March 30, 2021, marked the conclusion of the Leadership Academy @ Saunders' Foundational Leadership for Career Success Certificate Program. The program, whose goal is to “introduce students to the critical concepts and skills needed for career success in any industry,” ended on a high note with five teams of students presenting the results of six weeks of coordination and hard work.

Molly McGowan, Ph.D., Director of The Leadership Academy at Saunders, worked alongside Phillippa Thiuri, Ph.D., Lecturer for Service Leadership and Innovation, and a team of students to develop and run the certificate program. “When you teach a course that’s for credit, there’s so much more structure and rules and regulations,” Professor McGowan stated. “With a leadership that’s not for credit, that’s co-curricular, we have more freedom.”

Students enrolled in the program were placed in groups of four or five and tasked with developing and executing a public event or donation drive in support of a non-profit. Angelica Munyao ’21 (Human-Computer Interaction) and her team developed a GoFundMe campaign for Rochester Refugee. “We had a couple interviews with the team and they mentioned that they wanted to expand their social media presence, Munyao stated. “So we decided to use social media as the channel to present the fundraiser through, which would allow us to get their message across on top of raising some money for them.”

To make sure that students made consistent progress, three student leaders provided guidance and advice to each team:

Jacob Ellis, Coordinator of the Saunders Peer Mentorship Program, mentored students from all teams with advice on how to be effective leaders. “A lot of it was sharing past experiences about how to manage a high-performance team,” Ellis stated. The most common questions he would get were, “How do we stay on track?” and “How do we deal with a student not working as hard as they should?”

Jillian Fioravanti, Associate Certificate Program Coordinator of the Saunders Leadership Academy, has previously gone through the program twice. Now in her third time through, she used her knowledge and the skillset learned to assist all teams. “Every week, we meet with each other on Zoom,” Fioravanti stated. “It’s always great because everyone brings something different to the table.”

Kristina Haller, Vice President of Finance of the RIT Women in Business Leadership Team, provided guidance and leadership to teams one and two. “(At first) I thought it was more like you’re on another level and they couldn’t come and talk to you,” Haller stated. “(but now) I feel like you’re more of a peer in the background that they could come and ask for help if they needed anything.”

Finally, after six weeks of hard work and dedication on top of classes and personal commitments, the students of the Foundational Leadership for Career Success Certificate Program presented the results to a crowd of their peers. Their efforts were applauded and rewarded with sandwiches. One more year for the books.

“What they could do in a six-week period to make a difference for a non-profit was impressive,” Dr. McGowan Stated. “I’m truly impressed and incredibly proud of these students… It gives me hope for the future.”

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