Skip to main content

UW-Madison certificate program focuses on leadership development

February 27, 2007 By Ariane Strombom

The University of Wisconsin–Madison offers students a novel way to document their leadership experience on campus for future job and graduate school applications.

Through encouraging the articulation of a distinction between what students achieved in different leadership positions and the skills students gained from those experiences, the Leadership Certificate Program, directed through the Student Organization Office (SOO), helps students understand how their own leadership styles have developed and prompts them to further cultivate their skills.

The Leadership Certificate Program started because “employers always tell us that students can’t articulate what they learned and instead tell the companies what they did” in their past positions, says Renee Alfano, student services coordinator for SOO. “The idea of the program was to have (their skills) articulated already and to encourage students to diversify their involvement in the university.”

To apply for the Leadership Certificate, a currently enrolled UW–Madison student must be actively involved in the university community, have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or above, be able to document 100 hours of education and experience focused on leadership development and complete three online modules that are offered through the SOO.

Alfano says that the three modules are “skill-based Web sites” focusing on emotional intelligence, leadership and values, program planning and conflict resolution, among other topics. This is an important part of the process, as it helps students to continue their leadership development for life, beyond just volunteering or working with a student organization.

Alfano encourages students to take advantage of the diversity of leadership that the Leadership Certificate Program offers through its courses, saying that she hopes to help “redefine the definition of civic engagement to make it more inclusive” at UW–Madison.

Alfano notes that the certificate is available to all UW–Madison undergraduate or graduate students, but the SOO is also working with other departments and schools to modify the Leadership Certificate Program for different disciplines and to fit changing demands on students’ schedules.

Both the School of Human Ecology and the School of Business have expressed interest and have started integrating the program into their respective leadership initiatives. Additionally, the School of Medicine and Public Health is working to innovate around the Leadership Certificate Program’s structure to better accommodate their own interested students.

“The applications tell the departments a lot about who their students are outside of the classroom,” says Alfano.

Katie Rowley, a senior studying communication arts and political science, was recently awarded her Leadership Certificate. She decided to participate in the program because she “felt it was a wonderful capstone to the many leadership experiences I have had throughout my four years at this university.”

“Without the Leadership Certificate Program, I would have never taken the time to truly consider the positive changes I have contributed to campus and to the Madison community,” says Rowley.

Says Alfano, “As a society, we don’t do a lot to cultivate active leadership. We just put it out there. This is one way to encourage leadership development and recognize students who are working towards it.”

In the two years since the program was established, about three dozen students have completed the program, and more than 200 are currently in the application process.