Leadership Institute

The Leadership Institute is an interdisciplinary program at Washburn which offers students both academic and co-curricular opportunities to learn and develop leadership skills. The mission of the LI is to further develop students into ethical and intentional leaders who value diversity and are prepared to immediately exercise effective leadership in today’s changing society. We do this by cultivating the study of leadership and facilitating transformational learning experiences for students designed to challenge, motivate and inspire. 


Our vision is to establish an innovative platform for leadership education that is recognized as a pioneering model for leadership development. Over the last decade, students in the LI have develop some one-of-a-kind programs which allow students to fully immerse themselves in leadership as they seek to empower others to recognize their own leadership potential. The following programs are unique to the Washburn University Leadership Institute and have proven to provide transformational learning for the students involved. Your gift to the Leadership Institute can help fund these important endeavors.

Leadership Challenge Event

Established in 2011, the Leadership Challenge Event is an annual two-day leadership competition which provides high school and college students an opportunity to participate in an organized competition around leadership. The LCE simulates the real-world process of leadership through the two-day event and includes live, interactive role plays, individual task completion and group decision-making. The program develops leadership capacity in student participants through hands-on experience while recognizing exemplary leadership performance in a competitive environment. The 10th LCE will be held on March 5-6, 2020, and will engage 225 college and high school students from across the region, along with over 200 campus and community volunteers. The LI relies heavily on the Topeka community to assist with volunteer and sponsorship needs in order to make this event possible. 

High School Leadership Academy

The High School Leadership Academy is a week-long summer leadership experience for Shawnee County students, specifically. The program focuses on developing adaptive leadership skills in high school juniors while encouraging participants to explore and make progress on tough community challenges. Throughout the week-long program, students explore Topeka and visit with representatives from government, business, health, education, public safety and the arts in order to enhance their awareness of their community and better understand how they can create positive change right now. While initially supported by a three-year grant from the Topeka Community Foundation, HSLA is in need of long-term funding in order to remain a sustainable leadership opportunity to high school youth.

Leadership Learning Community

The Leadership Learning Community provides a space for first-year students interested in connecting with peers and enhancing leadership skills to live in the same wing of the Living Learning Center. These students enroll in the same section of LE100: Exploring Concepts of Leadership and have exclusive opportunities to engage with campus and community leaders, attend leadership programs and workshops, and receive one-on-mentoring with an upper-class leadership student. The most significant outcome of this program is the community built among first-year students, designed to help students understand their own leadership capacity while providing a trusted peer support system with students who have similar interests. Additional program funding could enhance leadership programming opportunities for participants, including opportunities to bring in outside speakers and provide leadership-centered workshops and skill-building sessions and enhanced team-building experiences. 

Conference Attendance and Competitions

Each year, the LI sends students to a variety of leadership conferences offered by colleges, universities or professional organizations across the globe in an effort to provide diverse leadership training and networking opportunities. One such conference experience is participation in the International Leadership Association global conference and Student Case Competition. Each year, 4-5 LI students travel to the ILA conference to compete in the Student Case Competition, where they showcase their analysis of a complex, global issue and apply leadership theory to recommendations for how to make progress around the issue selected. Students prepare a policy brief in advance of the trip, then develop a poster and presentation for the first round of the competition. Three teams from the undergraduate division advance to the final round, which requires competitors to expand on their recommendations by applying content covered in various sessions at the conference. Washburn students have competed in this competition since 2013, winning the competition in 2013, 2014 and 2019 and taking second place in 2018. Financial support for conference travel will allow the LI to continue sending Washburn students to this prestigious competition and conference in the future, as the conference rotates between being held in the U.S. and abroad. The 2020 ILA conference will be held in San Francisco, California, while the 2021 conference is scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Leadership Institute Match
The Board of Trustees will match gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $1,000 to the Leadership Institute Program Fund.
$1,000 MATCHED
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