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Getting Things in FOCUS

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Getting Things in FOCUS

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

July 7, 2009

At Cedarville University, we believe in guiding today’s students toward becoming tomorrow’s leaders. After all, in his play Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare wrote, “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Regardless of which category a person falls into, true greatness as a leader takes knowledge and training — which is why Cedarville created the Leadership Institute in 2001, a program that began as the vision of Dr. Carl Ruby, vice president for student life, and Jeff Beste, now director of alumni relations. Recently, the title has been changed to FOCUS Leadership: Developing Leaders of Character, in the continued effort to make this the most effective and successful leadership program around.

Point …

When Bob Lutz stepped into his role as associate dean for student leadership development in 2008, he inherited the job of developing FOCUS. “Our goal is to expand what leadership is on campus,” Lutz says. “We are passionate about redefining the culture of leadership, not just as it relates to your career but also in your influence and ministry to others.”

With that in mind, the improved program promises to be even more valuable. During the first stage of their training, participants will go through a View phase to discover their interests and skills; this can easily be done in less than a year. They then move into the final part of the program, where they will Develop as leaders of character. Each step of a student’s involvement will be directed toward a specific focus, with required training, exploration, and mentoring components.

As they start the FOCUS program, freshmen will attend forums to discover their personal interests and goals. As sophomores, they will study community issues such as diversity and personality styles and learn how to understand and harness the power of dialogue. Participants are also expected to volunteer on a leadership team for one of Cedarville’s annual events or to help incoming students during Getting Started Weekend. In addition, the program encourages them to serve on a ministry team, get involved with a missions trip, or join a campus organization.

Cedarville offers its undergraduates numerous opportunities to be in leadership thanks to its more than 70 campus organizations and up to 120 different ministry options. In fact, one of Cedarville’s distinctives is the expansive Christian ministries division, which provides intentional and hands-on experience in leadership and service.

The final component of the program is to develop a rewarding, stretching relationship with a Cedarville junior or senior peer mentor. Says Lutz, “Studies show that engaging upperclassmen with lowerclassmen leads to persistence and increased student satisfaction. These students have a greater likelihood of completion.”

… And Shoot

When students enter their junior year of FOCUS, they begin to hone their particular leadership skills. The program offers them a variety of courses to choose from, such as The Art of Delegation, Setting and Achieving Goals, and The Listening Leader. They are also encouraged to enjoy a challenging mentor relationship with a Cedarville faculty or staff member. Not only will they start thinking about life after graduation, but they can also have someone come alongside and help point them in the right direction.

Then, as seniors, they start looking toward the future. According to Lutz, this is to prepare them to “leave the bubble,” as it were. “What will they do in the real world when faced with tough, ethical questions?” he asks. “It’s also time for them to build into the lives of others and ask what they will do to help those who are less fortunate.”

Of course, taking on a leadership role — whether serving as a resident assistant, being elected to a class office, or taking their place as an athletic team captain — is an imperative exploration component to students’ final year of participation. They also move from mentee to mentor, now expected to build such a relationship with a freshman or sophomore.

“We want our students to improve and engage the culture,” Lutz says. “They can be a godly influence … and we want to see that desire transcend from position to attitude. We don’t want them to be content with just doing a job.”

The restructured program will begin this fall, with current students getting grandfathered in. Those who already have a leadership position will be asked to complete the View section of FOCUS before beginning the Develop portion.