Association News

I-LEAD® Held in Pacific Northwest for the First Time
November 7, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, IND. — The University of Puget Sound hosted 153 student leaders for 2016 I-LEAD®.

With picturesque views of Mt. Rainier, the University of Puget Sound hosted 153 student leaders for the 2016 Institute of Leadership Education and Development (I-LEAD®), ACUI’s annual premier student program in late July. It was the first time in the program’s history that it has been held in the Northwestern United States.

“This is truly a life-changing experience,” said small group facilitator Caitlyn Wine from the University of Georgia–Athens. “I-LEAD® will teach you much more than you ever thought about yourself and how to effectively lead and promote positive change on your college campus.”

The institute consists of two concurrent sessions. This year, participants spent six days together in the Wheelock Student Center and various academic buildings and residence halls on campus, participating in a variety of full-group, large-group (84 and 69 students each), and small-group (13-15 students each) activities as well as reflection times.

According to the student evaluation responses, the activities that contributed most to the overall learning experience included those related to values, vision, assumptions, teambuilding, developing group vision statements, and drafting personal mission statements. Informal reflection with peers and facilitators were also rated as high contributors to the experience, confirming the value of the opportunities for self-directed learning.

Student participants also self-assessed leadership competencies developed as a result of I-LEAD® 2016. The highest rated learning outcomes of the program (on a four-point scale where four is “strongly agree”) were:

  • I recognize that I am part of something larger than my individual group/campus. (3.9)
  • I can act and lead with purpose and integrity, developing a personal set of ethics, morals, and values. (3.8)
  • I am self-aware as an individual, as a leader, and as a group member. (3.8)
  • I can develop an individual vision for myself as a leader. (3.7)
  • I can negotiate challenging situations and achieve consensus. (3.7)
  • I have explored my potential as a leader, reflecting on the concept that leadership is a process not a position. (3.7)
  • I can apply leadership theories and techniques, enabling me to model desired behaviors and teach through example. (3.7)
  • I can diffuse difficult situations through my knowledge of problem-solving methods and techniques. (3.6)
  • I can facilitate discussions about planning and goal-setting to develop action plans toward achieving an organizational vision. (3.6)
  • I can sustain momentum on my return to campus to provide innovative and motivating leadership. (3.5)

For many students and volunteers, the institute opened their eyes to new perspectives and experiences.

“Attending I-LEAD® benefited me in more ways than I could have imagined. Coming from the South, social justice and being politically corrected is not something talked about. It was a cultural shock but one that I needed. I am more aware of the many cultures that we have on our college campuses,” said student Neil Bourgeois from Southeastern Louisiana University and Region III scholarship recipient. “… Being a scholarship recipient means a lot to me. It was an honor to represent not only my region but also being the only Louisiana student at I-LEAD®.” After his experience at I-LEAD®, Bourgeois has explained how his experiences have helped affirm his desire to pursue a career in student affairs.

Carrie Grogan, a small group facilitator from the University of Chicago, explained: “This program will build your confidence in facilitating, confidence in yourself, and create lasting relationships with students and colleagues. It is exhausting—emotionally and physically—but it is well worth it and will leave you feeling revived and energized for the work we do.”

I-LEAD® student particpants involved in leadership building activities.

Professional and student volunteers, host school staff, and ACUI Central Office staff members are crucial to the success of the weeklong program. Team leaders were Jackie Aliotta, West Chester University; Ray Fisco, Colorado State University–Colorado Springs; Caitlin Herby, University of Minnesota; and Joshua Peters-McBride, Portland Community College. Being the last July I-LEAD® experience for Aliotta and Peters-McBride as volunteer co-leaders for the program, they were both recognized for their passion, direction, and work in the last two years.

“Being a co-program lead for I-LEAD® and I-LEAD® Connect has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” McBride said. “Not only do we get to support hundreds of students’ leadership development; we get to work with some of the best professional staff from around the world. It’s the ultimate professional development experience for anyone looking to work with both students and staff, all wrapped up with the support of ACUI.”

Also supporting the program’s implementation were 22 small group facilitators, two undergraduate student interns, one graduate student intern, a host team from the University of Puget Sound led by Sarah Comstock, logistics support from Michelle Smith of ACUI, and overall program oversight from Kim Pho of ACUI.

When asked about their experience as a student intern for I-LEAD®, Thomas Marsella, Graduate Coordinator at Rowan University said: “Being an Intern for I-LEAD® was truly an unforgettable experience! I learned so much about myself, both personally and professionally. I was also able to expand my professional network by learning and growing together with my small group and the facilitators. I-LEAD® became such an important part of who I am, and I would volunteer for any opportunity there is for the institute.”

Through their roles in small-group discussions and activities, facilitators also gained professional development and learning outcomes. On their evaluation, small-group facilitators reported developing the most in the skill set areas of Interpersonal Communication Skills, Motivation, Empowerment, Group Facilitation, Role Modeling, Self-Knowledge, and Instruction and Training.

Since becoming a standalone institute in 1999, more than 1,600 students have attended I-LEAD®. 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 seven member schools.


Michelle Smith
Director of Corporate Partnerships and Events

About ACUI

Founded in 1914, ACUI serves those working in college unions and student activities on campuses worldwide. Its members include administrators, professional staff, student employees, student organization leaders, graduate students, and companies. 



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