February 14, 2014

Capacity, Commitment, and Character

Students take part in a class at the Leadership Institute

With the implementation of the Wentworth Leadership Institute, Steven Rossi, assistant director of Campus Life, has revamped Wentworth’s student leadership education model. Based on extensive research surrounding successful Fortune 500 companies, Rossi and other members of the Student Affairs division have created an archetype surrounding the capacity and commitment to leadership, as well as the character and personality of a strong leader.

The Wentworth Leadership Institute, currently in its third year, encompasses all Student Affairs divisions, creating a uniform system of leadership education for Wentworth students.

“It follows research, but is tailored for Wentworth,” said Rossi, who is the prime facilitator of the program. “It speaks to our life here at school [within the department].”

The program is open to all students who meet the minimum grade point average requirement, and mandatory for all students holding student-leader positions, such as resident assistants, orientation leaders, commuter assistants, and others. It is broken up into three phases, each varying in length and focus.

During Phase I, students meet weekly for eight weeks to learn and discuss various leadership topics. The course includes evaluative exercises, as well as case studies and problem-solving activities, where students have to plan events through various mishaps–such as deteriorating group dynamics, lack of funding and inclement weather.  

Phase II moves on from a classroom-based environment and takes place through four collaborative discussion sessions. Here, the potential for corruption in leadership is addressed, as well as the roles of social justice issues in creating an equal environment.

“At this point we treat the students as functional leaders with experience under their belts,” said Rossi. “Everyone’s equal, we’re just having a conversation. Students have the right and privilege to challenge other perspectives and have a dialogue about things they may or may not agree with.”

Phase II finishes with a day-long retreat, which features keynote speakers, presentations, and round-table discussions. It covers corporate wellness and leadership’s role in the success and failure of a community.

As students progress to Phase III, their education becomes an individual process. During this year-long, final stage of the Leadership Institute, students choose a surrounding community to study and observe in-depth. From there, they identify either an issue that needs to be solved or an area that can be strengthened, and actively deploy a strategic plan to address the situation. 

The first cohort of students will be completing Phase III this spring. A few students are currently working with CarryON LLC, a subsidiary within the St. Francis House of Boston. CarryON is a rehabilitation program that helps homeless and underprivileged individuals do better for themselves by employing them in a small company that takes old fabrics and creates bags out of them to sell to the public. The students working with the St. Francis House are streamlining the community’s business model–determining where to implement change.

Leslie De Leon, BSA ’14, is focusing on instilling a sense of purpose into these employees by giving them official titles as well as educating them on the importance of their work to others.

“I’m hoping to help them get that sense of pride,” said De Leon, “and help them at their core, so that once it’s strengthened they’ll know they can do anything.”

She’s also currently working on developing the brand’s online presence by updating the company website and reestablishing its social media identity.

“This knowledge is based upon the relationship the students build with the individuals,” said Rossi. “They’re not forcing themselves into the community, but [rather] creating a relationship that is mutually beneficial to all those involved.”

Upon completing all three phases, students present their final projects at the annual Wentworth Expo on March 25, and receive a certificate of leadership development.

“I love taking a look back at the students once they’re done,” said Rossi. “I get a lot of first-years that have this perspective of leadership that is one way, and then, throughout this transformational process, that perspective changes and they get to see themselves as leaders in a new way.” 

© Wentworth Institute of Technology   |   550 Huntington Avenue   |   Boston, MA 02115   |   617-989-4590