Union offers leadership opportunities

By Lauren Thorbjornsen

Whoever said there was no “I” in “team” has never heard of the Illini Union Leadership Center.

Besides leadership opportunities in the 600 University’s registered student organizations (RSOs), campus organizations such as the leadership center are teaming up to provide students with ways to learn leadership skills through programs and classes.

“We offer four different programs: Insight, Intersect, Ignite and Imprint,” said Sara Thompson, leadership and development coordinator at the center.

Thompson said that although each of the programs focused on different skills, the goal of all of the programs was to not only have something good on a resume but to enhance interpersonal skills, understand strengths and weaknesses and learn how to positively influence change.

“The skills the programs provide are skills that prepare students to be better contributors in their work, community and family,” Thompson said.

Kara Scott, junior in business and student intern at the center, said the programs helped students pick practical goals.

“You develop what is important to you in the goals you set. The goals are actionable, something you can hold yourself accountable to,” Scott said. “It is not too time-consuming because you plan your goals to fit into your everyday life.”

The programs vary in length: Imprint and Intersect are one-day programs and Insight is a two-day, one-night excursion. Ignite is a three-day, two-night trip.

“One important thing about the programs is they are all free of cost to students,” said Bobby Hart, senior in LAS and student intern at the center. “Transportation, food and lodging, if necessary, are provided for participating students.”

Thompson said that although the students aren’t required to pay a fee, that does not mean the programs don’t cost money.

“All programs are paid for by private donors and corporate sponsors,” Thompson said.

One misconception about the programs is that they are only for students in specific majors or those in leadership positions.

“These programs are for everyone, not only business majors or the future members of corporate America,” Thompson said. “A chemistry major will get something out of it too. The skills are applicable to everyone’s lives, not just those in leadership positions or certain majors.”

Similarly, it is not designed for only underclassmen or upperclassmen.

“It is a great asset for all ages,” Hart said. “It deals with a lot of transitions. New freshmen are transitioning from high school to college and seniors are transitioning from college to the working world.”

The programs are not the only leadership opportunities the center provides. Students can work toward achieving a leadership certificate.

To earn the certificate, students must participate in a two-to-four month program, attend I-programs, work one-on-one with a coach, create a personal development plan and take leadership courses such as “Intro to Leadership Theory” or “Integrating Leadership.”

Scott, who is working toward her certificate, said it helped her become well-rounded.

“I can chart how I’ve grown over four years and acknowledge my accomplishments,” Scott said.

At the end of the certificate program, students have a leadership portfolio they can bring to job interviews or to graduate school, Thompson said.

Thompson and the rest of the staff and students at the Leadership Center think leadership is so important that they are working on making it a minor. Students in education, ACES, engineering, commerce and applied life studies will be able to earn a leadership minor, pending approval by the University’s Faculty Senate. If approved, Thompson said she hoped the minor would be available for the 2005 spring semester.