March 30, 2017
Saint Vincent College’s Benedictine Leadership Studies Program was recognized with a national award for Best Practices in Student Affairs for mission integration for student activities, leadership and orientation by the Association for Student Affairs at Catholic Colleges and Universities (ASACCU).
“There were many quality submissions this year but your program was chosen for its direct impact on student learning and integration of Catholic identity and mission,” commented the members of the steering committee. The award will be presented at ASACCU’s annual conference July 18-21 at Neumann University, Aston.
The award will be presented to Mary Collins, vice president for student affairs; Robert Baum, dean of students; and Mark Abramovic, instructor in business administration.
“The Benedictine Leadership Studies (BLS) program is a student affairs initiative in partnership with academic and administration colleagues with the focus of helping students learn who they are as individuals, teaching them how they can serve and influence our communities and guiding them in the development of a meaningful understanding of God’s purpose for their lives,” Collins commented. “The BLS program goals are that students will develop a deep understanding of the sustainability and applicability of the leadership model based on The Rule of Saint Benedict; students will be prepared to effectively serve as both leaders and followers in their personal and professional lives; and students will gain an academic understanding of national and international leadership.”
Program components include knowledge seminars from Saint Vincent College faculty, leadership and academic conferences, mentoring from leaders, service projects, career and professional development, leadership-focused internships, personal reflection and assessment, a study abroad trip, additional college-credit opportunities and experiential leadership trips.
Each year the program invites applications from first-year students of all majors who have an interest in the study of leadership principles and a desire to experience followership and leadership roles through their years at Saint Vincent. Interested students apply for acceptance the summer before their freshman year.
Selection criteria include grade point average, service activities, student essays describing why they want to be in the program and professional recommendations. Up to 20 first-year students are accepted into the program annually and continue as a cohort for the next four years.
The program began in 2012 when Collins and Baum were approached by Abramovic who had a vision for a leadership program based on the foundation of Saint Vincent College’s Catholic, Benedictine heritage, including The Rule of Saint Benedict. He had interviewed several local leaders to gain an understanding of what they were seeking to see in our graduates in the area of leadership, and his ideas and the examples he shared of outstanding leadership programs at other institutions were inspiring. It was agreed to house the program in Student Affairs as a non-academic program.
The trio began to work together to build the program, along with the support of Saint Vincent Benedictine monks and other professors and administrators. They established a basic four-year structure centered on the three areas of knowledge, action and personal awareness. Applications were sent to the first-year class, inviting them to apply to join the inaugural cohort.
“In our first meeting with the accepted students, we asked them to be our partners as we walked through the next four years, to help us mold and shape the details,” Abramovic explained. “We asked them to trust as we looked together at a somewhat undefined future, confident we could together build a leadership program that would be valuable and meaningful. Today, we have four cohorts, and we are grateful to the seniors who stayed with the program from the start. We are pleased they enjoyed a three-credit capstone course to Rome over spring break, learning about leadership in light of the history of the area and our mission and heritage.”
The BLS program has strengthened into an interdisciplinary program utilizing The Rule of Saint Benedict as the cornerstone leadership model, the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the strength of the College’s core liberal arts curriculum to expose students to a deeper understanding of leadership in their personal and professional lives and in service to the local, national and global community.
It is of interest to students who aspire to develop a deeper understanding of the sustainability and applicability of the Saint Benedict leadership model, to effectively serve as both leaders and followers in their personal and professional lives and to gain an academic understanding of national and international leadership. “Being a good follower is a critical component to becoming an effective leader, and the students have opportunities through their participation in the seminars/workshops to participate as both followers and leaders,” explained Baum.
A Visiting Committee composed of community leaders in several fields meets regularly to review the program and provide guidance and support and a Leader in Residence is chosen from the Visiting Committee to provide individual mentoring to the students, especially regarding their drafts of Reflective Best Self papers.
Founding BLS Leader in Residence was Dr. Charles Erdeljac, and the work of attending to the details of coordinating the expanding BLS program has been completed in the past two years by graduate assistant Anna Hoffman.
Photo: The Benedictine Leadership Studies leadership group with two members of the senior cohort includes, from left, Mark Abramovic, Robert Baum, Mary Collins, Samantha Firestone (a senior marketing major from Pen Argyl), Anna Hoffman and Peter Reiter (a senior computing and information science major who is also minoring in management from Hagerstown, Maryland).
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