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Ohio Fellows

Ohio Fellows gather for picture

Photo courtesy of: Ohio Fellows Program

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The return of the Ohio Fellows

Student leadership program reborn after 42-year hiatus


Is there a way to teach leadership?

It is a necessary part of all communities, but it is not necessarily a textbook lesson. Ohio University in particular is a community built on leadership. Which is why, after a 42-year hiatus, the Ohio Fellows Program is returning to campus.

Originally called "The Ohio Plan" in 1964, the Ohio Fellows program was created as a way for exceptional students to work on their leadership skills outside of the traditional classroom setting. This small group of exceptional students was given one-on-one time with distinguished campus visitors, and access to professional internships.

Members of the Ohio University faculty served as personal mentors for these students throughout their four years of undergraduate studies. Although the program seemed to receive promising feedback, it was
discontinued when President Vern Alden stepped down from his position in 1970.

Although the program disbanded after a short time, it left a lasting impression on those who participated.

"The most valuable part of the program was the personal exposure to people who are doing things at a high level; in business, politics, the arts, and the community," said Terry Moore, one of the alumni
fellows who helped to organize the return of the program.

Several Ohio Fellows reunions have been held over the years at Alden Library, and it was through conversation at a reunion in 2009, where the idea to restart the program came up. In 2012, a group organized by several Ohio Fellows alumni, including Moore, contributed funds to revitalization the program. Approximately 50 former fellows were contacted and approached for donations.

From there, the program was reborn. Program director Greg Lester approached Ohio University faculty members Lysa Bernier, Yegan Pillay and J.W. Smith to serve as Faculty Fellows, who advise and support the new Ohio Fellows.

"To be a part of re-establishing this is something really special," said Smith.

The Ohio Faculty Fellows spent the 2012-13 academic year recruiting applicants and speaking to campus scholars groups. Applicants were required to provide faculty references and to submit essays addressing their educational and career goals. From there, 12 students were selected for group interviews. Nine of these students were selected as the newest class of Ohio Fellows.

"We are looking for young men and women of promise," said Lester, meaning that they are looking past perfect grade point averages and more at which students show passion and a solid interest in their field of study.

The overall goal for the program is to help the chosen students to make connections that will help them become better, more effective leaders. The faculty fellows have arranged for alumni speakers to come and present both in person and by Skype. A trip to New York City is in the works for this December, where fellows will get the opportunity to meet with more Ohio Fellows alumni, and take advantage of their connections. Although the plans and ideas for the program came from how the original program was set up, the current class of Ohio Fellows is still serving as a guinea pig in a way.

"I think there are growing pains when there is something new. I tip my hat off to this first class," said Smith.

The current Ohio Fellows meet with the Faculty Fellows every Thursday night. Once members gather around the discussion table, the conversation just starts flowing. Topics may vary, and some of them are more structured than others. For example, the student read and discussed the social and political issues related to "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros.

The discussions are informal and students are challenged to voice answers and opinions. The students are allowed to change the subject of the discussion and are welcome to share personal stories and interests.

Although differences in opinion occur occasionally, the students and faculty are respectful of one another.

"I have been incredibly impressed with the other Fellows. It's a great give and take. Every single one of them is fantastic," said Ohio Fellow Liana Carsner, a sophomore special education major from Dayton, Ohio.

The enthusiasm of all of the members is clear.

"This year, I am most looking forward to Thursday nights and hearing everyone's views, and just thinking differently," said Ohio Fellow Ellyn Loss, a sophomore specialized studies major from Toledo, Ohio.

The Ohio Fellows seem to realize that they have the opportunity to make professional connections, but also just want to experience this non-traditional way of learning.

"For me, I think that having a deeper understanding of education and what it means to be well-rounded are what I want to get out of the program," said Ohio Fellow Gaelynn Grisso, a sophomore journalism major from Glendive, Montana.

This is what the faculty wants to see from the members, as well.

"The students' responsibilities while in the program should be to be fully engaged and make connections," said Lester.

With the first year of the program under way, the students and faculty are looking forward to how the program will continue to grow in the years to come.

