Leadership Academy offers valuable networking

Garrett Pelican

For Lakers who seek to bolster their lists of professional contacts, leadership skills and overall academic experiences, look no further than the Peter Cook Leadership Academy.

Sponsored by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, the program offers students the opportunity to gain these professional assets and others while learning from the experiences of successful economic, political and social leaders.

“Really we’re trying to find emerging leaders here on campus, who are going be trusted to build our future – as a university, as a state, as a nation,” said Brian Flanagan, the program’s director. “We’re trying to give them competence, confidence and contacts to succeed in professional leadership roles. They’re going to gain these through experiences at our luncheon series and other events and through the relationships they build.”

The 40 or so students selected for the program, chosen for their leadership abilities, will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of functions, including the academy’s “Luncheons with Leaders” series. During the luncheons – of which there are eight – fellows and invitees will meet with leaders at the local, state and national levels.

“The luncheons are very intimate and allow you to learn from others and their experiences,” said Allie Bush, a graduate student and program fellow for three years. “You get to hear from people that are very influential in the community and really get to know them.”

Held monthly, each luncheon features a different speaker.

“We look for speakers who want to connect with our students and serve as mentors and contacts after graduation,” Flanagan said. He noted each luncheon also deals with a specific theme; a recent one involved morals and ethics in the work place.

In addition to the luncheons, students chosen as fellows also have access to evening events and receptions, networking mixers, the program’s growing alumni network and a mentorship program.

“We have about 25 leaders of the community committed to working with our students one-on-one on a regular basis,” Flanagan said. “We leave it up to the mentor and mentee to precisely define the relationship, but the point is for mentors to share their experience, show students the ropes, connect them to the community and be their advocates.”

Bush agreed and said she encouraged students to apply for fellowship to benefit from the programs including the mentorship, which she called a “big asset.”

“I was really impressed with the passion for extended learning outside the classroom that the Hauenstein Center afforded me,” she said.

Another fellow, James Bonovich, echoed Bush’s praise for the academy, citing the learning experiences he has derived from the events and functions.

“Going to the events, even if you don’t participate, and just listening to the speakers opens a student’s mind to a lot of different things,” Bonovich, a graduate student pursuing his master’s of science in accounting, said.

An added benefit to receiving a fellowship is the opportunity to meet various leaders and attend official, albeit exclusive, events.

“Our fellows have been face-to-face with U.S. presidents, vice presidents, senators, diplomats, four different governors, but also corporate leaders, international nonprofit leaders, cultural and also local community members,” Flanagan said.

In fact, Bonovich and others attended Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s final State of the State Address in Lansing in February, which Bonovich said was an unforgettable experience.

“They have an opportunity to learn from experienced leaders and experts,” Flanagan remarked.

Students selected must commit to participate for a full academic year. Applicants must be available for the Luncheons with Leaders series on the second Wednesday of every month from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and for as many of the center’s evening programs as their academic schedules allow.

Any questions can be directed to the center’s office coordinator, Kathy Rent, at (616) 331-2770.

Additional information about the program and applications are available at http://www.gvsu.edu/hauenstein/leaders.

Students interested in applying for fellowship for the 2010-11 academic year must submit completed applications, cover letters, resumes and written statements – 500 words or gvsu.edu or standard mail to Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, 401 Fulton Street West, Grand Rapids, MI 49504-6431.

Students are encouraged to get their applications in soon as selection is competitive and the deadline is April 16.

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