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Olivet College recognized 20 students as graduates of the sixth President’s Leadership Institute (PLI) class during a ceremony Wednesday, March 21 at the Battle Creek Country Club.

Launched in 2013, PLI was established to develop top leadership in Olivet’s students, as well as enable them to become the principal professional and community leaders of the future. The college collaborated with experienced professionals that specialize in business coaching and professional development, to design a program catered specifically to Comets. The institute includes a variety of programs and initiatives to promote leadership, identify leadership talent, and develop effective and successful leadership qualities and skills in OC students.

To begin the program, students complete the behavior assessment known as the DiSC Assessment, categorizing students into four groups named after each letter representing their most prominent behavioral trait: dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. Recognizing the difference between a manager and a leader was another pinnacle aspect in PLI’s curriculum. Positive communication and addressing change are also lessons covered in PLI, paired with personalized leadership coaching sessions.

The final stage of the program, Putting Leadership In Action Team Projects, divided students into small groups to put their leadership knowledge, skills and abilities into practice. Each group, brainstormed projects that could improve the Olivet College community. These developing leaders strategized ways to enhance the tutoring program, reduce food waste in the dining facilities and help students access financial services on campus.

“I now have a great network of fellow students who have gone through the same leadership training process as I have and will be able to communicate with them on ideas that can help the community,” said sophomore Jillian Johnson who will be utilizing her leadership training as president of the Nu Gamma Xi sorority. “My favorite part of PLI was our DiSC assessments. There were qualities that it talked about that I knew I had but never knew how to put into words. I learned a lot about the way to communicate and receive information, which has helped me overcome some of the challenges I have faced. The program exceeded my expectations in being able to put everything together. I am very happy I participated and will use the tools I learned in this program in my roles on campus and off, and also in my career.”

President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., and the founding faculty members of PLI, including trustee David Labrecque ’84; Provost and Dean Maria Davis, Ph.D.; and Today’s Leader partners Charlie Burnham and Mike Bivens, were on hand to officially recognize students as fellows of the institute for having successfully completed the eight-segment program.

“I’m honored that the whole institution from the presidential perspective is standing behind how important this effort is and the tremendous impact that it makes on the lives of individual students, but also the leadership development of students and leadership culture within our college,” President Corey said. “Not only will these individual students walk away with wonderful and powerful skills, but their interaction with other students and the modeling, encouragement and suggestions they provide to their colleagues across campus also transforms lives.”

In addition, The Hon. Denise Page Hood, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, was the event’s featured guest. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1994. She became Chief Judge of the Court on January 1, 2016. Judge Hood is an avid volunteer and serves with many community groups, including the Olivet College Board of Trustees. Judge Hood has received numerous honors for her community involvement, including the Olivet College Leadership in Individual and Social Responsibility Award.

“I’ve adapted a definition of leadership from Michele Obama that I think is well said. Being a good leader is helping other people to do great things, and I think that’s really true. Often when I talk to my judges, they are onto something good and I am personally helping them get there – that’s a really good thing to be doing. I’m sure that others who rise to leadership have done that before too,” Judge Hood explained. “Former President Barack Obama says directly to young leaders, ‘it is you the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, that we are looking to you, everyone, we are waiting for you to come onto the national scene and for us to follow you.’”

This year’s graduates include:

Alissa Belcastro, health science major, Grand Junction, ColoradoHannah Mellino, graphic design and visual arts major, Olivet
Nieya Brown, journalism and mass communication major, EagleVictoria Monterusso, actuarial science major, Grand Rpaids
Ta’Neeka DeMyers, music major, LansingTyler Nobel, actuarial science major, Plainwell
Emily Dorn, mathematics and history major,  GraylingMadelyn Notenbaum, financial planning major, Grandville
Ryan Jex, computer science major, Battle CreekAyren Parrish, exercise science major, Charlotte
Jillian Johnson, psychology major, LansingKatelyn Priest, pre-art therapy major, Grand Rapids
Alexander Lehman, insurance and risk management major, PottervilleDeivan Prince, biology major, Ferndale
Ronald Lord, business administration major, La Habra, CaliforniaAbigale Smith, business administration major, Sunfield
Nataliya Malaydakh, history major, Chernivtsi, UkraineJessica Taylor, exercise science major, Chesterfield
Madeline Maxwell, insurance and risk management major, FlushingHezekiah Turner, business management major, Detroit

Successful institute graduates are designated as “fellows of the President’s Leadership Institute,” and are invited to remain engaged in the activities of PLI in support of future student leadership development, both while completing their studies at Olivet College and as successful alumni engaged in professional and community leadership roles.

For more information about the President’s Leadership Institute, contact Barb Spencer, executive assistant to the president, at 269.749.7642 or bspencer@olivetcollege.edu. Learn more about opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills at Olivet College by visiting campus. Connect with the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu for questions.

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