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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kelley Honors students to develop leadership skills by mentoring their peers in new program

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Program supported in part through a $150,000 gift from Altria Group

Aug. 28, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- More companies are requiring employees to demonstrate leadership skills at earlier stages in their careers. Senior honors students in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business will be given an opportunity to hone their abilities through a development program being established this fall.

The school's Honors Leadership Program initially will enable 30 students to cultivate managerial abilities by working with 300 of their peers both as individuals and as members of student teams enrolled in an integrated group of classes. They will develop interpersonal, leadership and coaching skills that are highly valued by future employers.

Director Katherine Ryan said the Kelley Honors Leadership Program will differ from similar offerings elsewhere in that students will immediately put into practice the training they receive through its educational components.

"Companies want people who can manage and lead others," she said. "Students who are coming out of Kelley are almost certainly going to be in supervisory capacities shortly after entering an organization. If you have people who already know how to coach others, give positive and negative feedback to their subordinates and help all of the people in their department maximize their skills, that immediately adds value to an organization."

The 30 seniors who comprise the Honors Leadership Team (HLT) have each been assigned five sophomore honors students at Kelley and five juniors teamed up in the school's Honors Integrated Core (I-Core) classes. As a result, about 300 other honors students will benefit and then be encouraged to pursue being selected as HLT mentors as seniors.

"They'll see the results of their own abilities to guide and motivate and understand what people need. It's not just learning, it's doing," Ryan said. "Other programs focus on you as an individual and your own leadership development, rather than what you can do to develop others.

"These 30 students have already excelled. They are leaders at Kelley, IU and in extracurricular activities, but how do you make the people around you leaders as well? That's what other programs don't do," she added. "Many people can achieve a lot for themselves. But to be able to externalize that and help other people succeed is a critical leadership skill."

The program is supported in part through a $150,000 gift from Altria Group, which also gave $100,000 to the Leadership Development Institute in the school's MBA program. Altria Group is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, John Middleton and Philip Morris Capital Corp.

"One of Altria's core strategic focus areas is the development and recruitment of leaders. We hope to attract, develop and retain diverse employees at all levels. Our support for this program directly falls in line with our recruitment goals and our efforts to attract future leaders," said Randy Lawrence, Altria vice president of human resources.

Participation as HLT mentors will fulfill a senior leadership requirement that all senior honors students in Kelley must achieve. Throughout the year, student mentors will provide observations to Ryan about what works for them, the problems they've encountered and what they've done to respond.

"By the end of the year, we'll have a solid package of information about what works in this environment to help students accomplish leadership goals," Ryan said. "There will be accountability. We're going to be keeping an eye on the process to make sure everyone's getting what he or she really needs throughout the year.

HLT members get to flex their own style dealing with each of these individual students. In addition, every junior-level team is going to have its own unique problems, conflicts, and questions. Managing a team is an different experience

Students who will be HLT mentors said they appreciate the chance to share what they've learned in their experiences at Kelley and IU with their peers.

"I want to share my experiences and help other students take advantage and succeed in this program," said Sharon Wen, a senior from Carmel, Ind. "This is also a great opportunity for me to develop leadership skills that can be transferred into my career post graduation."

W.T. Wright, a senior from Fort Wayne and president of the IU Student Association, added, "I hope to not only pass along the advice and expertise I have gained from my studies at Kelley, but to also strengthen my own interpersonal skills through the interaction and activities."

Other HLT mentors include students who have started microfinance initiatives to help impoverished people in Africa, served on the campus' Board of Aeons, held office in other campus organizations and are Wells, Kelley and Mitte scholars.

The success of this student-driven program depends on the commitment of top achievers, including those who become HLT members, said Ryan, previously the associate director of the Kelley School's Leadership Development Institute.

"Simply being surrounded by such people creates a challenge for me to learn from others and continue to expand my worldview to encompass the diverse perspectives of others," said Drew Allenspach, a senior from Sugarland, Texas. "The culture at Kelley thrives on the atmosphere of creativity and social skills. During my time here, I have learned much about the fundamentals and mechanics of business. However, I have learned even more on treating people well and leading them to perform. That's a special education which cannot be placed into a book."

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