This feature was written by junior Chad Enwright, Marketing and Multi-Media Student Associate. He is a resident adviser, a member of the football team, president of Phi Beta Lambda and a business administration major who aspires to invent and operate his own high-tech, home security and automation business.
At Olivet College, the President’s Leadership Institute (PLI) was established to develop leadership in Olivet’s students, enabling them to become principal professional and community leaders. During fall 2020, the next class of students set out to continue this mission while connecting and learning virtually. The class is led by President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., and a team of professional leadership coaches. Michael Bivens, of the Leaders in Action coaching organization, has been the “producer” of this year’s PLI program. Bivens has helped students effectively navigate the challenges presented by a virtual learning environment.
“We are in our ninth year of PLI, and this year’s participants and faculty have been challenged by having to deliver the program virtually,” Bivens explained. “A critical PLI success factor has been the face-to-face and personal interactions between the students and the students and faculty. It hasn’t been easy to cultivate those personal relationships over Zoom, but we are all doing our best. The students are still getting exposed to all the same leadership concepts, tools and information delivered to the previous classes. We have to give the students credit for staying engaged and doing the work. We expect a lot from them, and they are doing a great job of leading themselves and getting the most out of the program.”
The President’s Leadership Institute is a unique program for students who have been selected through a series of nominations from faculty and staff members. These are students who show promise inside the classroom and have made an impact in the Olivet College community. I was lucky to be one of the 10 members included in the PLI class of 2021. Each member of PLI is quite different, and we learn this through a series of tasks and tests, along with what is called the DiSC Assessment. This was one of the first steps in our program and it helps define the members of PLI and the leadership characteristics they possess. The DiSC Assessment categories leadership styles in dominance, influence, conscientiousness and steadiness. Each of the PLI faculty members have taken the DiSC assessment several times over their professional careers, and they are able to teach and hone students’ skills in our respective categories. It is not uncommon for there to be more members in a certain category over another, but the idea is to take everyone’s individual traits, strengths and weaknesses and work cohesively as a group.
Caleb Graham, another member of the 2021 PLI class, has had an excellent experience learning about those strengths. “As a student in the President’s Leadership Institute, I have learned an ample amount about my leadership traits and qualities, as well as those of my fellow peers,” Caleb said. “I have also learned how to better collaborate in a team setting in which we are working toward a goal. I feel that this year’s President’s Leadership Institute has been packed with useful information, even with the sessions being conducted virtually.”
With the guidance and support of our professional leaders, we are able to learn about ourselves, our peers and what it means to be a leader. One of the earliest exercises we did was to define and determine the similarities and differences between a manager and a leader. It gave us an understanding that leadership is more of a movement and management regards the completion of tasks. This not only helps us be better at approaching projects and the people we work with, but it also allows us to assess the individuals managing us in our working careers and understand their style. I find that most college graduates I know personally would have liked the opportunity to learn in an environment such as PLI, just to give them a glimpse at what it would be like to work with other managers and leaders for additional experience.
PLI is all about working with others and getting to understand yourself by doing so. We practice and learn critical thinking skills and methods designed to help yourself and others around you so you can be a better leader. And PLI provides a space where we can apply these skills in real scenarios. Each team is given the opportunity to work together on a leadership project within Olivet College. Past student groups have presented ways the College could decrease plastic waste, implement new safety technology and more. The ideas will stay secret until they are unveiled to the College, but having to collaborate with students who have different traits, personalities and goals in a realistic working environment is something PLI was able to do successfully while virtual.
The President’s Leadership Institute is interesting, informative and professional. Real leadership professionals, real-world experiences and a genuine connection between the fellows has made PLI an experience I would recommend to everyone.
Learn more about Olivet College and other opportunities available to students by contacting the Office of Admission at 800-456-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.