WOLFVILLE, N.S. - Acadia University consistently offers students opportunities to get involved in their community, and because of this culture of engagement, students have successfully graduated as more confident leaders than they were when they arrived. One of these opportunities for engagement is "Developing Leadership" - an elective in the School of Kinesiology where students explore Leadership in sport, business, and a multitude of disciplines and future professional opportunities. Kevin Dickie, Executive Director of Athletics and Community Events at Acadia leads this course, and his aim is to make Acadia one of the best leadership hubs for post-secondary students in Canada.
When developing the curriculum for the course, Dickie said his most important thought was "what are the things that we think our students should know to develop leadership while at Acadia and to propel them into the real world?" To answer this question, students participate in class discussions, hear from guest speakers, gain hands-on practical experience, and receive constant feedback from both peers and professor in order to prepare them for life outside of the Acadia classroom.
Skye Forcier, third year student and Axewomen Rugby player, said "this class gave me a lot more confidence in my own abilities and we did a lot of goal setting which was really helpful. Heading towards a national championship [with the Axewomen], I realized a lot about culture and how much it can influence a season - it is everything".
The curriculum for this course was developed using leadership lessons Dickie has gained from his own personal experiences and professional development opportunities. When Kevin was in university, he was always enthralled with leadership, which eventually led to leadership opportunities as a teacher, coach and athletic director. While many of Dickie's leadership experiences relate to Sport and Athletics, he is working to build a course that applies to students from all disciplines, and to both athletes and non-athletes alike. He recognized that since leadership is a varied and constantly changing discipline, he has to keep learning and has to evolve. Students are reaping the benefits because the curriculum truly is self-made, and is constantly evolving to satisfy what students need most.
This year, Kevin added career prep to the course. The class is discussing how to pursue a passion, and is working with EnPoint, out of Halifax, to learn about modern ways to be able to network, cultivate relationships from networking, and how to separate yourself from the pack. As well, students are able to learn from the tremendous guest speakers Dickie invites into the class. They are all leaders in their own fields and they come to the class excited to share their knowledge with the next generation of leaders
Sam Laewen, a student this past year, mentioned "learning about leadership is such a subjective process and everyone is different and provides different personalities and different kinds of leadership to the group. It was a very cooperative class that can be applied in all areas of your life."
Laewen praised this class, and highlighted the impact it will have on his future saying, "this will definitely help me professionally, because as a better leader, I am more comfortable and better equipped to make myself more appealing to businesses and schools. It has reinforced the idea that there is always room to improve myself and to do that I have to be constantly critically thinking about who I really am and what my underlying values are. In this process, it has helped me acknowledge and accept some of my flaws, as well as be humble in the areas where I might excel."
This class offers students an opportunity to realize that even in the realm of leadership, trying new things is encouraged and failure is acceptable. As Dickie explains, "one thing they learn the most is gained confidence including in the area of leadership by understanding that everyone fails at it and lacks confidence at times."
It is courses like these that truly change a student's view on their future and their potential contribution to society. With this additional contribution to the leadership culture at Acadia University, we can only imagine where our next group of graduates will go, with many of them as stronger leaders.