Staley School of Leadership Studies celebrates 20th anniversary

The Leadership Studies building on Kansas State campus in Manhattan, Kan. (Archive photo by George Walker | Collegian Media Group)

After getting its start as an idea from two people sitting on the floor of Holton Hall, the Staley School of Leadership Studies is commemorating 20 years of teaching students about real-world applications of leadership and diversity.

The first ideas for the leadership studies program came from Bob Shoop, former director of the Cargill Center for Ethical Leadership, and Susan Scott, first director of the Staley School of Leadership Studies, to prepare students for dealing with ethical questions and diversity in the workplace.

Tamara Bauer, leadership studies instructor, said Shoop and Scott started collaborating on the floors of Holton Hall to bring about the program that exists today.

“Leadership isn’t something that is stagnant and that you become an expert on,” Bauer said. “It’s more about, ‘How do we meet the needs of the world today and what type of leadership is needed?’ To me, that’s what our 20 years represents.”

The leadership program has grown since then to include its own building and faculty. The building is named after two K-State alumni who were major donors to its construction, Mary Lynn and Warren Staley.

“Growth and on-campus presence has changed,” said Kaitlin Long, program coordinator and leadership studies instructor. “We believe that anyone can exercise leadership at any time. We all have an opportunity to create change.”

The leadership studies program has its own minor with different focuses, such as non-profits, civic leadership, global citizenship and theories of leadership.

“We try to bring those difficult conversations into the classroom to think about how we can actually make progress on this,” Bauer said.

Lauren Mertz, senior in mass communications, said the instructors and students discuss weekly topics in the classroom and then break up into smaller groups to discuss how the topic is applicable to their own lives.

“My favorite thing is getting to work with the faculty at leadership studies and being treated as an equal,” Mertz said. “We actually contribute as students. I feel like I am doing real work that matters for the school and university … I love seeing the impact we have.”

In leadership studies, students focus on relationships. Classes are structured differently from a traditional professor-led classroom, making the students’ voices important.

The School of Leadership Studies invites student voices in as often as possible, “creating a democratic process where they invite all voices to the table,” Bauer said.

“If we aren’t modeling what we are teaching, then we are teaching something else,” Bauer said. “Leadership at its core is about relationships, we do our best to practice that with our students.”

Long said that the leadership studies program gets many requests from community organizations for volunteers, partnerships and for event awareness.

“I think that speaks to the idea of that campus-community connection,” Long said.

The leadership studies faculty and students are excited for the program’s 20th anniversary and what the future will bring.

“I hope it’s a hub of creativity and innovation, a place where people feel really welcome and safe,” Mertz said. “I hope it acts as a vehicle for people to fall in love with K-State the way I did, and find self confidence.”

The leadership program started out with 14 students in the graduating class of 1997. That number has since grown to over 2,000 students in the past 20 years, Bauer said.