Indiana State University Newsroom

Building leaders as well as scholars

December 3, 2013

Makailya Rice, a junior information technology major from Indianapolis and president of Indiana State University's Black Student Union, will graduate with more than just the skills to succeed in today's technologically advanced world. She will leave Indiana State a leader.

The university is developing leaders as well as scholars through a year-long series of programs targeting freshmen and other student groups.

"The programs have helped me because our past president wasn't able to train me," Rice said. "We have a lot of emerging leaders in our organization and, if given the right tools and guidance, they can do a lot. These programs have helped me develop leaders in my own organization."

Rice conducted a retreat where senior officers educated other members about the organization and how it functions. She routinely gives other members responsibilities and encourages them to build relationship with other students and organizations. Rice also makes sure members learn the social skills of leadership by accompanying them to etiquette dinners.

"I made sure they dress appropriately and we walked over to the dinner together," Rice said. "Then I told them to branch out and meet new people."

What she witnessed next was the hallmark of a true leader.

"I saw a transformation. Taking someone from where they used to be, putting them in a different environment and allowing them to grow as a person. It's brought members out of their shells."

The leadership training has helped Rice in her classes.

"I'm the only female in most of my classes. Leadership training has made me more comfortable and confident in the classroom," Rice, who is also a 21st Century Scholar ambassador, said.

The program is necessary, according to Monique Parks, assistant director of leadership development, given that Indiana State has 270 student entities ranging from professional organizations, fraternities and sororities, to special interest groups.

Student leaders at Indiana State hail from not just within the state of Indiana, but also worldwide, she added.

Parks conducted 48 hours of leadership training with more than 40 international students in late September at the Sycamore Outdoor Center.

"International students are sometimes not aware of the resources through Student Activities and Organizations to communicate with current and prospective members or to network with other organizations on campus," she said.

In addition to learning about resources, students participated in a mix of presentations and hands-on activities.

Parks also conducted a leadership retreat for 38 African-American students, another large population on the Indiana State campus. The students traveled to Brown County to take part in team-building, hands-on activities and leadership workshops.

Parks said she and others in the Division of Student Affairs are committed to molding leaders the moment they hit campus.

She begins with freshmen by advising the Sycamore Leadership Coalition, a branch of Indiana State's Student Government Association. The group, which numbers 25 members, learns more about student government and shadows current members in the hopes they will become senators or members of the executive branch. Membership in the coalition is filled using an application process based on grade point average and activities.

"This is a relatively new program," Parks said. "We will develop a first year student leadership retreat in the spring."

There's more to leadership development than large-scale events, according to Parks. It's an on-going process - from helping students establish new organizations to working with organizations one-on-one to solidify leadership and facilitate communication between officers and members and weekly workshops.

Parks' B.L.U.E. (Building Leadership for Everyone) workshops covered a different topic every Wednesday during the Fall Semester.

"B.L.U.E. workshops allow students to enhance the skills necessary to effectively lead their student organization, club, fraternity or sorority," she said.

The hour-long workshops covered topics such as setting goals, how to run a meeting, communications, team building, communications, problems solving and program effectiveness.

The workshops use a mix of lecture and hands-on activities to get valuable lessons across.

"I didn't want students to feel like they were in class," Parks said, adding that the workshops cater to individual learning styles.

"Some students are visual learners while others learn best by participating in hands-on activities," she said.

In addition to weekly leadership workshops and targeted conferences, Parks conducted an open leadership training conference in October. "Grow Your Own Roots" had tracks for specific officer holders (such as president) as well as a track for emerging leaders and members.

"Everyone needs to learn leadership skills," she said. "You don't have to hold an office to be a leader."

Parks doesn't go it alone when planning leadership programs. Students are involved in the planning of the retreats and conferences and graduate students are frequent presenters.

"The more students buy into the conference, the better," Parks said. "For graduate students, I wanted to give them something to put on their resume."

In addition to building skills, students add experience to their co-curricular record -- a verified, documented history of internships, professional development, student employment, community service, Study Abroad, participation in student organizations and athletics.

"Co-curricular records tell employers more than just academics. It tells employers what you did with your time outside the classroom."

The biggest challenge to developing leaders is time.

"Finding a time that is convenient for large numbers of students is a challenge," Parks said. "A college campus has a constant stream of activities, whether it's classes, intramurals, jobs or weekly meetings."

Leadership training topics are continuously being examined, often by asking for student feedback.

"We want to offer topics that students are interested in," Park said. "We want to build better organizations - strong organizations that will be on campus for a while," she said. "The more we build our organizations, we build our leaders."

"The more we have to offer, the more students will want to stay on campus."


Contact: Monique Parks, assistant director for student organizations and leadership development, 812-237-2787 or

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3783 or