College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Young Leaders Form at Sleeman Leadership Institute


by Sarah Small

On Saturday afternoon, March 6, 130 freshmen walked out of BIF with personal plans for developing themselves as leaders. These freshmen James Scholar students and nominees spent the weekend participating in the Sleeman Leadership Institute, where they heard speakers and engaged in workshops to establish their own interpretations of leadership.

This was the second annual Institute, and it was created by an endowment from alumnus Tom Sleeman and his wife Nancy, who made a gift to the University to help develop a program that would advance leadership for undergraduates.

The freshmen participants were split into 13 groups of ten students, and each group was facilitated by a junior or senior in the College and a professional from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Henry Soong, a junior in Finance and English said he decided to participate as a facilitator for the Institute so that he could help younger students gain an understanding of the meaning and purpose of leadership.

“The College of Business emphasizes the importance of peer learning, and the Sleeman Institute has created a strong vision for leadership in the College,” Soong said.

Largely, the focus of the Institute was for students to prepare for leadership, so the weekend was spent developing personal leadership plans. Each student brought away from the Institute a tangible document that laid out his or her plans for leadership in the remaining semesters at the University.

Varun Karkhanis, a junior in Finance, said the major lessons of the Institute encouraged students to pursue their passions, get involved and to add value and substance to their activities. He said the lessons of the Institute were also helpful to him.

“The Institute is designed to take students out of their comfort zones and I believe the more often a student does this, the more natural it becomes,” said Tim Reierson, Lead Partner of the Institute from PricewaterhouseCoopers. “So starting at the freshmen level makes sense to get an early start on this.”

The Institute is unique from other leadership training programs at the College because it is designed to educate freshman only, Reierson said. The Institute stresses leadership for the youngest student in the College so that they can be prepared to assume leadership roles and positively contribute to the College in the coming years

Through workshops, speakers and team-building exercises, the students learned that a leader is someone who positively influences others, not someone who is successful on his or her own, Reirson said. The Institute challenged student to strive toward becoming leaders by positively affecting others through their actions. They were also encouraged to use their leadership skills to be models for other students in the College and to reach out to their peers in who had not attended the Institute, so as to spread the knowledge of leadership throughout the College.

Overall, the Institute was a success, and the 130 freshmen who participated came out of the weekend with better understanding of leadership and their responsibilities to be leaders.

“Life will offer many opportunities for an individual to step up and make a positive difference,” Reierson said. “Students need to be prepared to assume the role of a leader when the right opportunity presents itself.  Not everyone can be a follower.”

UIUC College of Business