LeaderShape 2020 Group Photo

Creating future leaders

Program gives CSE students leadership and communications skills

August 7, 2020

When employers are looking to hire scientists and engineers, it’s natural to think the most sought-after students are those with the best understanding of their field of study. However, when surveyed, employers consistently say they prefer those with leadership and communication skills in addition to strong technical skills.

This sought-after combination is why University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering students are in demand. They're taking advantage of learning opportunities outside their courses by participating in student groups, undergraduate research, and in LeaderShape Institute on the Twin Cities campus. 

Held annually for the last 15 years during winter break, this leadership training program—now sponsored by Polaris—has participants raving over the benefits of the six-day event.

“LeaderShape was an opportunity for me to learn more about myself and how I interact with others, how I perceive the world, what I’m really passionate about, and what’s important to me,” said Governess Simpson, a fourth-year industrial and systems engineering major and 3M Diversity Scholarship recipient.

Jesse Schewe, a junior majoring in Earth sciences, said his favorite part of the program was the diversity of students and range of backgrounds—in particular, meeting peers from the Carlson School of Management.

According to Susan Kubitschek, assistant dean for undergraduate programs and director of Collegiate Life, the decision to include students from both colleges in LeaderShape was made to replicate professional settings in the real world.

“STEM students and Carlson students don’t think they have a lot in common,” she said, “but when it comes to future workforce development, they will be working side by side.”

For Schewe, the LeaderShape workshops shaped his career path and allowed him to discover what it’s like to mentor or share his knowledge and experience with others.

“It helped me realize that I’m really interested in helping students transition into college,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been trying to find roles that will help with that, both in my College and University orientations.”

In January 2020, Polaris became the major sponsor of LeaderShape. The off-road vehicle manufacturer has a strong history of supporting student programs and activities at the University of Minnesota.

“Finding a corporate sponsor like Polaris is such a huge blessing for the college,” Kubitschek said. “Without a corporate sponsor, our college would never be able to host a program like this.”

Students are certainly thankful for the opportunity as well, as it provides an experience that’s different from their normal classroom studies.

“I’m very grateful that the school continues to fund it and that we’re able to get sponsors that continue to fund it,” Simpson said. “We physically have to engage with people. We have to practice our soft skills—our communication and collaboration skills. So it’s very important for us to get exposure [beyond our science and engineering field] for how that works and meet people who are different than us.”

While LeaderShape is optional for CSE students, past participants agree it was worth their time. More than 350 students have benefitted from its programming over the years. 

“I’d highly recommend it,” Schewe said. “Anyone that’s able to go should go.”

“It made me realize that whatever I want to do in my career I want to help people,” said Simpson. “I want to make an impact, I want to make a change, I want to shatter the status quo. It made me realize I have the resources to do it… I wish I would have done it sooner—definitely take advantage of it while you can.”

Story by Kathryn Richner

If you’d like to support students at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website