By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Good grades, a polished resume, and the requisite degree aren’t the only things students need to land a great job after college. However, many college students don’t recognize until too late that employers also require demonstrated leadership qualities in those they hire.

For that reason, Professor Martha Garcia-Murillo took the lessons she and others were teaching face-to-face in a leadership seminar at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and turned them into an easily-digestible book, “Leadership and Culture.”

Published this fall, the book is now available on An accompanying teacher’s guide is underway, and course content is being formally field-tested this semester to gauge how the live-classroom teachings can be successfully translated into an online format. Dr. Garcia-Murillo has enlisted associates from Syracuse University’s psychology, sociology, and education departments to conduct research and surveys, and a control group is being used to assess the validity of moving the course online. Doing so would mean that the lessons could be brought to larger numbers of students, presented more frequently, and offered throughout the University and perhaps beyond, she said.

Demonstrating Leadership

While all students need to demonstrate leadership skills and experience to potential employers, the task is typically more daunting for international students, according to Dr. Garcia-Murillo. Many of them must overcome ingrained cultural mores that may prevent them from being more outgoing in the classroom, interacting more openly with their professors, and taking opportunities to lead in the college community, she said. That is why it is crucial for such students to get a good start understanding American culture and becoming active in the communities they inhabit from the start of their college years, she said. That situation also is why the course is designed to be a first-semester offering.  

Dr. Garcia-Murillo said the need for formalizing the teaching of leadership awareness grew from her years directing the iSchool's Telecommunications and Network Management program. She saw that “a lot of international students come here with the expectation that once they get a degree, they will get a job,” a situation that may not always match reality, she observed.

Getting Engaged

“Students really need to get engaged. By the end of the second year, you have to have your ducks lined up, be contributing to the classroom to the extent that the professor wants to help you, or have had the experience of volunteering or working in the community. “If you rely on just your friends and just your ethnic friends, it’s very difficult if your cohort is your only circle,” she noted.  

Assuming leadership positions and volunteer roles are signals that demonstrate leadership to employers and help students stand out among other job applicants, she said. However, the professor also tells students that while those types of opportunities differentiate them from others, students may have to work hard to attain and keep managing such achievements.

“We can’t just accept international students here and expect that they will figure things out and be happy. It really is a disservice, I believe, to not give them the support they need. “I want to help them get the courage they need to transform themselves a little, so at the end, they can be happier and academically, professionally, and personally successful,” the professor said.