Monday, March 30, 2015

USU And Local Leadership Development


Utah State University is, of course, not a local community college. Unlike many Junior Colleges, it draws students from all over the nation and around the world. Therefore, its objectives are considerably different from the Community College. However, USU also has a heavy component of state and local students and therefore shares some things in common with a Junior College. Among them, I suggest, is the development of local leadership.

I read this morning an interesting article by John Gardner about the role of the JC in developing leadership. Though it was written in 1988, almost 30 years ago, Gardner makes some points that may be useful for USU leadership to review for possible new ideas to consider. Here are some of the things he said:

  • Finding solutions to some local problems can be facilitated by a school that will serve as a “convening function” where representatives of various factions and interests come together for serious discussion of community problems. It can be a “valuable forum, a meeting ground where the common good is discussed."
  • A recommended program for leadership development for community colleges.
“First, a broad liberal arts education. It is useful for young potential leaders to gain–starting in high school–understanding of their own society and the world, to know their own history and the history of the species, to understand the promise of science and technology. And it helps if they have command of their own language, both speaking and writing. ...
Next, young potential leaders benefit by early exposure to various forums of group activities–team sports, student government, and off-campus activities, such as social service programs, and perhaps even participation in political campaigns. ... Young people interested in leadership need arenas in which they can test their judgment in action. They should get to know many constituencies, preferably some that are not entirely familiar. Young people need to know something about the untidy world in which real life takes place. ...
Third, they need opportunities to lead.  Leadership is a performing art. They need role models and mentors, and they need to have the opportunity to associate with other young leaders.”
  • In our society leadership is dispersed down through various levels of society. “Our system can be made to work only if leadership at those levels is effective, and prepared to do its share.” Community colleges can train those leaders.
  • It is useful and necessary for potential young leaders to know how the local community works, what its problems are, and how the state and community levels function. They need to know how the local political system works and how the city council does its work.
Finally, Gardner offers this important thought:
“When you help young persons discover their own capacity to lead or to be members of a leadership team or to share leadership tasks, you are engaged in the quintessentially American task of releasing human potential, the old and ever-new drama that we have been committed to since colonial days.”(1)
I realize that a number of these things take place at USU and other institutions of higher learning around the state. For that they should be praised and encouraged. Perhaps the above review might stimulate someone to consider some avenues which have not been, but could be explored further. Certainly wise students can benefit from Gardner's ideas and facilitate their own leadership growth by becoming involved in activities and programs USU currently offers and informing themselves about state and local government and get involved through opportunities that may be available on these levels.

Lets think together again, soon.


John W. Gardner, “Developing Leadership in Community Colleges,” The Education Digest, 53, no. 5 (January 1988): 56-58, emphasis added.

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