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Presidential Leadership Academy
Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA) is a weeklong program designed to empower JMU campus leaders, especially those who take on the title of ‘President’ of student organizations. PLA endorses nominated individuals from student organizations by giving them the chance to learn about different leadership styles and roles while also expanding their personal perspectives on leadership.
Student Coordinator of the 2012 PLA senior, Stephanie Strickland, speaks highly of her two experiences with PLA: “It is undeniable that PLA empowers you to be the best leader and person you can be. No student leaves the week unsure of themselves at this point because the academy gives you the tools, resources, and support network to let you know you are capable of accomplishing anything.”
It is an honor to be invited to attend PLA because students are chosen based on the influence that their organizations have on JMU and the surrounding community.
Another asset that students gain from PLA is a sense of community among university-wide student organizations, which comes from enhancing their support networks and gaining knowledge of other organizations. “There is so much that students take away from PLA, but I think there are two reoccurring themes of the week. The first one is that you are never alone…Another theme that students take away from this week is to be fearless of whatever comes your way and be confident in who you are,” notes Strickland.
PLA creates an environment for students to expand in their abilities to mentor younger members in their organization and to recognize the impact they have upon others. A typical day at PLA is based upon a theme, such as ‘Community and Leading with Integrity.’ Guided by the day’s theme, facilitators coordinate daily activities and organize participants into small groups that are led by faculty, staff, or graduate students. Facilitators work to catalyze the relationship between the PLA learning community and small groups.
A plethora of activities are offered at PLA, each designed to enhance student’s leadership skills. Strickland describes one of her with zest, “I love our restorative justice/circle talks. It's super effective in having people's voices heard, but I love it so much because it forces you to truly listen to what others say since only the person with the "talking piece" is allowed to speak. People don't realize how hard it is to listen but I am definitely more aware of how important it is because of this activity.”
Housing and meals for the week are provided. Additionally, a different office on campus hosts each meal during the week. These meals provide further networking opportunities for participants by giving them access to the resources each office offers. Faculty and staff also enjoy hearing the thoughts and insights that students have regarding the offices’ services and resources.
Strickland is not the only one who thinks the world of PLA. She recalls the atmosphere at the event’s conclusion: “PLA usually brings participants together and they become really close by the end of the week…No one wanted to leave the academy on the last day once we were done with everything. We even took up time by having a huge group of participants do the "wobble" dance. It was hilarious.”
You can find pictures from the 2013 PLA on the University Unions Flickr photostream at http://flic.kr/s/aHsjF1i4QJ.