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Evan Brown Ton, 19, middle, and Sejal Rajamani, right, go over homework in the main hall of the School of Law building at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

All undergraduate students at Washington University in St. Louis will be exposed to leadership education, thanks to a new donor-funded initiative.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

A fall 2023 Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse found just over one-third (34 percent) of college students have held a leadership position within a sport, club or group, with an additional 9 percent planning to do so. However, first-generation students were less likely to hold a leadership position, compared to their continuing-generation peers, as were low-income students compared to other students.

A new leadership academy at Washington University in St. Louis seeks to give all undergraduate students values-based leadership development, helping to develop the next generation of leaders—on campus and after graduation.

The George and Carol Bauer Leaders Academy, endowed by alumnus George Bauer and his wife, Carol Bauer, was announced March 8 by the university.

What’s the need: The National Association of Colleges and Employers identifies leadership as one of eight career competencies, and embedding career readiness programs within a university can both help students achieve their career goals and ensure equitable access to resources.

Student Voice data shows students at private nonprofit institutions (43 percent) are more likely than their peers at publics (31 percent) to hold leadership positions. Within all four-year institutions, less than one-third (28 percent) of first-generation students have held a leadership position.

How it works: The academy will oversee student leadership programs across the institution, as well as co-curricular programs, and provide learners with best practices in leadership development and “personal character foundation,” according to the university’s press release.

University leaders will redesign the orientation and first-year seminar course “Bearprints for Success,” to include modules and exercises focused on purpose, values and leadership.

The academy will also support faculty research through grants and funding for new courses and educational content geared toward leadership and related concepts.

One unique offering will be focused on varsity student athletes and empowering them to be leaders on and off the field, with workshops and individual coaching covering topics including inspiring teammates, identifying personal and team values, and leading difficult conversations (Student Voice data found 50 percent of varsity athletes have held a leadership position, and 9 percent planned to).

On April 1, WashU appointed Julia Macias, currently the associate dean for the Office of Scholar Programs, to serve as the director of student leader development within the academy, overseeing the program and its initiatives.

Funding student success: The $20 million gift is one of several leader-focused projects the Bauers have established at WashU, including the George and Carol Bauer Professorship in Organizational Ethics and Governance and the George and Carol Bauer Leadership Center within the Olin Business School. The couple have also funded a four-year leadership development experience within the Danforth Scholars program.

Additionally, the academy will house a leadership initiative from an alumnus from Hong Kong looking to support international students and the student government association’s $2 million award endowment for student leaders.

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