By Jordan Beach
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
Those were some of the words President John F. Kennedy was prepared to deliver on that infamous day in Dallas, Texas in 1963, and they ring true more than 50 years later.
While the he academic programs at Reinhardt University prepare students to enter their future career fields confidently with the education they receive from experienced professors, the Office of Student Affairs is complementing classroom learning with development of soft skills and leadership through a program launched last year.
RU Leads serves to develop students professionally and personally in order to help them transition from the classroom setting to the workplace, a program that demonstrates Reinhardt’s holistic approach to education.
Dean of Students Dr. Walter May believes students participating in RU Leads develop a better understanding of key soft skills because the program provides opportunities to learn and practice how they can complement existing skills.
“Many students are so focused on developing expertise in their field of study that they may neglect to realize how important it is to actively work on skills like teamwork, communication, time management and conflict resolution,” said May. “These skills are critical in the workplace and being able to demonstrate them can really help a student stand out in today’s competitive job market.”
PayScale conducted a survey revealing 60 percent of employers reporting that young employees aren’t prepared for the workplace due to insufficient critical thinking and soft skills. With hard skills often the focus in the classroom, the RU Leads program offers lessons on soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, social skills, communication skills, attitudes and teamwork and leadership abilities.
“At Reinhardt, we believe that soft skills training has a positive impact on workplace outcomes for our graduates, such as recruitment, retention, productivity and job satisfaction. Developing our student’s soft skills build their leadership capacity in a sustainable way,” said May.
Director of Vocation and Career Services Karen Mathews said the events – which included a fall conference, monthly workshops and an end-of-the-year etiquette dinner -- were created with all students in mind, but they can specifically enhance the leadership abilities of students in leadership positions on campus.
“The target audience was all students with a specific focus on student leaders, work-study students and any who desired to build their leadership acumen,” said Mathews.
Based on their research, RU Leads invited special guests, faculty and staff to explore a variety of topics critical to success in today’s workplace, such as developing grit, finding purpose, creating a healthy balance and networking.
RU Leads not only incorporates Reinhardt’s efforts to educate the whole person, it also carries out the goals of the Quality Enhancement Program, “Where in the World RU Going?,” which highlights High Impact Practices through internships, study abroad, service learning and research opportunities to give students real-world experience, strengthen their understanding of the world and provide them a good foundation for success.
“Learning about, as well as practicing and demonstrating, soft skills is important for more than just our students’ careers; it's important for succeeding in their everyday life,” May said.