Exceptional Practices: #ACPA15

Dan Gaken presents during the 2015 ACPA Conference in Tampa, FL

Dan Gaken presents during the 2015 ACPA Conference in Tampa, FL | Photo Credit: Jesi Parker

Consider. Collaborate. Create. Commit. The collective energy of thousands of student affairs professionals is exciting. That was the case in early March when the annual convention of ACPA (College Student Educators International) descended onto Tampa, FL.  The 2015 conference examined some of the emerging issues that face higher education today including the Higher Education Opportunity Act, finding safe places on our campuses for trans* students, faculty, and staff. The conference also provided a forum to reflect on the effect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has had on our campuses in the 25 years since its authorization.

An exciting new session format, the “Exceptional Practices” series, gave conference attendees an opportunity hear from best practices institutions in a variety of areas. The Central Michigan University Leadership Institute’s partnership with LeaderShape, Inc. was chosen to be featured in one such session.

On Saturday, March 7, I had the opportunity to present with Jesi Parker about the history of the Leadership Institute’s 17-year partnership with LeaderShape, a partnership that dates almost to the beginning of the Leadership Institute.

During the creation of the LI a campus-wide body known as the Leadership Advisory Board, or LAB, was formed to create a model for delivering leadership programs. The LEAD framework identified key learning outcomes for students at four developmental levels: aspiring, emerging, transitional, and capstone.

Under the LEAD framework, hallmarks of transitional leadership programs included an appreciation for diversity and an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with those that are different than one self, ethical practices and discerning ones own values, creativity, and critical thinking skills. The Institute, the six-day flagship program of LeaderShape, is uniquely created to deliver these very learning outcomes.

Since the first campus-based session of the Institute was held at CMU in 2000, more than 800 Central Michigan University students have graduated from the Institute. That is 800 CMU students who now know that they have a life worth leading, and know that they have the capacity to achieve extraordinary results.

This has been a wonderful partnership, one that allows the CMU Leadership Institute to provide an exceptional student leadership development opportunity within the context of our LEAD framework. It was a pleasure to share this model with the outstanding group of professionals at #ACPA15, and hopefully it leads to further advances in providing students meaningful ways to learn about their ability to lead.


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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