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Spring 2008 - Leadership

Destination Purdue > Spring 2008 - Leadership

Students building their leadership skills

By Christina Harp

Ryan Crane is the leader of several student organizations. Tasia Taxis helps build houses for the underprivileged and studied abroad in New Zealand. Both students credit these successes to Purdue Agriculture's Leadership Development Certificate Program (LDCP). The LDCP was developed in 2005 by faculty and staff to prepare students for the workforce, aid them in developing a leadership journey and provide them an incentive to stretch themselves as leaders.

Tasia Taxis

Photo provided by Tasia Taxis

Tasia Taxis walks along Sumner Beach in Christchurch, New Zealand. The senior animal science major from Dornsife, Pa., studied in New Zealand in 2007 and is part of Purdue Agriculture's Leadership Development Certificate Program.

Crane, a junior in farm management from Exeter, Maine, joined the program to enhance skills he has developed in other organizations, such as his fraternity and Ag Ambassadors, a student volunteer group that promotes Purdue Agriculture. "It's a way of using activities that you already would do to develop a qualification that other students don't have," said Crane. "It's a way to set yourself apart."

Taxis, a senior in animal science from Dornsife, Pa., has been in the program since its launch in 2005. She credits the program with inspiring her to study abroad in New Zealand, and for working with Habitat for Humanity, a group that builds homes for people in need. In the early days of the program, there was some trial-and-error for both advisors and students, she said. Now she feels most of the kinks have been worked out. She said she actually enjoyed being one of the original 37 students in the group.

"It was fun being a guinea pig," she said with a laugh. "It taught me that when a new program gets started, to never expect 100 percent perfection." Taxis said the experience taught her the importance of working through the challenges that come with any new project to create a unique and successful program.

By devoting time to a variety of activities, Crane said he developed a stronger perception of what it means to lead by example. As the president of his fraternity, Crane tries to exemplify the qualities and attributes that he wants to see in the members of his organization.

His enthusiasm about leadership is what makes him such a success in the program, said Randy Woodson, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture and Crane’s leadership coach. "He relishes the opportunity to engage in leadership opportunities and jumps at the chance to be involved with other leaders," said Woodson. "One of the keys to leadership is the ability to inspire others by your actions. Ryan is an inspiration."

The program pairs each student with a coach, a faculty member who actively encourages and supports them, offers feedback and finds ways to help the students meet their goals. The student-coach relationship is one of the keys to the program's success, said Woodson. He said one of the best ways to learn leadership skills is to observe others in the act of leading.

"You can really tailor it to what you want to do and develop it to a specific goal in the future," said Crane, whose ultimate goal is to own and manage his family's potato production and brokering company in Maine. "The program will set me up for success in that field."

The program also challenges student leaders to stretch themselves. For Taxis, joining the LDCP was just the first of many experiments. Her spring 2007 study abroad experience in New Zealand helped her learn to value diversity, one of the program's goals. The program allows her to choose the skills or areas she will improve and develop, Taxis said. For example, she said she was not very involved in the community, so she volunteered with Habitat. The organization is flexible, which allows her to help complete requirements for the LDCP and gives her a chance to be involved in Habitat projects long after she graduates from Purdue.

Participating in an etiquette dinner was another unique experience Taxis credits to her involvement with LDCP. More than just learning about good table manners, the etiquette dinner provided practical experience. "I feel like a leader should know how to behave in any situation," she said.

"It lets you discover yourself and make your own objectives," Taxis said. "In any other leadership program, they tell you what to do. With this, it's what you want to improve on."