“The Centennial Center for Leadership sprung from the desire to permanently commemorate the William Smith Centennial and to better fulfill the Colleges’ mission,” says Director of the Salisbury Center for Career Services Bob Murphy. As part of the William Smith Centennial Capital Campaign, the building at 603 South Main Street is currently under renovation and, when finished, will house the new leadership center.
“After dozens of conversations with alumnae, it was clear that ‘leadership’ was an important hallmark of their William Smith experience,” says Assistant Vice President of the William Smith Centennial Mara O’Laughlin ’66, who is leading the fund raising effort in support of the Centennial.
The Center will foster the Colleges’ ability to “recruit, recognize and retain high-achieving students and position students to become more competitive for national fellowships, graduate school admissions, and professional opportunities,” according to the outlined goals of the Center. In commemoration of the William Smith Centennial, it will offer fellowships and scholarships to both men and women in the pursuit of academic excellence.
Overall, alumnae and alumni have contributed more than $16 million to the “Campaign for the Colleges,” $8 million of which is earmarked to establish and endow the Centennial Center for Leadership. To date, $6.2 million has been designated for this project. The lead gift from Trustee Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82 has been directed towards renovating the Center’s future home. Other funds will endow a program of leadership development as well as scholarships and fellowships.
A committee of faculty, staff and students, chaired by Murphy, is in the process of shaping the Leadership Development Program. “It’s a work in progress,” says Murphy. “It’s being shaped to be complementary to the Colleges’ mission: to prepare leaders for the 21st century.”
The committee is in the process of establishing a program that will create an umbrella for existing leadership initiatives. “Right now we’re doing great leadership activities all over campus,” Murphy explains. “We won’t interfere with any of these great programs but instead will expand them so that leadership development opportunities are available to all students.”
Over the summer, Murphy and Kirra Henick-Kling ’08 sought out credible models for leadership development within the HWS community, at 20 additional college and university campuses, and at the successful leadership program at the Kellogg Foundation. By the end of the summer, they had a list of 15 facets of a cohesive leadership program based on HWS community needs and the information compiled from research of the facilities and programs of other schools.
“The HWS leadership program will give students a competitive edge,” Henick-Kling says. “It will help us to succeed by improving public speaking, team dynamics and conflict management, which are important for every student, no matter what they’re field of study. And it will offer leadership opportunities to students who may not have them already.”
Although the renovations have only recently begun, the Center is expected to open on Nov. 8, 2008, as part of festivities across campus celebrating the Centennial.