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Student Leadership

Learning Beyond the Classroom: Poole Leadership Challenge Develops Students’ Personal Growth

When seeking recent graduates to employ, companies are equally interested in skills developed outside of the classroom. According to Leigh Shamblin, director of leadership and professor of practice in the department of management, innovation and entrepreneurship, employers rank competency development as highly as a new hire’s grade point average.

The Poole Leadership Challenge offers Poole undergraduates an opportunity to develop key skills as they become career-ready. The “challenge” is not about competing with others; it’s about challenging yourself to grow.

“The leadership challenge allows students to develop a digital portfolio showcasing their involvement in activities that support their academic and overall success”, says Shamblin. “It shows employers they’ve taken their personal and professional development seriously”. 

Through the program, students track their co-curricular engagement in six competency areas – leadership and civic engagement; global and intercultural engagement; career and professional development; personal development and well being; interpersonal and team dynamics; and ethical and sustainable business practices.  Students earn badges as they accumulate points in each area. 

To earn a leadership certificate, students must accumulate 800 points, and compose a 1,000 word essay on their leadership journey. “By completing the certificate, students demonstrate their commitment to leading themselves at the next level”, Shamblin adds.

Emerson Grubbs, a senior in business administration with a concentration in human resources and a minor in leadership, is the first member of the Poole Pack to complete the challenge and earn the leadership certificate. 

The leadership challenge is open to all undergraduates, and Shamblin recommends Poole students begin the challenge as early as possible to take advantage of their college experience. 

Although Grubbs started and completed the challenge all within her senior year, to do so, she and Shamblin worked closely to document her involvement in campus experiences that contributed to her development, from her freshman year to now. 

The challenge helps students take on a different perspective of leadership – one that focuses strongly on engagement. Grubbs and other undergraduates who participated gained an understanding that leading oneself is really about involvement beyond the classroom. Students are not only encouraged to assume leadership roles in an organization, but they’re invited to attend seminars and cultural celebrations, serve in their communities, study abroad, complete a financial counseling session, and much more. 

The leadership challenge also helps students develop the skills they need to become multifaceted leaders. “It’s a great way to learn where your weaknesses and strengths are. I achieved a lot of points in the personal development competency, but I didn’t have as many points in other areas. The challenge helped me recognize where there’s room for growth”, said Grubbs.

As she embarks on a career at Cisco in San Jose, California, Grubbs feels she’s prepared to lead in any position. “The leadership challenge taught me that I don’t have to be in charge to be a leader. As I start my career, I’m going to be learning so much, especially as a new hire. So, I will go in with the prior understanding that even if I’m on a team, I can still lead”.

In completing the leadership challenge, Grubbs wasn’t just thinking about how it would benefit herself. She knew it would serve a greater purpose. 

“As a woman, it’s easy to feel out of place in the business world. The social conversation about women in leadership is changing, and I thought it was important for others around me to know there are different ways to lead as a woman. Completing the leadership challenge and my time at Poole helped me do that”.