While all students who come to Calbright learn key technical and career skills, their career aspirations vary widely. From the kind of industries they want to work in to the kind of roles they want, every student has their own dreams and ambitions.
For students who want to move into management and leadership roles, Calbright has developed a set of optional leadership programs for them while they are completing their required coursework.
The first program is “Emerging Leaders,” and it examines the foundations of effective leadership and explores what that looks like. It asks students to identify leaders who inspire them, and to consider their own leadership style.
The second program is the Calbright Academy of Leadership (CAL), which focuses on the specific attributes that help someone successfully lead their own teams.
Launched in June, CAL is still a pilot program which, like Emerging Leaders, is presently only open to a small group of students, but which will soon be open to the entire student body, according to Amna Jara, who manages student and alumni engagement and relations at Calbright.
“The CAL program is based on the book The Leadership Challenge,” Jara said. “Students attend five workshops and learn about areas like inspiring a shared vision and enabling others to act.”
One of the things that makes CAL unique is the way it moves from theory to practice. To complete the program, students must draft an actual proposal that they will present to Calbright’s student engagement leadership team on better supporting students at the college.
Some proposals may even be implemented, giving students real life experience in leading an organizational change initiative.
That’s the experience of Calbright CRM program graduate Denise Ross, who was the first student to complete the CAL program. She presented her proposal, “Welcome New Students,” to the student engagement leadership team, including Don Orth, Calbright’s vice president of student services and success.
Student support and a sense of community are critical at Calbright, and Denise—who was already a paid “student ambassador” to support other students—proposed a set of new practices which would provide another layer of support for new students, and another touchpoint for community and connection.
“Calbright might be the first experience the student has attending a virtual college,” Ross said. “My project goal is to make every new student feel welcome and comfortable attending a virtual college.”
The proposal was so well received that it has been implemented as a pilot program, one that Ross is now leading.
In that position, she has followed her own program guidelines to connect personally with new Calbright students via email and Slack, making sure students have a friendly peer to talk to, and that they know about resources available to them and events they can attend.
In that time she has sent out over 2,500 welcome emails, and over 1,200 welcome Slacks. She’s also given dozens of “virtual tours” to new students who find it helpful. “I start with email because every student gets a new email as part of their orientation session, and then logs on to Slack later in the process,” Ross said. “I use whatever form of communication a new student is most comfortable with.”
For literally hundreds of Calbright students, this has meant having a supportive new friend to introduce them to their peers and help them find social and academic opportunities. For Ross, it means that she now has real world experience developing a pilot program, pitching it to executives, and implementing it.
As the Calbright leadership programs open up to more students, Calbright learners will gain relevant skills and be better prepared for the leadership roles they seek.