LEWISBURG, Pa. – First-semester programming for the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy wrapped up this week with a seminar entitled “Leadership Skills for Student-Athletes: Cross-Cultural Competence”. The session was moderated by a pair of industry leaders with several decades of experience in the area of leadership development: Dr. Joe Thomas, a consultant from The Student-Leader Seminar [full bio], and Dr. Angela Cyrus, a leadership expert and the president of The Cyrus Group [full bio].

The purpose of the seminar was to engage in some tough conversations with which Bison student-athlete leaders might be confronted, whether it is with their teams, within the campus community at large, or in their personal or professional spheres. When challenged by issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., it is incumbent on leaders to facilitate those tough conversations.

Cross-cultural competence refers to a leader’s ability to understand people from different cultures and engage with them effectively. Having cross-cultural competence means that a leader can effectively interact with people from most any culture. 

In that regard, the student-athletes in the Leadership Academy were presented with two difficult case studies, one pertaining to a homophobic teammate and another to a teammate who used a racial slur. The student-athletes broke into small groups and discussed how they should deal with those situations using the “assess-decide-act” model.

“There is not a single better leadership laboratory than college athletics,” said Dr. Thomas, who has worked with the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy on a number of different topics over the last two years.

“Having these conversations with your teammates can be one of the most impactful things you do for Bucknell,” Dr. Cyrus told the Bison student-athletes.

Nick Geissler, a senior on the Bucknell men’s golf team, said that the latest Leadership Academy session was extremely productive.

“This event focused on how team leaders can help foster productive discussion on hot-button issues such as race and sexuality, among other cross-cultural issues,” said Geissler. “Everything we discussed touched on leadership and how to handle the responsibility that comes with addressing difficult subjects like these. We discussed two hypothetical situations that involved offensive comments regarding someone’s race or sexuality. Overall, the discussion was productive, and the guest presenters were very informative and helpful to the discussion.”

"The Leadership Academy seminar made me think a lot about myself and how I show leadership," said Amy Mucelli of the Bison field hockey team. "Throughout our meeting the main points were revolved around the topic of cultural differences and ways to cope with them. The first thing we did was to define the qualities of being an effective leader and we came up with confidence, consistency, empathy and compassion. We discussed how individuals are affected by their families and the type of environment they grew up in. There are going to be difficult people and situations that arise on your team and if you are a leader, you are supposed to be able to deal with them. We talked through some examples of uncomfortable situations, which helped to realize that there is not an exact way you should act. There are different perspectives for each situation and different people will handle them a certain way."

Year No. 5 of Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy programming will continue nest semester. The offerings will include a follow-up to this week’s seminar on tough conversations, a session facilitated by seniors to discuss lessons learned during their four years as a Bison student-athlete and leader, and much more related to the subject of leadership.