What It Means To Be A Leader

Emerging Leader Program marks 10th anniversary of preparing best and brightest

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Matthew Scamardella '98, credits the Emerging Leader Program with helping him become editor of The Heights , while Scott Miniter '99, says it inspired him to awaken before dawn each day to row with the Boston College crew team.

Seniors Sarah Strong and Leigh Harlan say they might well have left BC as homesick freshmen were it not for ELP. They received the support and camaraderie they needed to excel on campus and in the community: Strong is manager of the O'Connell House student center, while Harlan is chairwoman of the Student Judicial Board.

Emerging Leader Program participants include, from left: Sarah Strong '98, Matthew Scamardella '98, Tom McGuiness '01, Assistant Dean for Student Development Mer Ursula Zovko, Leigh Harlan '98, Josh Kimber '01, Shannon McDermott '01, and Scott Miniter '99. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
For 10 years, ELP has prepared Boston College's best and brightest freshmen for leadership roles on campus and beyond. Every year, 50 selected students participate in the program to realize their leadership potential, foster interpersonal skills and explore the Jesuit ideal of "education for others." Current and former members like Strong and Scamardella praise the impact ELP has had on their lives and say it helped show them what it means to be a leader.

"To me, leadership is not a position someone holds, it's how to work with other people to achieve a certain goal," Strong said. "It's not the title you have, but how you go about your job that makes you a leader."

"The Emerging Leader Program encourages us to make that deeper commitment to an organization or club where our values will shine," Scamardella said.

Administrators say the program benefits more than its members.

"The influence of these students has a real magnifying effect on their roommates and friends," said Dean for Student Development Robert Sherwood. "In a quiet but very great way, the Emerging Leader Program has improved the quality of life on this campus."

"I think the world of ELP," said program director Mer Ursula Zovko, assistant dean for Student Development. "We've taken it a long way in its 10 years of existence here at BC, and I think we've still got more things to do in the upcoming years to really make it shine."

Zovko said more than 150 applications for ELP are received annually from incoming first-year students, who submit a series of essays designed to gauge their leadership qualities and experiences. The 50 freshmen chosen for the program arrive in late August for an orientation week that includes two days at a camp in New Hampshire, where they get to know each other while working on team-building and problem-solving activities.

The students are required to attend 12 meetings each semester and perform several hours per month of community service. Participants attend weekly workshops and activities led by administrators, faculty, Jesuits, special guests and specially trained student mentors. Although ELP members receive no credit for participating, the program's retention rate is 96 percent, according to Zovko.

Invited speakers focus on themes such as the building of leadership skills, social justice, and "leadership in action," Zovko said. Speakers have included Assoc. Prof. Fr. Michael Himes (Theology), author James Carroll, Holocaust survivor Sonia Weitz, WBZ-TV news anchor Liz Walker and Trustee Associate and former US Attorney Wayne Budd.

"The freshmen often tell us how fortunate they feel to have so much information at their fingertips, because so many of their friends who are not in the program are not nearly as well informed," said Zovko. "They receive the opportunity to become part of a very lively network of students and administrators who care about them as individuals and want to do anything they can to help them become integral, active, thoughtful and responsible leaders both in the BC community, as well as outside BC."

Program alumni have pursued a range of challenging careers across the globe. They include Tara McGrath '95, deputy advance director for the US Treasury Department; Sean Kennedy '90, president of a marketing consulting firm in Moscow; and Chad Soares '93, a London-based senior associate with the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand.

Among current initiatives, Zovko is working with the University's Fellowship Program to help freshmen compete for prestigious post-graduate study programs. Zovko said the program also is seeking greater faculty involvement, and encourages those interested to contact her at ext.2-3481, or by e-mail at zovko@bc.edu.

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