Battlefield leadership program empowers students and CEOs

Students re-enact Pickett's Charge as part of the In the Footsteps of Leaders program.
In the Footsteps of Leaders

What do the CEOs of Crayola, Trader Joe’s, and Sherwin-Williams have in common with presidents of Gettysburg College’s Greek organizations?  

They’ve all walked in the footsteps of leaders, tracing the paths of great commanders across the Gettysburg battlefield.

Set against the backdrop of the Battle – its strategic complexities and outsize personalities – In the Footsteps of Leaders is an experiential learning program that translates leadership lessons into practical application, incorporating the ideals of courage, bravery, and sacrifice.

Peace LightTen students participated in the leadership program, initially designed for corporate leaders. Spending a full day on the battlefield, students discussed leadership styles and decisions, emotionally recited famous speeches, and completed team-building exercises. One component of the program focused on a leadership lesson on accountability centered on General Robert E. Lee, who accepted responsibility for the failure of Pickett’s Charge instead of blaming subordinates, which in turn avoided causing further harm to his organization.

“By the end of the program, I felt more connected to the past, to the other Greek organizations, and to Gettysburg College as a whole,” said Julie Holesh ’13, president of Delta Gamma and a health sciences major. “Learning about the successes and failures of Civil War leaders, such as Robert E. Lee, taught all of us how to be stronger leaders within our respective positions, while bringing further relevancy, appreciation, and pride as a student attending Gettysburg College.”

Gettysburg AddressAs the program ended, Mike Hruby ’13 (left), president of Phi Delta Theta and a political science major, volunteered to read the Gettysburg Address to his peers near the spot where Lincoln delivered it 149 years ago. “Being able to further develop my leadership skills through this program was an experience that I’ll never forget,” said Taylor Curley ’13, president of Alpha Delta Pi and a political science major. “I would take this program again and again because it was that amazing, and I’m truly grateful to the program’s facilitators, the Garthwait Leadership Center, and the Office of Greek Life for providing such a memorable and remarkable experience.”

Students also left their own footprints. “I was very impressed with the students’ level of engagement,” said Sue Boardman, the leadership program’s manager. “My colleague, Heidi Myers, is a 2005 Gettysburg College graduate. Following the program, she expressed great pride in her alma mater for the image these students conveyed to us during their participation.”

“It was interesting watching college students on an early Sunday morning get engaged and stay engaged for an eight hour journey back in time," said executive director of Greek organizations Bill Lafferty, who helped coordinate the students participation in the leadership program. "They will be able to shape their future leadership experiences in very profound and positive ways as a result of this one day immersion.”

The Gettysburg Leadership Institute, an educational component of the Gettysburg Foundation, coordinates this program.

Photos courtesy of the Gettysburg Foundation.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college, which enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students, is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Tracey Dukert, assistant director of news content, 717.337.6521

Posted: Thu, 28 Jun 2012

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