By Cara Armstrong, Director School of Architecture + Art
Architecture students Shaili Patel and Michelle Lee became the first students to receive Norwich University’s inaugural Advanced Leadership Award, which was presented by President Richard W. Schneider on May 13, 2016. The award recognizes successful completion of a rigorous, four-year leadership development program based on seminars and leadership experiences. The program, a practical and empowering approach to producing outstanding civilian and military leaders, was created by Assistant Vice President for Leadership and Student Engagement, Tracey Poirier.
“At Norwich University, we believe the basis of great leadership is a set of strong leadership skills that can be learned through lectures and practical exercises,” Poirier said. “We also recognize that you must understand both yourself and your team members to be an effective leader. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is an essential step in accessing your potential for great leadership.”
Patel and Lee gained an academic and theoretical base for future leadership opportunities through Leadership 101: Norwich Principles of Leadership Mastery. Based on extensive assignments on leadership theory, Patel and Lee developed a personal leadership philosophy and a leadership group project, enabling them to develop their own leadership theory and concepts.
A key part of the process leading to the award was leadership development seminars and leadership experiences. The first seminar, known as the Ascend Seminar, helps students understand themselves, giving them insight to both their strengths and weaknesses as well as a basic understanding of the values and character of our communities. The Peak Seminar is a class focused on understanding of self within the context of social and leadership styles. It encourages students to explore the diversity of thought processes among their peers and how to effectively work with others. Finally, the Summit Seminar focuses on practical approaches to creating the very best teams, concentrating on the idea of leveraging diversity.
Students are given freedom to substitute other leadership experiences in place of seminars, an option both Patel and Lee exercised. Patel served as Sustainability Coordinator for the Center of Civic Engagement, president of the Ball Room Dance Club, a senate member of the Student Government Association, and chairperson of the Junior Ring Committee. Lee’s responsibilities included serving as A1C Tactical Aircraft Maintenance for the Air National Guard, a peer-to-peer mentor at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, and as an Honor Board adjudicator.
Both students then submitted leadership E-portfolios, which showcased their own leadership challenges on and off campus.
After President Schneider presented the awards to Patel and Lee, Poirier said: “The Advanced Leadership Award is the culmination of all that we strive to instill in our students. It shows they have committed themselves to leadership learning, practice and reflection and are able to be the leaders of character that are needed in the world today.”
Lee and Patel were both effusive about what they had learned. “After four years of being involved in various programs on campus, it was great to be a part of this new certification program. Through the process of reflecting on the experiences I had over four years, through both Norwich and Air Force experiences, I was able to realize how blessed I have been,” Lee said. “I am looking forward to using the experience I gained to further my own leadership style.”
Patel commented: “Norwich taught me to be a confident, independent woman. It showed me that I have the capabilities to be a leader, as well as the capacity to grow and learn as a person.” She credits Norwich faculty for opening countless opportunities and Norwich friends who “helped me develop my backbone and break me out of my shy shell.”
“It is very exciting to be able to present the Advanced Leadership Award to its first recipients and doubly exciting for it to be two such exceptional students like Shaili and Michelle,” Poirier noted. “They embody what it means to be a Norwich leader and citizen.