By Shawn Morris
They are given a few guidelines, but the for the most part, the parameters are wide open. A few years ago, a biology major led a group of people to raise money and then fixed and renovated the leaking fish tanks in the Beech building.
Seniors may be required to complete a service project, depending on their and organizational membership. Seniors have to plan and oversee every part of the process. Coming up with ideas and following through on them requires innovation and creativity.
Cheryl Rude, professor of leadership studies and academic director, started the Leadership program in 1994 and has been the academic director ever since. She started the program so that students could undergo personal leadership growth.
Rude believes that through the Leadership program, “Students can learn about themselves and build self-awareness, which is crucial to becoming a better leader in any environment. Students learn what type of leader they are, as well as how to get others to follow them.” Rude said the Leadership program benefits students in any career path, because they can take what they learn from the program and apply it directly to their field.
Leadership senior projects are perhaps the most interesting, as they require higher levels of innovation and creativity. “The senior projects are an embodiment of that idea,” said Rude.
Laura Podschun, philosophy and religion senior, has been pursuing a Leadership Studies minor since her freshman year. She described it as having a positive impact over multiple areas of her life. “Because of this, I have a more realistic idea of what I am capable of, when I am over committing, and how I can challenge myself in the future,” said Podschun.
Podschun is a member of the Discipleship team, which is where she got her idea for her senior project. She said, “There has been a mentor aspect of the Discipleship team in the past, but nothing that was sustainable, so that was my goal. Formal and informal mentors in my own life have been very formative in my faith walk, so I wanted to do a project that could provide this for other students in this busy, confusing, exciting time in their life.”
Podschun plans for the mentor program to continue after she graduates. She discussed how the previous mentor program did not last long.
Podschun wants this program to persist by connecting students in Discipleship with those in the local community. Getting more freshmen involved every year will play a huge role in keeping the mentor program active in years to come.
Tessa Castor, English senior, joined the Leadership team when she was a freshman. Castor not only stayed in the program, she said that she loved it and decided to minor in Leadership Studies.
Different parts of the program prepared Castor for her senior project, such as teaching her what type of leader she was, as well as teaching her how to lead for the right reasons. Castor said, “I had been in leadership positions before going to college, but I was just in it for the title; I was doing it for the wrong reasons. Since then, I’ve learned how to lead for the right reasons.”
During the last two summers, Castor served as an intern for KETCH, a nonprofit organization based in Wichita that provides day, residential, case management and employment services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is now the organization’s public relations and special events coordinator.
Some of KETCH’s clients, especially senior citizens with age-related illnesses, do not receive the final end-of-life care they need. After discovering this, Castor decided to form a partnership with KETCH and some nursing homes in Wichita in order to ensure the persons served receive whatever care they need. As adults with intellectual disabilities grow older, day services may not be enough to meet their needs. By having them with moved to nursing homes, typically through physician orders, those served by KETCH can receive around-the-clock care and support.
When discussing senior leadership projects, Rude noted how the projects require high levels of innovation and creativity from students that prepare them for life after college in whatever field or occupation that they choose. The seniors are given hands-on experience in overseeing a project and managing goals and resources in a professional setting.
Meghan Kindred, psychology senior, is unsure of what her senior project will entail, but will have it finished next semester.