"It's a not-for-credit, voluntary program to grow leadership abilities," says Jerry Peters, committee chair and a member of the Purdue Agriculture faculty group that began the program.
"It is assumed that each student will come into the program with different leadership experiences, abilities, interests, and levels of development," says Peters, who is a professor of agricultural education. "Some of the students have been leaders in high school and are leaders here on campus. Some may not see themselves as leaders. This program is intended to be flexible and to accommodate their own goals in leadership, starting with where they are and growing in the direction that fits their interests."
Prof heads 5,000-member group
Purdue Agriculture students have plenty of role models when deciding to take on such leadership initiatives — faculty and administrators go above and beyond the norm to take on leadership roles.
"Holding leadership positions brings recognition back to the academic departments and Purdue," says Ray Martyn, the president-elect of the American Phytopathological Society, the largest plant pathology society in the world, with 5,000 members.
"Having this leadership position brings visibility to Purdue not only with the society members, but also with other organizations and disciplines within plant pathology," Martyn says.
He says he took on this role because of the society's history of being innovative in education, a legacy he wishes to continue. He acknowledges that it's a very time-demanding position. He is also the program chair for the society's annual meeting in San Diego.
"As part of my position, I also act as a liaison to other societies. We also take on some initiatives in Washington, D.C., with agriculture and funding issues. There's a lot of travel involved," Martyn says.
He says he is particularly looking forward to serving as president of the society next year.
"It's the society's centennial," he says. "It will be a real honor to have the distinction of being the society president during that time."
Prof to lead ag econ group
Obligations with a professional society may mean that a faculty member spends more time away from campus, but Otto Doering says the long-term rewards are worth it. Doering, an agricultural economics professor, will become president of the American Agricultural Economics Association in July.
AAEA is the largest group of agricultural economists nationwide, with about 2,500 members, including some international membership.
"It's increasingly more difficult to get volunteers willing to take on the pressure and time demands," Doering says. "Purdue will get a lot less of my time, but my position reflects positively on the university. It puts me and the university in the center of a whole set of professional activities all across the country."
Doering says the time demands of his position are a lot more than they would be normally. "Professional associations go through cycles. Right now, AAEA is making changes in the way the association is run, and I'm fortunate, or unfortunate, to be in the middle," he says.
Dean heads a group, too
Woodson is in a similar position. Appointed dean of Purdue Agriculture in November 2004, he also is president of the American Society for Horticultural Science.
"When I was asked to serve, I could not say no," Woodson says. "As a professional horticultural scientist, I wanted to give back to the scientific organization that has meant so much to my career."
He adds that scientific societies provide a mechanism for people to network, share ideas, and grow as professionals.
The American Society for Horticultural Science has members from more than 50 countries and represents the scientific interests of the profession. Woodson says Purdue, as a leader in agriculture and horticulture, benefits from the visibility associated with having members from Purdue in leadership positions. This translates to improved recruitment of undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctorates, and faculty.
"I'm happy to give back," Woodson says, noting that it is a bit of a time demand, given his other responsibilities. "Professional organizations only prosper when people are willing to give of themselves through their time and energy."
Assistant dean leads diversity center
Involvement in professional societies is not the only area in Purdue Agriculture where faculty and administration serve as leadership role models for students. Students have exposure to on-campus programs that are breaking new ground, such as the National Extension Diversity Center.
Pamala Morris, assistant dean of agriculture and director of diversity programs, was appointed director of the center in 2006.
"My position is an opportunity for Purdue to have national recognition and to reach out and broaden the focus to include Extension, but also to reach out and encompass teaching and research as well," says Morris. She is a former elementary school teacher in Indianapolis and, most recently, assistant professor in Purdue's Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education.
She says her passion was for diversity, and she felt that taking on her role would be an opportunity to make Purdue Agriculture more visible as a leader in the diversity field.
Morris says she hopes that when people think diversity, they'll think of Purdue as providing cutting-edge information: "We want students and faculty to see the effort made to foster and value diversity and pique people's interest in coming here."
The National Extension Diversity Center was created in 1992. Morris has been involved with the center for almost 12 years, and she plans to stay involved for years to come.
That's the kind of commitment Woodson wants to see throughout Purdue Agriculture.
"Students come to the College of Agriculture with leadership characteristics they may have started to develop in 4-H or FFA. And, certainly, we look for new faculty and staff who exhibit those same outstanding qualities," Woodson says.
"But it is up to us as a college to nurture those leadership skills, to ensure that our students, faculty and staff are leaders for a lifetime."
Contact Woodson at email@example.com