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A Campus-Wide Framework for Student Leadership and Professional Development

Insights from an initiative to create a holistic academic and co-curricular school experience for students.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
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I recently graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering. Apart from my academics, I also had the opportunity to participate in several leadership positions on campus and work with some of Purdue's best student leaders and staff.

Through one of these leadership experiences, I had the pleasure of being mentored by Roger Stewart, a 30-year old retired professional at Proctor & Gamble Co. and now a student affairs specialist working with student organizations at Purdue.

Recently, Roger helped kickstart the Leadership and Professional Development Initiative (LDPI) and Leadership Experience at Purdue (LEAP). These initiatives are trying to create an approach to the college experience for students by making co-curricular involvement an integral part of the experience. Here are some ways through which Roger and his team are helping in defining this experience:

  1. Partnering with Gallup to provide free access to the Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment and Strengths resources in order to help students realize their strengths and create a roadmap for leadership and professional development for their time at Purdue, based on these strengths.
  2. Use the strengths to develop a Purdue-specific leadership development model driven by collected student data.
  3. Work with alumni and employers to obtain feedback on relevancy to current needs, and tailor the model to meet those needs.


Roger and his team are currently working on mapping competencies on leadership and professional development to campus activities including student organization involvement, academics and employment opportunities by establishing a database of these experiences and connected competencies.

Through this initiative, Roger and his team are evolving the campus experience to shift the dynamic from a predominantly academic focus to also include leadership and professional development.

For more information, visit this link.

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  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

Currently a 4-month old Design Engineer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, I have spent the past 6 years of my life at Purdue University, specializing in Decision Making, Product Design and Manufacturing.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

In a world where the education system promotes students to "fit in" and be rewarded for academic excellence, we need to revisit the importance of so-called "soft skills" and provide resources that give students the opportunity to take a more holistic approach towards education.

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Photo of Kate Rushton

HI Naman!

Thank you for an excellent post and for sharing the leadership program at Purdue. I really like the way the program connects with alumni and industry to help students acquire some of the skills needed in the workplace. 

It reminds me of these posts in the research phase:

Gavin Cosgrave  - What am I really paying for? - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research/what-am-i-really-paying-for/

Isaac Jumba  - Ashkoda Changemaker Schools - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research/ashoka-changemaker-schools

Sonia Doshi - African Leadership University - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/future-of-highered/research/african-leadership-university

Now that you have graduated, are there any other skills you wished you had learned while you were at University or any connections you wish you had made?

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Hi Kate!

Thank you for your kind words and for sharing those posts. It's exciting to see that there are multiple initiatives that are targeting a more holistic approach to education.

To answer your question, I think the biggest thing I can think of is that I felt a little unprepared for life after college, especially in terms of managing my finances but also making decisions about my future, developing my emotional intelligence and knowing how to connect with people.

A lot of those skills that I gained were because of personal initiatives to seek out guidance and participate in activities that helped me develop those skills, in addition to my academics. I wish that having these activities integrated into my curriculum would have made it easier for me to develop myself holistically earlier in my college life and reduce some of the effort spent in taking a trial and error approach to finding guidance.