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IV. Leadership Training Programs

Leadership training already happens at Princeton in several student organizations and University-sponsored activities. Princeton students, faculty, and staff are notably entrepreneurial, and much good work is being done. We believe that these programs should be more widely known, with best practices shared across the University and more opportunities for leadership training for interested students. We can also benefit from looking at models on other campuses.

Princeton students, faculty, and staff are notably entrepreneurial, and much good work is being done. We believe that these programs should be more widely known, with best practices shared across the University and more opportunities for leadership training for interested students.

    Our vice president for campus life has done professional research on leadership, and she and her staff are well placed to lead such efforts.

    "Leadership training programs" as a category includes multiple practices, some of which are more appropriate for a liberal arts university than others. Princeton's informal motto, emphasizing service to the nation and all nations, reminds us that our University has always stressed the importance of leadership in the service of public needs and purposes. One thoughtful recent essay on the topic of leadership training pointed out that "a leadership training program should be based on the values and mission of the university."[1] Princeton's values and mission can easily accommodate more direct emphasis on leadership, and we believe that our University would be strengthened thereby.

    We can also benefit from models on other campuses. The report of the subcommittee on the first-year experience mentions a number of leadership training programs reviewed by members of that group, including programs at Harvard and Georgetown universities and Babson College. Those at Harvard may be of particular salience on our campus.

    Our student representative, who visited the campus, reports that Harvard provides a series of successful programs that promote female empowerment. Workshops on website building, public speaking, identity formation, and wage-negotiation are offered. The Women's Center at Harvard hosts the Women's Cabinet, a body that meets monthly and comprises representatives of 30 student groups that are directly involved with women or women's issues on campus. The Women's Cabinet provides funding through its grant program for women to pursue projects as well as creates communication across women's groups.

    The Women's Center at Harvard also helps to plan and market the Women's Leadership Award Ceremony held in April. The annual award ceremony celebrates the 50 women who are nominated for the prize and awards one senior undergraduate the prestigious honor. Peers and faculty members nominate individuals. The ceremony also awards recognition to a successful alumna. The event is underwritten by alumnae.

    Other programs that concentrate especially on training women for leadership include those at Duke University (the Baldwin Scholars Program), Barnard College (the Athena Program), the Harvard Kennedy School Women and Public Policy Program, and Mount Holyoke College (the Weissman Center for Leadership). Duke (and 10 other colleges and universities) also sponsors a daylong program called "Elect Her—Campus Women Win" that encourages and prepares women to run for top offices in student government and also to become candidates for political office after they graduate. Numerous other programs could be surveyed to establish principles we would like to follow in improving leadership training on this campus.

  • We recommend that Princeton approach leadership training as a broad-based effort, building on and incorporating programs already in place and encouraging other parts of the University to follow some of these good practices.
  • One excellent example of a currently successful Princeton program is the Outdoor Action (OA) program run by Rick Curtis. This program has been training undergraduate leaders (to lead groups of fellow undergraduates on outdoor trips—hiking, biking, etc.) for decades. Many students train to become leaders and then lead one of the many freshman OA trips. The training includes a workshop, which focuses on general leadership skills (see Facilitator's Workshop and Leadership & Group Dynamics Workshop) .
  • We recommend that Princeton institute specific programs of leadership training for members of the first-year class as part of Orientation and/or Re-Orientation activities. We have dealt with this topic in the first set of recommendations above, and would simply emphasize here that we regard it as an important priority.
  • We recommend that Princeton students and administrators develop policies designed to invite women to become leaders. This might include the production of materials that highlight leadership opportunities, with profiles of women students and alumnae who have served in visible positions. Specific, targeted events encouraging women to run for office are likely to yield a larger number of candidates.
  • In our conversations, surveys, and focus groups, we have heard often that women are more likely than men to need and respond to encouragement by peers as well as members of the administration and the faculty to run for office or seek appointment or nomination for leadership posts. For a variety of reasons that we have discussed in our report, women students may be more hesitant about putting themselves forward, and we have seen repeated evidence that it makes a difference if someone invites or encourages them to do so.
  • As the subcommittee on social and extracurricular life mentioned in its report, students at Harvard have recently noted the comparatively small numbers of women in elected offices on campus, and the Harvard Undergraduate Council passed legislation encouraging women to run. We recommend that Princeton students and administrators take similar steps to make it more likely that women will step forward for a variety of leadership positions on campus. These include, among others:
    • Encouraging student organizations to reach out to administrators who work closely with students (residential college staff, coaches, center directors, etc.) to tap qualified candidates and to publicize elections not only to student voters but to other members of the University community who could raise general awareness about the election and help cast a wider net of candidates.
    • Encouraging the hosting of "candidate information" receptions in order for students to learn about the specific roles within class government, the Undergraduate Student Government and other organizations with elected offices, and hear from elected officers about the campaign process and how elections work.
    • Producing material, both web-based and print, that highlights the leadership opportunities on campus. These materials should serve to encourage all students to consider becoming involved in leadership and governance at Princeton, and make particular efforts to highlight current and former leaders from underrepresented groups who have held highly visible leadership positions at Princeton. These brochures could also afford an opportunity for alumni to talk about how skills developed in these positions relate to their post-Princeton lives.
  • We recommend that Princeton student government and administrators occasionally bring student leaders on campus together to share perspectives, learn from one another, and be acknowledged for their efforts.
  • One possible way of doing this would be a regular "Tea & Talk about Leadership"where student leaders could meet to reflect together. This could be modeled after the "Energy Table" or language tables: a weekly meeting where a set topic is discussed, such as how to focus on membership development or learning to navigate tricky conversations with co-leaders, etc. The idea is to bring together people who want to have a set time to reflect on leadership and transfer best practices.


[1] Richard Greenwald, "Today's Students Need Leadership Training Like Never Before," The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2010, p. A80.