Skip navigation

CMU students create world-changing visions at LeaderShape

Six-day leadership development program provides transformative learning experience

Contact: Heather Smith

​​​​​​​​What can I do to impact the world? How can I become a better leader? Those two questions are what more than 60 Central Michigan University students were looking for clarity on by attending the LeaderShape Institute, a six-day leadership development experience May 10 to 15.

LeaderShape coordinator Jesi Parker said CMU's Leadership Institute has hosted the program for 16 years, and interest remains high each year because of the impact it has on students.

"LeaderShape is all about creating a just, caring and thriving world where everyone leads with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible," said Parker, who also is assistant director of CMU's Leadership Institute. "It's so much more than trust falls and the human knot. It's a transformative learning experience that applies to leaders in all professions."

Attendees participated in emotional intelligence training, self-assessments and reflections, vision-crafting workshops, ethical- and value-based discussions, team-building activities, and power and conflict management simulations at Albion College.

LeaderShape on-site coordinator Danielle Cywka said those who attend realize they are beyond capable to achieve goals greater than they've ever imagined.

"Being involved in LeaderShape honestly restores my faith in what my generation is capable of. It opens a world of possibilities for participants to see beyond themselves and their lives in Mount Pleasant," said Cywka, psychology and women's studies senior.

The LeaderShape Institute partners with organizations large and small, across the United States and throughout the world. According to research conducted by David Ross, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on the effects of LeaderShape, CMU students who participated in 2013-2014 reported slightly more pronounced transactional skill (motivating members to achieve goals) and noncalculative motivation to lead (avoiding a self-centered cost-benefit analysis of leading) within the program than other organizations.

"If I could describe LeaderShape in one word it would be transformational," said sociology sophomore Emma Bautch. "I went through a ton of ups and downs throughout the week and had so many breakthroughs that made me realize my passions and career goals can actually make a change in the world."

To maximize the passion students gained throughout the week, the Leadership Institute worked with Cara Solovey M.A. '15, to create an engagement plan. The plan includes online and campus discussions, spirit days, campus workshops, and a reunion with former LeaderShape participants.

"At LeaderShape you're surrounded by dream chasers who are passionate about changing the world and are supportive of what you believe in. It's hard to find that community in the real world," Solovey said. "We want to provide students with the opportunity to reconnect with like-minded people after the program and continue to fuel their passion for impacting the world." 

Day 1 – Building community

Participants explored core components of leadership and joined 8 to 12 other students in a family cluster. Five CMU faculty/staff members served as cluster facilitators where they helped cultivate a safe, supportive learning environment for the students.

“It was exciting to be in a new environment and finally meet the students in my cluster since I typically only work with students in a classroom setting,” said Eric Buschlen, cluster facilitator and CMU associate professor of educational leadership. “Our group connected quickly and that excitement grew in an organic, fun way throughout the week.”

Day 2 – The value of one, the power of all

Students participated in a variety of team-building activities, discussions and self-awareness discovery assessments designed to enhance their ability to build relationships, solve problems and create communities which value respect, openness and diverse opinions.

“It was really comforting and inspiring to be in a room full of people who were ready to learn, grow and pursue their dreams,” said language arts junior Sarah Lemanski.

Day 3 – Challenging what is, looking to what could be

Participants dug deep within themselves to identify their passions and pen a life vision that will create a better future for the world. Students wrote their visions on large sheets of paper as they prepared to grow from advice given by four experienced leaders through a Q&A panel.

Panelist and 2014 Distinguished Young Alumnus recipient Nathan Tallman, ’07, M.A. ’09, said seeing the students’ visions was very promising for what the future entails at CMU and throughout the world.

“The visions I was able to see tied back to many topics from global warming to social justice, health and wellness, to gender equality, “ said Tallman, corporate development director for Metro Wire & Cable Corp. “CMU students have always had a passion for helping and serving others and their communities. This proved to be true with their vision statements.”

Day 4 – Bringing vision to reality

Students set goals and action steps that will move their vision forward. They also participated in a group simulation exercise and discussion about handling power.

“Putting goals on paper provided me with a new perspective of what I could achieve and helped me bridge the gap between my leadership and career goals,” said political science senior Kiara Wallace.

Day 5 – Living and leading with integrity

Students identified their core ethical values and participated in exercises that provided the opportunity to think about how values affect decisions.

“Day five was so empowering! Not only did they tell us that we could change the world, but we were able to discover it for ourselves, which made the experience life changing,” said Paige Blakeslee, graphic design sophomore.

Day 6 – Staying in action

Participants determined what they want to do and who they want to be by creating a breakthrough blueprint that lists action steps and core values. Commencement involved lots of tears, gifts, heart-felt goodbyes and group selfies.

LeaderShape co-lead facilitator Meghan Gaffney admitted during commencement remarks that CMU is now one of her favorite universities.

“I have been so touched and impressed with all of you this week,” said Gaffney University of Pennsylvania associate director of fraternity and sorority life. “I’m now going to be one of those people who yells ‘Fire up Chips’ when I see someone wearing maroon and gold at the airport!”

Day 7- The leadership movement

Day seven is defined as every day after the program. The Leadership Institute received a copy of the student’s breakthrough blueprints and will use it for accountability purposes and future research. Participants were given a timeline of the engagement activities and released back into the real world.

“I give so much credit to the LeaderShape Institute and our CMU students for blessing the week in abundance. My cup overflows,” said Elizabeth Heintzkill, cluster facilitator and CMU Career Services career coach. “Day 7 is my favorite day because it’s exciting to think about LeaderShape students in action — changing our campus and the world for future generations.”


Photo Associator

Article Photo Title

Photo Title required.

Photo for News Home

Select File
Use This One

Photo for News Feeds

Select File
Use This One