Ohio University

Bobcat Leadership Challenge allows students to collaborate and practice their leadership skills

Bobcat Leadership Challenge allows students to collaborate and practice their leadership skills
Published: April 17, 2019 Author: Hannah Schuller

This year, the Career and Leadership Development Center (CLDC) hosted the inaugural Bobcat Leadership Challenge (BLC). 

On March 30, teams of Ohio University students came together to complete a series of activities that incorporate a leadership skill, according to Kendra Lutes, graduate assistant for special projects at the CLDC and the organizer of this event. 

Nine teams participated in the event, which were all recruited from different University offices: Campus Recreation, Culinary Services, Margaret Boyd Scholars Program, Women’s Panhellenic Association, Interfraternity Council, Learning Communities, Student Alumni Board and the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention, who had two teams. Each office appointed a staff member as the coach, who then recruited students to register for their team. 

"As a coach, BLC gave me the opportunity to work with my students in a different way,” said Emily Kunkle, a graduate assistant and coach for the Women’s Panhellenic Association. “My team was comprised of an entirely new executive board, many of whom did not know each other before being elected. The BLC lessons helped my board to get to know one another even faster and better understand their leadership styles from the beginning. As their coach and advisor, I have seen how they have grown as leaders in just ten short weeks. We have already had conversations about how these skills and this experience will help them in the future." 

The Campus Recreation team, comprised of Graham Garee, Rose Minton, Janie Peterson, Corinne Rivers, Lillian Cahill and Brandon Rhodes, was the final winner of the weekend. As winners, they received bragging rights, a plaque and a private lunch with Dr. Jenny Hall-Jones and Dr. Jason Pina. 

“Everybody is going to have some sort of connection to each other, so the competition and bragging rights are attractive for the participants,” said Lutes. 

Judges for the competition were University staff members and corporate recruiters, sourced by the CLDC employer relations team. Each judge was assigned to a team to evaluate every aspect of scoring. The recruiters added a networking aspect as well, which gave students an opportunity to connect with potential employers. 

One of the judges was Ryan Deiter, a talent acquisition manager for Enterprise Holdings. “No book or lecture can teach you better than experience,” said Deiter. “The BLC was a tremendous event for the student leaders of Ohio University to sharpen their skillset even further.”

The activities were kept a secret before the event. 

The student teams trained for 10 weeks before the event, focusing each week on a different leadership competency. Each training session included a discussion about the leadership skill of the week and an activity to challenge that particular skill. “We wanted to use this model so that when they actually competed at the event, it would not be a mystery. They were prepared and understood the format,” said Lutes. 

The event was inspired by the Collegiate Leadership Competition (CLC), a nonprofit college leadership program founded in 2015. According to the CLC website, the competition “creates a dynamic practice field where student leaders can apply what they’re learning in a context that stretches them to the boundaries of their leadership knowledge, skills and abilities.” 

"As a participant in the BLC, I had the opportunity to practice and simulate leadership scenarios before I encountered them in real life,” said Tracy Kondrit, a senior on the Student Alumni Board team. “The judges' feedback and my own self-discovery during the activities helped me learn my own strengths and areas for improvement related to the eight leadership competencies. I feel confident that the skills I honed during the BLC will allow me to increase my effectiveness as a leader on campus and in my future career.”

The CLDC is already planning the second BLC, to be hosted on April 11, 2020. Interested participants can contact Aaron Sturgill, associate director for employer relations with the CLDC. The CLDC expects to partner with Ohio University departments for the 2020 BLC through team participation and sponsorship.

“This event has the capacity to be a significant collaboration opportunity between groups on campus,” said Sturgill. “At the CLDC, we’re excited to see what can be accomplished through the Bobcat Leadership Challenge.”