A shared vision for a university energizes people. Students must be partners in that vision casting process because theirs is the most fundamental experience that defines whether we have succeeded as an educational institution, and, more importantly to institutions in the competitive academic marketplace, they advertise with their voices and vote with their feet, and Tweet and Facebook to boot.

Building a shared vision in an organization is not about everybody saluting the wall where the vision statement is posted. It’s about people doing things together that they care about.

-Peter Senge


I recently spoke to a group of engineering students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the Leadership Development Program in Engineering and Technology founded by the Blaudow/ATS Leadership Scholarship. It is a microcosm of what makes a university work.

The Blaudow/ATS leadership program is configured for students transferring from community colleges. This is a welcome opportunity, as most scholarships are not available to transfer students.

This innovative program addresses issues of affordability common to many students, providing a high aid/high motivation approach to reducing attendance cost. The scholarships provide $18,000 over two years and a three-month paid internship. This is a powerful combination of achievement, reward and opportunity. The program, funded in part by a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, represents institutional innovation toward an important goal I’ve mentioned before: serving students who don’t fit the traditional mold.