Leadership Development Becomes Priority for Many Institutions
Colleges have always prided themselves on teaching the next
generation of leaders. But it has only been over the past decade that
they have begun to formalize that training.
“Some think the students will get leadership skills in student
government, hut they must do more,” said Gwendolyn Dungy, executive
director of the National Association of Student Personnel
Because historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were
established to produce leaders, Dungy said, it is surprising that so
few of the schools are offering extensive training in leadership
“A lot of it is done through mentoring and role modeling at HBCUs, but it needs to be more formal and broadened,” Dungy said.
Which is exactly what Morehouse College officials are planning to
do by creating a new Leadership Development Center (LDC), which has as
its mission to “provide a focal point for Morehouse’s efforts to
develop graduates equipped to assume leadership roles in a variety of
settings and assist practicing executives and other leaders in
developing positive approaches to current challenges.
The Morehouse Legacy
Since the early days of Morehouse, when its president, Dr. Benjamin
E. Mays, developed a set of leadership principles that students at the
college would have to follow, teaching academics and preparing students
for leadership roles has been an important part of the school’s
curriculum. The success that the institution has in producing leaders
such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has come to be known as `The
Morehouse Mystique’ — a phenomenon that many graduates say is
appropriately named because it is hard to explain how the process works.
However, Dr. Willis Sheftall, director of the LDC, said, “It
doesn’t have to be a mystique anymore. We know and should know what we
do and now we are formalizing it.”
Dr. Frank Jones, director of program development for the project,
agrees. Jones, who comes to Morehouse from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT), added that he believes a leadership center at the
school is timely because, “A lot of things have happened that have
destroyed the foundation rocks that the mystique was built on…. The
mystique is more appearance than reality, which is a huge issue that
has to be dealt with.”
In addition, because Morehouse’s enrollment has gone from several
hundred students in the early years, which made informal leadership
mentoring easier, to 3,000 students today, Jones said, “The need to
formalize leadership activities in the curriculum is greater than it
A Decade of Growth
In the past, such programs have been headquartered in business
schools. Now, however, they are cropping up in departments ranging form
psychology and political science to women’s studies and history.
According to a report by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL),
leadership courses and programs have increased tremendously over the
past decade. Most schools are offering a few courses in leadership
studies and according to CCL, ninety-three community colleges across
the country are now offering at least one leadership course.
In 1992, the University of Richmond broke ground by becoming the
first institution in the U.S. to have both a major and minor degree
program in leadership studies. An extensive list of courses are offered
to approximately eighty juniors and seniors accepted into the program
at the school each year. CCL also cites Stetson University, North
Central College, Columbia College, and Alberson College as offering
minor degrees in leadership studies.
Currently, Morehouse is the only HBCU to announce the development
of a full-fledged leadership center. But many other HBCUs are creating
courses for the first time or adding on to what they have done in the
This semester, for the first time, Spelman College is requiring all
of its freshmen and sophomores to take a leadership course each
semester. Juniors and seniors will be encouraged, though not required,
to sign up for leadership workshops, internships and seminars. Students
who stay in the program for four years will receive a certificate in
leadership training when they graduate.
Hampton University’s Student Leadership Program is run through the
Student Activities Office and is strictly voluntary. The program, which
started in 1975, is designed for student government leaders but other
students can also apply. Throughout the year, the approximately 120
students in the program: attend workshops on leadership; are required
to assist in setting up and working campus events; and must do ten
community service hours each semester.
Formalizing an Unwritten Formula
Similar to what many institutions have done, for the past three
years Morehouse has had a structured leadership program in its business
school. But Sheftall said this new project will be more expansive.
“It’s not conceived as a program that belongs to any one
department, but an umbrella under which all departments will be
involved so that there will be a significant leadership component in
all courses,” he said.
Morehouse officials say they plan to initially offer a
concentration in leadership studies to its students with the
expectations that a major program will be developed in the future.
For Morehouse President Dr. Walter E. Massey, the leadership
development center is a high priority. “It will be a major new facility
intended to formalize some of the experiences we want Morehouse
students to have,” he said.
One of those students is nineteen-year-old Jermaine Dawson, who
chose among several full scholarships when he graduated from high
school three years ago. Dawson, who grew up in a crime-riddled public
housing project in Atlanta, chose Morehouse College because he wants to
help the youths in his old neighborhood make something of their lives.
