LEWISBURG, Pa. – The newly rebranded Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute is off and running in 2016-17, as nearly 120 “aspiring” and “principal” student-athlete leaders gathered Saturday for a kickoff luncheon and an experiential learning session on campus.
Bucknell University President John Bravman and Dr. Joe Thomas of The Student-Leader Seminar were featured speakers at the luncheon, held in Larison Hall on campus. President Bravman outlined his four principal aspects of leadership: people, money, space and time. He delved deeper into the personal characteristics that are required of good leaders: integrity, judgment and fortitude.
Thomas has been a regular contributor to the Leadership Institute over the last three years, and he addressed the student-athletes and head coaches on prioritization when you have “limited bandwidth,” i.e. the many different time demands of being a Division I student-athlete at a high-level academic school.
Thomas noted that there are many ways to think about leadership, but he stressed that student leaders should align their goals with what the university and their teams demand of them.
Thomas, who is a retired Marine Lt. Colonel and the U.S. Naval Academy Class of ’61 Chair and Distinguished Professor of Leadership Education, among other distinguished leadership positions, also met in separate sessions with the Leadership Institute’s aspiring and principal leaders. Principal leaders include team captains and/or experienced leaders of a team, while aspiring leaders are typically underclassmen.
Thomas and Steve Robbins, another retired Marine who specializes in leadership development, challenged the Bison student-athletes with a “Survival at Sea” outdoor experiential exercise.
The student-athletes were separated into five-person “life rafts” and had to accomplish specific tasks: catching food, sending an emergency signal, administering first aid, decoding and delivering an emergency transmission, and finally arriving safely at Survival Island. The participants had to accomplish the tasks with one hand on the life raft at all times, requiring plenty of teamwork to get through them.
At the debrief following the exercise, Thomas said that individuals can absorb a lot about their leadership styles, even from a simple and fun activity. “How do you show up?” Thomas asked, meaning that much can be learned from the manner in which a person attacks certain activities.
Supported by a generous gift from Hall-of-Famer and Bucknell trustee emeritus William Dearstyne ’62, the rebranded Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute will involve more student-athletes than ever this year, and it will also offer additional development opportunities for coaches and staff.
Lauren Cavallaro, who came to Bucknell last spring as the first full-time director of the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute, was pleased to kick off the program’s sixth year and looks forward to the expanded curriculum this year.
“We are excited to grow and continue this incredible leadership movement from our coaches, staff and student-athletes,” said Cavallaro, who was particularly eager to integrate the first and second-year aspiring leaders into the program. “Including aspiring leaders is a way for our coaches to ask, ‘who are my future leaders and what does that look like?’”
“The generous endowment from Mr. Dearstyne is going to take this to another level,” said Thomas. “It’s been a phenomenal program over the last few years, and I have been very fortunate and blessed to be part of it. With the vision that’s been articulated, this is really a nation-leading program in its intent and the direction it’s going.”
Leadership Institute programming will continue throughout the year, with staff development exercises on tap later this week.