New OSU program grooms students to become top-notch workers

November 10, 2011
Velez and Griffin
Professor Jonathan Velez (left) and student Tom Griffin during a new OSU Leadership Academy seminar. (Photo by Rachel Beck.)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new program at Oregon State University aims to help agricultural sciences and forestry students succeed in the workplace – and show employers that these OSU graduates are top-notch employees.

The program, called Leadership Academy, got under way this term with 10 students. Over the course of the year, participants will sharpen their ability to lead, think critically, communicate and work in a team.

"We heard feedback from employers that our graduates have impeccable technical skills, but that most job-seekers would benefit from additional development in these soft-skill areas," said Kellie Strawn, the director of the academy, which is run by the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Participants, who are selected after submitting an application and being interviewed, must meet regularly with a faculty mentor, develop personal goals, hold leadership roles on campus and in the community, and attend a biweekly campus seminar. They do not receive credit for participating in the academy but they do receive a small stipend. The program is only for students in the Agricultural Sciences and Forestry colleges.

"If employers want a well-rounded student who can come into a company and make an immediate impact, one who understands the importance of personal skills, communication, critical thinking and teamwork, then they need to go after Leadership Academy students," said Jonathan Velez, who teaches the seminar and holds the newly endowed Terence Bradshaw Leadership Academy Professorship.

The academy's hallmark is the one-on-one mentoring component, Velez said. It was the main draw for Tom Griffin, an environmental and economic policy major who plans to attend law school next year. His mentor is Sonny Ramaswamy, the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

"The opportunity to network with a faculty member is going to help tremendously with making industry connections," said Griffin, who will intern for a congressman winter term.

The program is funded by an endowment from Terence Bradshaw and contributions from individuals and businesses.

Velez hopes to double the number of academy students next year and eventually offer it to 50 to 60 students a year.

Author: Rachel Beck
Source: Kellie Strawn, Jonathan Velez, Tom Griffin, Sonny Ramaswamy