He thinks Morehouse will help him to do this because of the school’s
historic reputation for focusing on the development of leadership
“I know I made the right choice…. Here they teach us how to be leaders and not just how to work,” Dawson said.
Nearly thirty years ago, Alvin Darden, who now heads Morehouse’s
mentoring program for freshmen, enrolled in the psychology program at
Morehouse for the same reason.
“I was a product of the sixties and the social issues of the time.
I wanted a place where they developed leaders and Morehouse has a
unique unwritten formula that produces an unusually high rate of
African American leaders,” Darden explained.
Morehouse will use funds from a $1 million, three-year grant the
school received from the Coca-Cola Foundation to develop a lecture
series bringing national and international leaders in various fields to
the campus to conduct public lectures. In addition, the funds will
allow the speakers to spend a full day on campus to conduct small group
seminars with the students to talk about leadership challenges. In
February, financier Warren Buffet is scheduled to be the first speaker
in the series.
Funds from Coca-Cola will also be used to award grants to faculty
members to develop proposals on ways leadership training can be
included in the curriculum and how courses can be revised or added.
Jones said, “How the faculty incorporate leadership in each
department will differ. [Through these grants] we want to free up
individual thought about these issues [so that] we can rethink what
we’re doing to meet the changes of the world and the era.”
The Coca-Cola grant will also pay for the incorporation of leadership training in a high school summer program.
Funds are being sought to build a facility for Morehouse’s
Leadership Development Center and various departments which will be
heavily involved in the center’s activities.
Michael Bivens, education director for the Coca-Cola Foundation,
said it makes sense for Morehouse to expand in an area that they have
had a lot of success and he thinks the kind of training the school
plans to do is essential.
“If young people get leadership exposure early, they will have an
edge in being prepared for the challenges that they will face in
business or whatever career they are in in the twenty-first century.
All students, especially students of color, need that experience to
deal with the world,” Bivens said.
Stress on Community Service
Community service is an important part of leadership training at
Morehouse. “We will stress community service because you have to learn
how to serve others and society to be a good leader,” Massey said.
Stressing community service has historical roots at HBCUs, but
according to the CCL, this is becoming a significant trend in
leadership programs at traditionally white institutions as well. More
schools are going beyond basic leadership theories — of decision
making, teamwork, communication skills, business etiquette, and the
like — to requiring students to apply what they learn in the classroom
by volunteering in human service agencies and community projects.
“Out of necessity, leadership programs at HBCUs have to be more
community based and service oriented. Students are being taught, `How
can I also help?’ and not just, `How can I get ahead?’ HBCUs are taking
the leadership role on this,” Dungy said.
Like many HBCUs, Morehouse is surrounded by public housing projects
and located in a large urban center that has a lot of social problems.
Because of this, Jones believes that a significant part of Morehouse’s
leadership training has to focus on community service and social issues.
“This is Morehouse. It isn’t Harvard or MIT. By and large, [schools
like Harvard and MIT] don’t care about these problems. But this is what
drives Morehouse…. We have to lead on this issue,” Jones said.
Jones predicts that in order for the Leadership Development Center
to maintain the institution’s effectiveness in producing leaders of the
calibre of Dr. King, Morehouse officials will have to ask critical
questions such as whether it wants to be a commuter or residential
institution. Currently there are only eleven dorms on campus and half
of the school’s almost 3,000 students commute daily. Jones believes
that building more dorms will be crucial in making the project work
because the connection dormitory life has to leadership can be
explained by the importance of on-campus housing in the early years.
“[Dorms were] where the streets and `bourgies’ came together and
worked things out. It’s where [students] gained a sense that they were
part of the same train. [Accomplishing this would be] hard if you are a
commuter school because commuters don’t care, they go to class and
leave…. It’s a critical issue which has to do with leadership,”
Sheftall thinks they are on the right track. Morehouse plans to
strongly emphasize community service as well as making sure that the
LDC addresses the changes occurring in private and public organizations
that are creating a greater demand for leadership skills in college
“In bureaucracies there are fewer titles [because of the downsizing
of middle management], which means more responsibility sooner for
aspiring leaders. Given this expansion and need for people with
leadership abilities, it seems to me that increasing the pool of
African Americans with leadership skills is as necessary as it is
appropriate,” Sheftall said. “It’s something we ought to be doing.”
COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com