Presidential Leadership Academy highlights Barron’s commitment to students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — Even before coming to Penn State, recent alumnus Emily Briselli knew she wanted the opportunity to learn from Penn State President Eric J. Barron through Presidential Leadership. Academy (PLA) of the University.

Her older sister had attended PLA, a program in which students of all disciplines have the opportunity to learn directly from the university president and the dean of Schreyer Honors College. The academy is designed to help students foster critical thinking and leadership skills, with an emphasis on navigating complex topics while representing diverse communities and stakeholders.

“That experience had a big impact on her, so I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Briselli said. “Honestly, before my first class, I was quite nervous, but President Barron immediately put everyone at ease to converse and share opinions on difficult issues. I had some amazing teachers during my time at Penn State, and I absolutely count Dr. Barron as one of the best.

APL Principal Melissa Doberstein has seen firsthand the dedication and passion Barron brings to the classroom. She said her course was discussion-based, with Barron facilitating conversation about issues impacting Penn State and higher education — often the very topics he currently navigates as university president.

Doberstein said Barron excels at helping students understand the APL’s slogan of “thinking in the gray” – the idea that leaders must navigate nuanced topics that are rarely black and white, while representing voters from different backgrounds and perspectives. By giving his students a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges he faces as a leader, Barron helps students solve real-world problems by embracing the “grey area” of complex issues while developing leadership skills that they can continue in their studies. , personal and professional life.

“Dr. Barron really enjoys the conversations he has with students,” Doberstein said. with the Council of Academic Deans and he’ll say, “I talked about it with my students, and that was their point of view.”

Teaching “servant leadership” by example

Victor Airyo – a PLA and Penn State alumnus who went on to grow a creator economy startup with the help of resources available through Penn State’s entrepreneurial support ecosystem – describes Barron as warm, engaging, approachable and extremely dedicated to the students he serves as president of the university.

Hearing Barron discuss the considerations he makes with every decision he makes as a leader, including the careful deliberation with which he considers all of the University’s communities and stakeholders, helped Airyo understand the kind of leadership whom he wanted to emulate as an entrepreneur and business leader.

“Thanks to Dr. Barron, I really learned what servant leadership meant through our class discussions. Every time you start something and you’re in the lead, you have to be prepared to lose the most to allow the people working with you to see those short-term gains,” Airyo said. “At the end of the day, if I want my team to be cohesive and get where we’re trying to go, I have to be willing to make sacrifices and tough decisions to keep the operation going. Being a leader means you you care about others and that you need to put your own desires in the background Dr. Barron helped me understand this.

Being in Barron’s class has also helped current PLA student and Schreyer scholar Maryah Burney understand how a leader strives to understand different points of view and navigate difficult conversations – skills she now employs in as co-creator and co-instructor of a new undergraduate course on anti-racism at the College of Liberal Arts. Observing how Barron facilitated productive speech in her classroom helped her do the same in hers, she said, and seeing how he approaches her leadership role affirmed how she aims to approach her own efforts in as a student leader.

“What’s really important to me is accessibility — how accessible we are as leaders to the people we serve and the communities we represent. Programs like the Presidential Leadership Academy show that Dr. Barron always considers the accessibility of the communities he leads,” Burney said. “He always actively tries to have conversations with people, including his students. He always says, ‘If you have any problems, then come to me, talk to me; I’ll put time on the book and we’ll work on it. ”

Kevin E. Boling