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CMU leadership emphasis keeps growing

LeadCMU initiative takes building-block approach

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

​CMU graduates leaders.

Now, a new program is the latest initiative to amplify Central Michigan University President George E. Ross' familiar call to action.

Ross introduced the program Sept. 13 at his State of the University Address.

“CMU offers more leadership opportunities than any school in the nation.” — Dan Gaken, director of the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute

The LeadCMU curriculum sorts CMU leadership activities into four phases — exploration, discovery, experience and challenge — meant to guide students' leadership development. Each phase complements the learning that occurs at the others.

"A student's ability to see themselves as a leader has to be developed," said Dan Gaken, director of CMU's Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute, which is implementing the LeadCMU framework. "We want to give students an arena where they can try to experience different types of leadership.

"Because of the LeadCMU framework, students will not only know what opportunities exist, but will be able to identify which ones meet their interests and abilities."

The Leadership Institute — working alongside the broader Cross-Campus Leadership Initiative composed of students, faculty, administrators and outside experts — offers leadership programming and drives development of student learning goals and a cross-campus leadership curriculum.

Gaken said students gain skills through study abroad programs, internships, on-campus jobs, Alternative Breaks, student organizations and more.

"CMU offers more leadership opportunities than any school in the nation," he said.

"Leadership Safari is the largest program of its kind in the country. The Leader Advancement Scholarship program is the only one of its kind that provides students a scholarship for residential, curricular and cocurricular experiences. Our undergraduate leadership minor is the largest minor on this campus. While you might find other schools that have pieces of that, nobody is putting it all together."

To ensure student leadership development aligns with what employers seek, the institute works closely with CMU Career Services.


"Our students are prepared to work on teams, work with people who have experiences or backgrounds different than themselves, and solve problems," Gaken said. "Those are skills that work in any context or situation. They pick those up across the curriculum and through life at CMU."

Leadership takes many forms

Students demonstrating leadership may not even recognize it at first, Gaken said. CMU helps them lead in their own way.

"Leadership is not always about being the point person or having positional authority. Leadership is about doing the right thing and creating value for other members of your community. Leadership is about making the world better for others," Gaken said.

"LeadCMU will equip students to not only obtain the key leadership learning outlined in our goals and outcomes," he added, "but will ensure that they can articulate what they can do — because of leadership training. This adds tremendous value to a CMU degree by ensuring students can demonstrate their leadership ability to an employer."

Campus partners will showcase how leadership can be developed through curricular and cocurricular experiences at the Leadership Symposium on Oct. 20. Gaken said the symposium will feature interactive labs to allow students, faculty and staff to experience some of the curriculum.

Those interested in attending can contact the Leadership Institute at 989-774-5323 or

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