Leadership minor offers K-State students academic diversity

Leadership Studies, which opened in January 2010, is one of the newest buildings on campus. (George Walker | The Collegian)

In 1988, Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Pat Bosco said he believed that leadership is something that can be taught and used in the everyday lives of K-State students. After nine years of foundation work by many, the Kansas Board of Regents approved K-State’s interdisciplinary minor in leadership studies.

Thirteen students graduated in the spring of 1998 with a minor in leadership studies, paving the way for the 228 leadership minor graduates in 2014. Today, there are over 1,200 enrolled in the Staley School of Leadership Studies – making the program the largest interdisciplinary minor on campus.

A new professor within the school is Eric Hartman, who holds a Ph.D. in international development and directed a global nonprofit organization for several years. After teaching at the Providence College for two years, Hartman said he transferred specifically for the Staley School of Leadership Studies.

“A leadership minor teaches students to be strong leaders in the global sense, and to have a moral grounding that encourages them to think critically about equal treatment of all people,” Hartman said.

Hartman explained that future employers look for students who stand out from others by having the skills the leadership minor teaches, such as being able to work in a group setting and practically applying what they learn within their communities.

“A lot of students may study leadership concepts, but not actually apply them,” Hartman said. “Businesses will be looking for evidence that students can think critically about how to measure the impact of their work.”

After declaring their minor, students decide whether they’ll study the standard or nonprofit focus. Regardless of their choice, leadership studies students are required to take the program’s four core classes: Introduction to Leadership Concepts, Culture and Context, Leadership in Practice and Senior Seminar. After the core classes are completed, there are still six-credit hours left to be filled. The standard students get their pick of leadership-related electives (that frequently knock out requirements for their major as well) and the nonprofit students take Theories of Nonprofit Leadership and Internship Seminar as their electives.

Samantha Brooke, sophomore in animal sciences and industry, is minoring in leadership.

“Personally, I chose to do the leadership minor because I heard great things about it,” Brooke said. “Also, with my field of study or any field of study, for that matter, a person is going into they could utilize this minor. Not only does it look good on a resume for future employers, but you learn so many skills that can help in your everyday life.”

Brooke said she is doing the standard leadership focus and plans to use it in her journey to become a veterinarian. She said it is preparing her for her future to stand out when applying for veterinarian schools as well as jobs.

“I believe having a leadership minor under my belt says you are organized, understanding and are, of course, a leader,” Brooke said. “Which is what a potential employer from any company would be looking for.”

Abby Krstulic, sophomore in hospitality management, is a nonprofit leadership minor and said she believes the skills she learns about working with others and conflict management will help her in her career path.

“I came to K-State senior day and was intrigued by the leadership program since I want to do work for nonprofits,” Krstulic said. “It was perfect for me to get training for a future career.”

Leadership instructors focus on connecting their classroom material to real world experiences and scenarios.

“The culture and context course really impacted me,” Krstulic said. “I struggle with conflict and handling people who don’t share my views. The class taught me not to only reflect on how I see the world around me, but how to interact with those people who don’t share my views.”

Krstulic said she believes that though people criticize the minor, in the end, it offers as much as the students are willing to give it.

“Honestly what I have learned is that you get out what you put in,” she said. “If you want to develop leadership skills, it is all about how you approach what you’re learning and how you translate that into leading people in actual leadership positions.”