Leadership program promotes pathway to success

Story by Katie Thurbon

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As students enter college, they learn to cope with the change that comes along with it: being away from home, having more freedom and doing laundry, to name a few. But dealing with change isn’t something that will diminish after graduation. In fact, it often increases.

Baker University’s new leadership distinctive will create an educational platform to teach students and community leaders how to be successful in a changing world.

The idea for the Institute for Leadership and Positive Change originated with Tim Buzzell, associate professor of sociology.

“After 2008, when not only Baker but the whole world went through an economic crisis, we were working on things here at Baker on how to survive the changes that were taking place,” Buzzell said. “What we discovered from 2008 to the last year was that there was a lot of interest in how organizations and communities deal with change and how they could deal with it positively.”

The institute has five focal areas for responding to change: social responsibility, philanthropy, sustainability, governance and talent development.

The tagline for the Institute, “success by doing good,” encompasses the idea suggested by recent research in these areas. There has been a shift in societal priorities from simply making money to actually doing good in a community.

“Our philosophy is it’s OK for corporations to make money, but it should be about what you do with that, with the people that are inside your corporation and what you do within your community that’s important,” University President Pat Long said. “And the whole idea is once you’re in the community it’s going to help your bottom line. So we used a lot of research knowing that people of this generation aren’t going to work for a company that doesn’t have strong corporate values.”

One part of the institute is a new master’s program in Organizational Leadership that will be launched this year at the School of Professional and Graduate Studies. Long said a student that graduates in this program will be what corporations are looking for.

“They want somebody who is teaching leadership on a holistic basis that also understands that the bottom line is important,” Long said.

Ideally, every Baker student will be touched by the institute in some way.

Long said the general education program, Quest, focuses on many of the same things as the institute. The first year of Quest focuses on being an authentic leader, the second on communicating with the world and the third year on changing the world.

Long hopes this program will set Baker apart from all other universities in the Midwest.

“This could be the distinctive for Baker in the future that when you think of Baker and you think of a Baker student it’s like, ‘Yes, those students get it,’” Long said.

The long-term goal of the Institute is to raise enough money to bring in scholars doing research in these areas to provide retreats or seminars for different corporations in the Kansas City area and to eventually house the institute in Joliffe Hall on the Baldwin City campus.

“We’re in the right spot for this to do consulting and facilitating,” Buzzell said. “Those kinds of real, meaningful partnerships about doing good; that would be the agenda for the institute.”