattan community and beyond. The building itself is LEED certified, meaning that it meets U.S. Green Building Council certification of environmental sustainability. And the minor can look good on a resume, especially for engineers or other math and science based majors.
As for me, I don’t think it’s worth it. People either have leadership traits or they don’t. Learning about what makes a good leader doesn’t make you into one, and the current group projects don’t give students much of a chance to actually implement leadership skills. There are some things with the leadership studies program that sound good on paper, but just can’t be implemented in reality.
Lauren Komer is a sophomore in microbiology. Please send comments to [email protected]