Since expanding into a nationally recognized program that has created new career opportunities for students, the Department of Leadership Studies at Fort Hays State University has allowed the school to become one of the premier universities that offers a degree in leadership.
FHSU is currently the only school in Kansas and one of the few schools in the nation to offer a comprehensive degree in leadership.
Curt Brungardt, chair of the Department of Leadership Studies, said that there are only about a dozen schools in the nation that offer a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership.
"Over 600 universities have either concentrations, minors or at least a few courses in leadership; so that's not uncommon," Brungardt said. "What is uncommon is the full emphasis that we place on it here."
When the program first began at FHSU in the fall of 1993, only eight students emphasized the field in their courses of study. Today, the department has 92 majors, 100 graduate students, four faculty members and more than 500 students enrolled in leadership courses.
"I credit our success to a number of things," Brungardt said. "We have highly energetic faculty -- students are really attracted to that."
Another reason is hands-on learning. "Students not only learn in the classroom and learn through books, but we also require them to go out into the community and tackle real problems, real organizational issues and real community issues," he said. "They learn by doing."
The students' community assistance has included helping to plan activities for Main Street in Ellis, helping in the Hays Downtown Development Project and Chestnut Street Project, assisting in various marketing efforts and in the annual Spring Block Party, and developing plans for Hays' municipal pool and the Fox Theatre. Leadership students also created a Web site for the Chestnut Street District.
The group is also active in the national program Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
"The program aims to equip students with skills in communication, teamwork, organizational change and supervisory skills, among many others," said Jill Stafford, instructor of leadership studies. "These are skills that anyone in any career, committee or organization will need to be effective in."
"I truly believe that this program will not only hone those skills," she said, "but also develop the students both personally and professionally."
To provide students with a premier leadership education focusing on those skills, the Department of Leadership Studies has expanded the program into the Hays community and the state.
Kansas Youth Leadership Camp, or KYLC, is a camp offered by FHSU to high school students. It promotes a positive and healthy lifestyle and helps to foster leadership skills by including leadership training sessions, motivational speakers and a community service project.
The first camp was held in June 2002 and proved to be a huge success with more than 130 campers in attendance. This year, a June camp will also be offered to middle school students for the first time.
Along with providing training to various community groups wishing to strengthen their leadership skills, the center's service-learning program, which is still experimental, will create structured opportunities in the community for students. The program will be promoted to faculty and students on campus and statewide.
"Service-learning provides thoughtfully organized experiences that integrate students' academic learning with service that meets actual community needs," said Christie Brungardt, instructor of leadership studies.
"As such," she said, "it blends service and learning in ways that serve to reinforce and enrich one-another. The overall goal of the new FHSU Service-Learning Committee is to strengthen our community as well as our students' learning experiences."
FHSU has received national recognition for its advances in leadership studies. In 2000, the leadership studies program was named the Outstanding Leadership Program by the National Association of Leadership Educators. The program is also listed in The Templeton Guide: Colleges that Encourage Character Development, published by the Templeton Foundation, which profiles 405 exemplary college programs in 10 categories that inspire students to lead ethical and civic-minded lives.
"Ten years ago, the FHSU administration and faculty had the foresight to see that leadership studies was becoming one of the fastest growing disciplines in higher education," said Christie Brungardt. "Not only did they see it, they acted on it and successfully made it happen here at FHSU."
"We are teaching students that leadership is not just about being the boss or at the top of the hierarchy," she said. "It's about taking responsibility and making things better. We stress the moral responsibility to see leadership as a service to society. We de-emphasize the need to be the dictator of the organization and emphasize the importance of collaborative leadership -- the importance of empowering people to get the job done through inspiration and motivation rather than force and control."
"Students are taught to make a difference through civic engagement in this program," said Stafford. "Communities, universities and organizations across the United States will be impacted by students that graduate from this program at FHSU."
"I am so thrilled to be a part of the leadership department and the College of Business and Leadership here at FHSU," Stafford continued. "I truly feel that we are preparing students for fulfilling lives through their studies here."
Omicron Delta Kappa, the new leadership society, is comprised of students and faculty members who wish to improve the general welfare of the student body.
The organization recognizes students' success in athletics, campus or community service, social and religious activities, campus government, journalism, speech, mass media and creative and performing arts.
In order to qualify for membership, students must demonstrate responsible leadership and service in campus or community life and also must display the principles of leadership, which include an exemplary character and a democratic position on issues and situations.
"I was involved in private business for 15 years prior to teaching at the university," said Christie Brungardt. "I had also been very involved in the community throughout that time. From those experiences, I learned what I thought leadership meant. When I started learning about the academic discipline of leadership, I knew I still had much to learn about true leadership.
"I am currently a student in a doctoral program from the University of Nebraska in leadership studies," she said. "I intend to study this discipline for the rest of my life."
"So much discussion in society is about leadership," said Curt Brungardt. "If you want to be successful, it is critical to have leadership training.
"Students recognize the value of leadership on a transcript," he said. "They recognize a rare opportunity at FHSU; they see those are rare advantages.
"I know of no situation where having leadership on your transcript is a negative thing."