LEWISBURG, Pa. – As planning continues for year No. 4 of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy, what better institution from which to model leadership techniques than the United States Naval Academy. 

Last month 12 Bison coaches and staff  – including head coaches Jeremy Cook (field hockey), Ben Landis (women’s soccer), Aaron Roussell (women’s basketball) and Dan Wirnsberger (wrestling) – visited Annapolis for a day-long colloquium with the Student-Leader Seminar, featuring a curriculum developed at the Naval Academy based on leadership training delivered to senior captains of the Midshipmen varsity athletics programs.

Those coaches will now become facilitators for a Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy kick-off session with the Student-Leader Seminar on Aug. 25 in Lewisburg.

The Student-Leader Seminar is designed to introduce the topic of ethical leadership. The seminars are highly interactive discussions built around the themes of leading with purpose, ethical decision making, and the value of character.

“We are very excited to embark on this partnership and to expose our student-athletes to a leadership program that is used to train Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy,” said Maisha Kelly, senior associate director of athletics and coordinator of the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy. “Each of our coaches who attended the session in Annapolis came home excited to share the program with our student-athletes. This will be a great way to kick off our fourth year of the Leadership Academy.”

The Student-Leader Seminar staff members facilitating the encounter are Dr. Christine Copper, USNA professor of chemistry as well as Navy’s institutional Faculty Athletics Representative; Dr. Jessica M. Mohler, USNA clinical and sport psychologist; and Dr. Joe Thomas, former director of the John A. Lejeune Leadership Institute who has studied, researched and taught leadership and ethics for more than 20 years all over the world.

“Joe, Jessica, and I are honored to have the opportunity to help Bucknell enhance the great leadership training that they are already providing to their student-athletes,” said Dr. Copper. “The eagerness of their staff to learn about our program and their willingness to help deliver it on their campus was impressive. We firmly believe that this program has made a positive impact on the midshipmen who have experienced it, and we expect that Bucknell will have similar results.”

In addition to Kelly and the four head coaches, other Bucknell participants included associate head men’s basketball coach Dane Fischer, assistant water polo coach Kyle Gorham, assistant rowing coach Heather Barney, assistant strength and conditioning coach Cassandra Baier, assistant director of recreation services Laurel Kopecki, assistant director of athletics development Terry Conrad, and manager of athletics development Meredith Cox. 

“The Leadership Seminar that we participated in at USNA was a terrific jump-start to some new initiatives for the upcoming academic year,” said Landis. “I think the group of professionals there from Bucknell represented a diverse mix of program leaders on our campus and the ideas and topics that were discussed will fit well into the type of program that we have on our own campus. The U.S. Military and Naval academies are unique environments. We are not trying to be either, but there are proven leadership models and ideals that we can emulate within our own athletic department and Leadership Academy that will benefit our Bison athletic programs.”

I am really excited about the potential positive impact this program will have on our student-athletes,” said Wirnsberger. “It is a fantastic program that will teach our student-athletes the type of leadership skills they can use during their time at Bucknell and for years to come in their personal and professional lives.”

The three main concepts of the program are Alignment, Vision and Execution. The “Alignment” concept considers loyalty to peers and loyalty to Bucknell, and how these loyalties can cause conflicts. It discusses how to negotiate conflicts by recognizing the difference between true ethical dilemmas and more simple moral dilemmas in which one is tempted to do what is known to be wrong. “Vision” challenges leaders to have a clear vision of what they desire their team to accomplish both on and off the field of play, and to define the necessary standards that will support this vision. “Execution” provides concrete advice on the actions leaders can take to effectively execute their responsibilities, to include creating a vision, communicating the vision, establishing relationships with key stakeholders, and maintaining accountability.

“My experience with the seminar was outstanding,” said Roussell. “Our student-athletes are extremely fortunate to be able to engage in leadership training from such a respected group of leaders. The entire department, and in turn the University, will benefit from this relationship. From my time in Annapolis, I left a better leader and I am excited for our athletes to gain the same experience.”

“To participate in a leadership program designed to train members of an institution that is primarily tasked with creating leaders is just a fantastic opportunity,” said Cook. “The course is incredibly well thought-out, and I think it will really resonate with our student-athletes.”

The Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy was launched in August 2011 with the goal of delivering programming and instruction that bridge theory, development and real experiences in an interactive learning environment. Through this endeavor, team leaders can enhance their impact on their teammates’ and their program’s performance immediately and for years to come. Leadership Academy programming has evolved and expanded throughout its first three years, and much more is planned in 2014-15.