"We would love to see more trips in the future, or maybe a Fellow's lounge for the fellows to just come and talk. The sky is the limit," said Smith.

Is there a way to teach leadership? It is a necessary part of all communities, but it is not necessarily a textbook lesson. Ohio University in particular is a community built on leadership. Which is why, after a 42-year hiatus, the Ohio Fellows Program is returning to campus.

Originally called "The Ohio Plan" in 1964, the Ohio Fellows program was created as a way for exceptional students to work on their leadership skills outside of the traditional classroom setting. This small group of exceptional students was given one-on-one time with distinguished campus visitors, and access to professional internships.

Members of the Ohio University faculty served as personal mentors for these students throughout their four years of undergraduate studies. Although the program seemed to receive promising feedback, it was discontinued when President Vern Alden stepped down from his position in 1970.

Although the program disbanded after a short time, it left a lasting impression on those who participated.

"The most valuable part of the program was the personal exposure to people who are doing things at a high level; in business, politics, the arts, and the community," said Terry Moore, one of the alumni fellows who helped to organize the return of the program.

Several Ohio Fellows reunions have been held over the years at Alden Library, and it was through conversation at a reunion in 2009, where the idea to restart the program came up. In 2012, a group organized by several Ohio Fellows alumni, including Moore, contributed funds to revitalization the program. Approximately 50 former fellows were contacted and approached for donations. From there, the program was reborn. Program director Greg Lester approached Ohio University faculty members Lysa Bernier, Yegan Pillay and J.W. Smith to serve as Faculty Fellows, who advise and support the new Ohio Fellows.  

"To be a part of re-establishing this is something really special," said Smith.

The Ohio Faculty Fellows spent the 2012-13 academic year recruiting applicants and speaking to campus scholars groups. Applicants were required to provide faculty references and to submit essays addressing their educational and career goals. From there, 12 students were selected for group interviews. Nine of these students were selected as the newest class of Ohio Fellows.

"We are looking for young men and women of promise," said Lester, meaning that they are looking past perfect grade point averages and more at which students show passion and a solid interest in their field of study.

The overall goal for the program is to help the chosen students to make connections that will help them become better, more effective leaders. The faculty fellows have arranged for alumni speakers to come and present both in person and by Skype. A trip to New York City is in the works for this December, where fellows will get the opportunity to meet with more Ohio Fellows alumni, and take advantage of their connections. Although the plans and ideas for the program came from how the original program was set up, the current class of Ohio Fellows is still serving as a guinea pig in a way.

"I think there are growing pains when there is something new. I tip my hat off to this first class," said Smith.

The current Ohio Fellows meet with the Faculty Fellows every Thursday night. Once members gather around the discussion table, the conversation just starts flowing. Topics may vary, and some of them are more structured than others. For example, the student read and discussed the social and political issues related to "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros.

The discussions are informal and students are challenged to voice answers and opinions. The students are allowed to change the subject of the discussion and are welcome to share personal stories and interests.

Although differences in opinion occur occasionally, the students and faculty are respectful of one another.

"I have been incredibly impressed with the other Fellows. It's a great give and take. Every single one of them is fantastic," said Ohio Fellow Liana Carsner, a sophomore special education major from Dayton, Ohio.

The enthusiasm of all of the members is clear.

"This year, I am most looking forward to Thursday nights and hearing everyone's views, and just thinking differently," said Ohio Fellow Ellyn Loss, a sophomore specialized studies major from Toledo, Ohio. The Ohio Fellows seem to realize that they have the opportunity to make professional connections, but also just want to experience this non-traditional way of learning.

"For me, I think that having a deeper understanding of education and what it means to be well-rounded are what I want to get out of the program," said Ohio Fellow Gaelynn Grisso, a sophomore journalism major from Glendive, Montana.

This is what the faculty wants to see from the members, as well.

"The students' responsibilities while in the program should be to be fully engaged and make connections," said Lester.

With the first year of the program under way, the students and faculty are looking forward to how the program will continue to grow in the years to come.

"We would love to see more trips in the future, or maybe a Fellow's lounge for the fellows to just come and talk. The sky is the limit," said Smith