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Training program aims to turn students into lifelong leaders

Students at the School of Information Studies benefit from academic programs rich in technology and management skills. But between learning to create databases and install wireless hotspots, they often have little time left over to focus specifically on leadership. That's where the Black and Latino Information Studies Support (BLISTS) Leadership Training program comes in.

Initiated by Martha Garcia-Murillo, a professor at the School of Information Studies, the 8-week seminar is designed to teach students leadership essentials including communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and motivation. The program began last spring, when the first group of fellows completed the course. A second group was chosen this fall, and Garcia-Murillo plans to conduct the leadership training program every fall. Most of our classes are content-based and leave little time to provide individuals some leadership skills, she says. This program gives the students an opportunity to get specific suggestions on how to build their leadership skills.
Students are selected for the program based on three criteria. First, they fill out an application detailing their background and leadership experience. Then, they complete a leadership assessment test. Finally, they participate in a series of hands-on team activities. Assessments from each part of the application process are compared, and students with the highest overall scores are chosen.
The program begins with four weeks of general leadership education taught by an ROTC officer. Each of these introductory weeks also includes a hands-on leadership activity, such as working together to build towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti. The second half of the course features invited guest speakers who talk about leadership topics. This year, the students heard from Liz Liddy, a School of Information Studies professor who heads the Center for Natural Language Processing, and two executives from General Electric.
Each group of fellows is presented with a major leadership challenge at the end of the program. This year, the fellows worked on the creation of recycled goods using Syracuse's surplus of out-of-date computer parts. The fellows have submitted their ideas to the mtvU-GE Ecomagination Challenge, a contest that rewards students for coming up projects to make their campuses greener places. It's very important for students to be involved in environmentally friendly projects because computer waste is really hurting the environment, says Miriam Haile G'08, a student in the information management program. Many computers are shipped to developing nations to be turned into waste. With environmentally friendly projects, everyone can participate and reduce the waste that is occurring.
The goal of the program is to get students thinking about the role of leadership in their long-term plans. I hope that by giving them specific suggestions about leadership, we will increase the probability that they will reach leadership positions in their professional careers, Garcia-Murillo says. I also hope the fellows return to the University as alumni to talk to future fellows. Garcia-Murillo is planning what she calls a mentoring/goal-setting reunion that will coincide with the BLISTS alumni conference in spring. It will be a chance for former fellows to meet one another and foster their growth as leaders.
BLISTS is a student-run organization that seeks to educate the Syracuse University student body as well as the surrounding community about the information sciences. Within those realms, the group provides computer literacy support, builds networks (corporate, alumni, and internal), and develops the personal and interpersonal skills of its members.
The third BLISTS Leadership Training Program will be held in fall 2007. It will be open to all Syracuse University students. An information session will be announced at a later date. For more information, contact Martha Garcia-Murillo at

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