Integrating Academic and Experiential Learning

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Our goal is to prepare students to meet both technical as well as leadership challenges. A primary program objective is to create academic opportunities that will attract and educate students who will ultimately become the leaders of tomorrow. This will position Lehigh University as a recognized resource for this type of graduate. This initiative will broaden and deepen Lehigh’s leadership program structure by integrating formal coursework with experiential learning. Drawing on the insights and efforts of Lehigh alumni and leveraging other resources available on campus is a complimentary part of this undertaking.

Program Summary

Our programs will provide a balance between Lehigh’s strong research and technology emphasis and the leadership skill sets needed to effectively manage and grow an enterprise. This leadership initiative is innovative and expands the traditional academic coursework structure. Leadership is as much about what must be experienced as it is about what can be taught. Developing leaders requires providing students not only with a body of knowledge about leadership but also with experiences that help them to practice decision-making and integrative thinking, thereby developing confidence in their leadership skills in and out of the classroom. It requires interaction with role models to understand different approaches to leadership. It depends on exposure to other disciplines, thought processes and cultures. And it employs constructive feedback and thoughtful reflection to understand the impact of one’s actions.

Lehigh’s size, interdisciplinary emphasis, alumni involvement and results-oriented DNA form the bedrock for a unique leadership culture. The Leadership Development Initiative builds on this foundation by expanding and strengthening its proven approaches and programs to offer the opportunity to develop leadership skills to a broader Lehigh student population. The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Enterprise Systems Center (ESC) is an ideal platform for these efforts.

The Enterprise Systems Center has developed exceptional leadership talent through the integration of five key learning elements in courses, labs, programs, societies, and projects.

This approach includes:

Academic Structure: Interdisciplinary immersions use the most current academic resources, interactive lectures, live case studies, student presentations, guest leaders, coupled with student personal reflection.

Experiential Learning: Students participate in mentored projects with ESC Industry/Government Partners in which they are responsible for specific deliverables. These projects allow students to interact with all levels of workforce personnel from shop floor to corner office. Mentors stress a systems approach, innovative problem solving, integrative thinking, and current global competitiveness differentiators such as sustainability and analytics.

Layered Mentoring: Underclassmen, upperclassmen and graduate students work on teams with experienced mentors to solve real-world problems. The process exposes students to various leadership styles and provides for student/mentor interaction and feedback on the appropriateness and effectiveness of different choices.

Alumni Involvement: Alumni with a passion for helping students and contributing to Lehigh in a more hands-on way are recruited to serve as guest leaders and mentors. The Lehigh Alumni Leadership Insights Program© captures a permanent record of their life’s leadership lessons to help current students learn and concurrently preserve their Lehigh legacy for future generations of students.

Character and Legacy: Crucial elements of ethical behavior, integrity, and a commitment to life-long learning are highlighted to instill a passion for world class leadership as a hallmark of Lehigh alumni.

Program Impact

The Leadership Initiative’s success will be measured on three fronts. Firstly, the increased number of students who choose Lehigh because of its academic leadership development component, above and beyond the traditional programs of study, Secondly, the increased number of organizations and institutions that make Lehigh their first choice for hiring the leaders of tomorrow. And finally, the rapid advancement of Lehigh graduates as their professional careers unfold.

Lehigh University has a long and impressive history of graduating students who go on to fill significant leadership roles in all walks of life. Our analysis of data provided by alumni indicates that although many graduates begin their careers as individual contributors to the organization they rapidly evolve to positions of managing and leading the efforts of others.

Graduates who already have been involved in the Leadership Development Initiative report those same results in their own lives – selection for the most competitive positions in graduate school; rapid promotion ahead of peers from other schools into leadership positions; recognition and awards for stand-out performance, integrity and leadership skills. The Leadership Development Initiative seeks to specifically target those components of leadership development that have created those kinds of leaders and grow that culture more intentionally and more broadly through the entire University community.

Support for this program will allow for the Leadership Development Initiative to advance in national recognition and impact. It will fund and improve the existing academic programs as well as provide a broader range of experiential opportunities to interdisciplinary student teams. Furthermore it will ensure that the Leadership Development Initiative remains at the forefront of technological innovation, a hallmark of the Enterprise Systems Center, which will provide the technical foundation components and physical space.

For Lehigh alumni leaders, the Leadership Development Initiative offers the opportunity to share the experience and wisdom acquired over a successful career as guidance and modeling for future Lehigh students. A video database resource, catalogued by subject and available to the University community, will become a living legacy that professors and students can draw on for first-hand knowledge of how leaders meet challenges and make choices. Expanded course offerings in leadership will provide additional opportunities for on-campus presentations.

Support for the Leadership Initiative will also provide more opportunities for direct mentoring by Lehigh alumni. As the initiative spreads throughout the University, leaders from a more diverse number of disciplines can be recruited to serve as mentors and role models, offering the opportunity to interact directly with current Lehigh students.