Cook Leadership Academy recruits student leaders

GVL / Emily Frye 
Student senate Vice President of Educational Affairs, Maria Beelen on Nov. 19th.

GVL / Emily Frye Student senate Vice President of Educational Affairs, Maria Beelen on Nov. 19th.

Jess Hodge

For the Cook Leadership Academy (CLA), recruiting season is in full swing looking for future leaders at Grand Valley State University. Chadd Dowding, program manager for the academy, spoke to GVSU’s student senate on Feb. 11 about the benefits of entering a leadership program.

Each year, about 30 students are selected to join the program, which allows students to form a unique bond with mentors from the Grand Rapids community.

Last year, there were 200 nominations and 100 applicants. Out of those, 50 students were interviewed with a final of 32 students being selected.

“The Cook Leadership Academy is a professional organization, co-curricular, it’s run through (the) Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies,” Dowding said. “It mainly focuses on providing professional leadership experiences for students on Grand Valley’s campus.”

He said faculty and staff have until March 14 to submit nominations and students have until March 18 to submit their applications. A nomination from faculty or staff is recommended, but not required.

The CLA looks for students who are anywhere from their undergraduate sophomore year to a second year graduate student. Applicants can be from any major and should have at least a 3.2 GPA, although Dowding said they never deny someone just because of a lower GPA.

Maddie Cleghorn, student senate president, and Maria Beelen, vice president of educational affairs committee, are both in CLA.

“When I went into (CLA), I was expecting it to be just like every other leadership thing, but that’s not what it’s been like at all,” Beelen said. “They set you up with other people to lead by example and it’s been a pretty amazing experience.”

The mentorship program is a large part of what CLA does in connecting students to the Grand Rapids community.

“We seek out people who are perceived as leaders based on their positions in the community,” Dowding said. “We’re in a really good spot now (because) the program is growing in popularity among the professional community in Grand Rapids.”

Students are paired one-on-one with a mentor who shares similar views as the student. They determine this through a series of tests at the beginning of the year.

“Our hope is to pair you with someone with a similar personality and similar career interest,” he said. “That way, they can talk to you about their experiences and help guide you through the challenge of figuring out what your future career could be.”

The mentors and the mentorship program focus on things that may often not be taught at school or in classrooms, like networking and how to engage with people.

“Much of what the Cook Leadership Academy provides you is the soft skills that your classroom experience won’t teach you,” Dowding said. “The program provides something that most collegiate experiences don’t offer you.

“There’s so much focus on building technical skills in the classroom and making you an expert in your field, but to be able to build those additional leadership skills and professional skills that will benefit you (and) are more prepared by the time you leave Grand Valley.”