Standardizing CIRCLE’s “L”: Ambitious new program makes leadership a graduation requirement

Cecelia Messbauer, Copy Editor

A partnership with Cornell University that was foreshadowed for much of last year has been solidified into a new Leadership Program that will debut for the Class of 2018, introducing an array of new requirements for all MacDuffie graduates.

The program, which will unroll gradually with the initial classes and is intended to build on itself each year, introduces new academic requirements in the form of one year of Acting or one semester of Public Speaking. It will also require a certain amount of community service, consisting of on and off-campus hours that will likely incorporate the revival of Duty, an in-school community service program that was last in place at the Springfield campus.

The most open-ended facet of the program is the Leadership Practicum that every student will be required to complete, which will incorporate the advisory system to create a project that maximizes the abilities and interests of the individual student.

According to Head of School Steve Griffin, the project began around fourteen months ago when he received a call from Chris DeMarino, the CEO of MacDuffie’s corporate owner MMI Holdings International, notifying him of an opportunity to collaborate with Cornell, with Griffin choosing to use that collaboration to focus on leadership education. To that end, MacDuffie received the assistance of Ya-Ru Chen from Cornell’s Johnson School of Business to institute a summer program, which if continued might serve to replace some of the program’s demand during the school year.  The partnership also served to train faculty in leadership education and develop the framework which is now prominently displayed under the Academics section of the school website.

While the structure of the program is formalized and its requirements are specific, Griffin views the program as a flexible way to bring out qualities that MacDuffie students already possess. “Many of our students are already leaders,” he says, while emphasizing that that doesn’t necessarily mean taking formal leadership roles or occupying outsized roles in a particular section of the community. “We all lead in different ways,” he says, suggesting that community service will promote the value of “servant leadership” and that some MacDuffie students who would be capable of the communication and confidence necessary for many forms of leadership might be “actively looking to avoid those skills.”

In addition to drawing out proactive engagement in those who would otherwise be hesitant, Griffin notes that the program could “raise the profile of a MacDuffie graduate.”

Recognizing that the most obvious forms of leadership are by definition limited, Griffin lays out a vision for the program that allows students to evolve from “a broad sense of knowing who you are, to creating an impact on the world” in ways that suit their personalities and interests, while also recognizing that the program will likely cause “consternation” among those that find the requirements difficult to achieve around an already intense academic workload.