Students learn through programs and service
By Holly Bergbower
In 1967 — the Vietnam War was in full swing, miniskirts and flowered shirts blanketed campus, and the Beach Boys and the Beatles blared from stereo speakers. The space race was on, draft cards were burning, and protests were commonplace across the country.
Young people of that generation spoke a different language, and Oklahoma State University President Robert Kamm wanted to interpret that language. To do so, he created the President’s Leadership Council. The initial class included 250 members ranging from freshmen to seniors. Students were required to have a B average and the desire to develop leadership characteristics. Current OSU President Burns Hargis was part of that inaugural class.
"Outside of the classroom, service and leadership are two of the most important skills a student can develop at Oklahoma State University,” Hargis says. “I’m proud to have been in the first President’s Leadership Council. I know that my time in PLC instilled in me qualities that helped me find success in my career and allowed me to better serve my community.”
In February 2017, PLC will kick off its yearlong golden jubilee celebration culminating in alumni from across the country gathering for the fall semester 2017 50-year reunion.
Current instructor Stephen Haseley, coordinator of the Center for Ethical Leadership at OSU, has been with the program 26 years. Under his leadership, the PLC has grown and seen significant change. Haseley had served as a Lutheran missionary amongst the Enga people in Papua New Guinea before coming to Stillwater.
Today’s President’s Leadership Council has grown into a program centered on service and ethics and is offered only to a select group of approximately 125 incoming freshmen.
“We really want to portray leadership through a unique series of experiences that result in positive social change,” Haseley says. “Students in this program should not just be asking what could be, but what could be better.”
The screening process is stringent and begins with approximately 8,000 applications. The first round of applications is screened based on GPA and student involvement, cutting out about half of the applications. More concentration is given to activities, class size, ACT and SAT scores, community service, employment, leadership positions and honors received in the remaining applications.
Ultimately, a committee made up of faculty and staff leaders across campus select the incoming members whom they believe represent active and informed students with 175 invitations sent. A class size of 125 settles in each fall. Students who accept the invitation benefit from a $1,500 scholarship.
Many major universities have some type of freshman leadership program. Oklahoma State’s program stands out for two reasons.
“Most leadership programs do not include a rigorous academic component, and few are as long-running as our program,” Haseley says.
PLC is designed to help incoming students with the transition to living on their own and leading more independent college lives. The education portion of PLC consists of two semesters of a three hour credit course. All PLC students must complete 40 hours of community service, a creative component, and plan and implement a leadership conference for Oklahoma high school seniors known as “The Conclave.”
“PLC gives students a head start in the leadership arena,” Haseley says. “They tend to get involved more quickly, the bar is set a little higher for them, and we find that a significant number of officers in clubs and organizations went through the program.”
Former OSU President and state Senator James Halligan works with council
Last year, former OSU President and state Senator James Halligan joined Haseley in working with the program. Through his political and professional connections, Halligan has been able to bring in a series of interesting guest speakers and outstanding alumni to speak to the class.
Many students continue with PLC as a mentor to the younger classes. This pay it forward mentality is not uncommon. Wyatt Shaw, an OSU junior studying agricultural communications, continues to be involved in PLC because he appreciates the opportunities and challenges the program offers him.
“I am serving as a PLC facilitator this year because I wanted to invest in the freshman class of OSU,” Shaw says. “They are going to be the leaders of our campus someday.”
The program also plays host to an annual retreat. In 2007, a minor in leadership was established. Students wishing to minor in leadership do not have to be a part of PLC, but they must interview with Haseley before being accepted into the program. Eighteen credit hours are required for the minor, and most of the program centers around ethics and developing social enterprises.
PLC reunion planned for Fall 2017
“Having been in PLC and minoring in ethical leadership has impacted me in such a positive way,” says OSU junior Emily Sanderlin. “I feel more prepared for my future through these programs because they’ve allowed me to approach real-life situations that challenge the way I think and live my life.”
A faculty-led short-term Leadership Study Abroad program is available through the Center for Ethical Leadership and PLC. Each May, around 20-30 students travel to another country, such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, England, Greece, Egypt or Italy.
“It’s important for leaders to see what other cultures value and how they organize themselves to maintain their values,” Haseley says. “Students can learn a lot just by observing and interacting with others in these cultures.”
Hargis is not the only notable PLC graduate. Hundreds of past PLC students are succeeding across the country. Realty Executives sales professional and franchise owner Cindy Brown Curd cites her time in the PLC class of 1985 as laying the groundwork for her career.
“The activities I was involved in through PLC encouraged me to have the confidence to follow my own path in ethically building businesses and relationships,” Curd says. “It also gave me an appreciation for the differences we have and the importance of relying on different perspectives to solve problems.”
Haseley hopes more memories will be shared at the fall reunion. If you would like to attend the reunion or send in memories, visit leadership.okstate.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plans are underway to create a President’s Leadership Council endowment to upgrade the scholarship amount for these outstanding students. The university is committed to raising funds in support of leadership programs, including the PLC. The goal is to grow leadership programs for these outstanding students, who are the lifeblood to the university’s leadership initiatives and impact OSU in astounding ways through their involvement on campus.
For more information about how to impact the President’s Leadership Council or other leadership initiatives at OSU, visit OSUgiving.com/plc.
More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join or call 405-744-5368.
Published by STATE Magazine Editor Elizabeth Keys, Winter 2016, Volume 12, Number 2
Uploaded on December 1, 2016