Leadership Matters at CMU

caaae0fd0d1d5571223e8c08c73c6e34Feeling valued is important. At some level, everyone needs to know that they matter.

The Leadership Institute at Central Michigan University has certainly been valued differently through its existence. Born as a beloved project of President Leonard Plachta, the early years of the Leadership Institute were marked by great fanfare. Resources poured in from the Office of Residence Life, Student Life, and the Honors Program. We had champions on the Board of Trustees and a president that believed what we could do in the field of leadership development would make Central Michigan University known nationally.

Changing administrations and a budget crisis moved the Leadership Institute from the forefront of campus thought. Nonetheless, the Institute pressed on, developing a program series that is as solid as any in the nation.

Despite being part of what is truly one of the nation’s best undergraduate leadership development programs, Leadership Institute staff, scholarship recipients, and members often felt undervalued. “Why does our program receive less funding?” “Why is our scholarship the smallest offered by the university?” “Why are jobs being eliminated from the Institute?”

Change has come. With the creation of the Enrollment and Student Services division Central Michigan University has reinvested in student services. The Office of Student Life became Student Activities and Involvement and doubled in size. New positions have been added in the Volunteer Center and to support the Greek community. Spaces have been transformed through intensive renovations of the Bovee UC’s lower level.

The time for leadership is now. In January 2015 the Leadership Institute, working collaboratively with other units within the Student Affairs division, including Leadership Safari, have begun a process to reimagine how leadership is woven into the fabric of student engagement at CMU.

This process is beginning with a request for proposals. CMU is currently accepting proposals from firms and individuals to form a partnership to create a reimagined series of leadership program offerings. Once identified, this partner will work with CMU over the next four to six months to produce a comprehensive written report that outlines a plan to ensure that Central Michigan University is at the forefront of student leadership development for decades to come.

It’s an exciting time for the Leadership Institute. We have been told again that we are valued. Central Michigan University has repeated what I have told students for years: leadership matters.


Dan Gaken is a student affairs administrator, author, and leadership trainer with 10 years of professional experience, primarily in the field of student leadership development. Dan builds environments where others are able to create something that excites them.

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