Volume 79 | Issue 6
November 2011

I-LEAD® achieves new milestones

Since becoming a stand-alone institute in 1999, the Institute of Leadership Education and Development (I-LEAD®) has affected more than 900 student participants and 200 facilitation team members. In its history, the program has grown from a four-day to a six-day institute, has held two sessions in a year several times, and has been hosted at five different member institutions. In 2011, after significant interest from student participants just weeks before the program, ACUI’s premier student program continued its evolution to further support the Association’s commitment to student development, hitting new milestones in the process.

A new program delivery model was introduced, with the coordination of two concurrent sessions of the same program, during the same dates, July 24–29, and the same location, SUNY–Brockport. This allowed for a total of 102 students to participate, the largest number of participants ever in a single year.

Through the history of I-LEAD®, an average of 64 students participate each year. Until this year, the largest number of students participating in a single year was in 2005, when 100 total students participated in the two separate sessions at Indiana University–Bloomington and University of Hawaii–Hilo. The largest number of students at a single location on the same dates was in 2009, when 73 students participated in the session at University of Colorado–Boulder.

Additionally, with at least two students from every ACUI region in attendance, I-LEAD® 2011 also marked the first year that all 15 regions were represented at the program in its history as a stand-alone program occurring away from the ACUI annual conference.

Essential to making this new model successful were the professional and student volunteers, host support, and ACUI Central Office staff members. Serving as lead facilitators for the sessions this year were I-LEAD® Program Team Leader Heather Magalski, Georgia Institute of Technology; Justin Rudisille, ACUI; Jennifer Violett, Webster University; and Tari Wimbley, Georgia State University. Additionally, there were 16 small group facilitators, two undergraduate student interns, a host team from SUNY–Brockport led by Sara Kelly, and staff logistics support from Michelle Smith, ACUI.

After attending the program as an undergraduate student and later serving as a graduate student intern, Nick Solis, Chapman University, returned to the program volunteering as a small group facilitator for the second time. Because of its personal and professional outcomes, Solis explained, “This is a life-changing experience I wish everyone could have at some point in their career.”

The overall group of more than 125 spent six days together living and learning in a residential quad on campus, participating in a variety of full group, large group (51 students each), small group (12–13 students each), and individual reflection activities on topics related to leadership and community building.

According to the student responses to the evaluation of the 2011 program, the activities that contributed most to their overall learning experience included those related to assumptions, values, vision, teambuilding, and challenging the process. Informal reflection with peers and facilitators also were rated as high contributors to the experience, confirming the value of the opportunities for self-directed learning.

Also from the program evaluation, student participants self-assessed the extent to which the learning outcomes had been achieved, and the highest rated learning outcomes of the program (on a 4-point scale) were:

  • I recognize that I am part of something larger than my individual group/campus (3.81)
  • I am self-aware as an individual, as a leader, and as a group member (3.75)
  • I can act and lead with purpose and integrity, developing a personal set of ethics, morals, and values (3.71)
  • I have explored my potential as a leader, reflecting on the concept that leadership is a process not a position (3.69)
  • I can ask questions and clearly communicate with others about different perspectives to reduce the negative impacts of making
  • assumptions (3.67)
  • I can demonstrate an appreciation for others’ feelings, opinions, and perspectives when working with a team (3.65)
  • I can facilitate discussions about planning and goal-setting to develop action plans toward achieving an organizational vision (3.65)

For many students, the activities of the institute resulted in changes in perspective. “I learned to think of leadership as a quality rather than a position,” reflected Alyx Williams, University of Utah. “There will be many times in my life that I am a leader, but I’m not necessarily in a position of leadership. I learned to think of leadership more abstractly than just ‘I’m a leader on campus.’”

For other participants, new and practical ideas were what stood out. “Where do I start? I learned so much from I-LEAD®,” said Ali Roth, a student participant from California University of Pennsylvania. “I learned more event ideas for my campus, new promotional products to use for my organization, how to better encourage the heart, how to build a sense of community, how to become a better leader.… I have a full two-page action plan I plan to implement on my campus.”

Through their roles in facilitating small group discussions and activities, volunteering on the facilitation team also serves as a professional development opportunity with learning outcomes of its own. On their evaluation, small group facilitators reported developing the most in the competency areas of group facilitation, self-knowledge, role modeling, interpersonal communication, and instruction and training.

Small group facilitator Shannon Williams, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, shared her perspective: “While I wanted to be a facilitator in order to provide a great leadership experience for students, I received in return personal growth, improvement in facilitation skills, and increased intercultural competency.”

Looking at the facilitator role, Jennifer Pope from the University of Washington explained: “It reenergizes you and reaffirms your commitment to student development while giving you a toolbox of fun, practical exercises and reflections that can be brought back to your campus communities.”

Thanks to technology, the relationships established during the week at I-LEAD® have been sustained. Through a Facebook group, students and facilitation team members continue to share successes on campus, ask for ideas from each other, pass on inspirational quotes, and post references to the memories shared at the program.

Overall, participants believed that the model of holding two concurrent sessions of the institute worked well, while suggestions for ways to adapt and improve the model are being taken into consideration as future plans are explored. The I-LEAD® Program Team will be accepting bids from interested host institutions for 2012 until Dec. 2, 2011. If interested in hosting the program, visit for more information and to download a bid packet.