ABINGTON, Pa. — Eighty-five Penn State Abington students are participating in a virtual two-semester program to earn the Communicate and LEAD — Leadership Education Advocacy and Development — certificate.
According to Tracy Reed, assistant director of Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL), the goal of the training is to nurture leadership skills in students regardless of the remote environment.
“Everything is about empowering students so that they become the best versions of themselves through our leadership programming,” Reed, who developed LEAD, said.
The certificate is co-sponsored by SEAL and Career and Professional Development (CPD). Other units at Abington including the Center for Student Achievement, the Office of Global Programs, the library, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are contributing to the programming.
Participants are experiencing individualized connection and leadership mentoring, along with the opportunity to network with CPD. Through attending and engaging in virtual programs, students are learning new perspectives from speakers across a variety of disciplines, which helps improve their communication skills.
The students must participate in trainings during the fall and spring semesters that include an orientation, two leadership programs, the StrengthsQuest assessment, two coaching appointments, and a meeting with CPD. From there, they must attend other events under the categories of communication, career, knowledge of people, information literacy and learning, and know yourself. Students complete these elective events at their own pace.
Julia Pulli, a leadership assistant for the program, said the outcomes have practical applications, whether it’s in the classroom, at a part-time job, or in the professional world.
"It’s about helping students find that innate ability we all have to lead and helping them grow. We give them resources to flourish as leaders in big and small situations,” she said.
“I really try to stress the importance of leadership in the small moments. This certificate recognizes that every student can be a leader. I shared my story and helped others on the shy end see that they can be leaders, too,” Pulli continued. “This certificate has been a great place for me and for the students to grow during this crazy, trying, disconnected time."
Rufaida Haque, a first-year student, found the certificate to be beneficial especially since she doesn’t have much work experience.
“I’ve been going to different events, and it helps me see what leadership looks like. They taught us how to find internships and how to properly market ourselves,” she said. “This opportunity provides a stepping stone to learn how to act like leaders, maintain and develop relationships, and present ourselves professionally.”
"Everything is about empowering students so that they become the best versions of themselves through our leadership programming."
—Tracy Reed, Student Engagement and Leadership
Raymond Chow is a junior majoring in Rehabilitation and Human Services.
“The leadership certificate definitely helps mitigate the fact we are distant from our campus. It covers topics that you might not be familiar with and shows us how diverse the campus is,” he said.
Reed and the staff use Zoom, Google Classroom, and Engage, a platform to promote events, to manage the process. The students were recruited through the Abington Honors program and open meetings advertised on Engage.
Reed said students sometimes aren’t sure where to start on leadership training without a clearly delineated path.
“This was a collaborative effort across campus. We want to see students get engaged throughout campus and get to know different offices and develop a combination of skills. Everything connects to Career and Professional Development because we want them to be leaders in their careers,” she said.
“We are filling a need. Leadership doesn’t always have to be loud. We are helping the quiet leaders come out of their shells,” Reed said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With nearly 3,500 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 22 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.