BGSU’s student leaders sticking together

PLA cohort has a 100 percent retention rate for the first time

PLA-cohort

Front row (left to right): Ashley Jackson, Lariel Turner, Meg Burrell, Amy Holthaus, Jenn Poling, Kyla Lewis, Bria Johnson, Rylie Delbin, Sarah Buczkowski, Maddie Baumle
Back Row (left to right): Mark Rochester, Alan Hunt, Kyle Jumper-Smith, Lauren Parks,  Sam Hoesel, Joshua Moore, Avery Dowell, Jauntez Bates, Phil Zitko, Richie Racette

By Bob Cunningham

The Sidney A. Ribeau President’s Leadership Academy (PLA) was created to prepare Bowling Green State University students to lead with integrity and make meaningful contributions to society during their time at the University and in their professions and communities as alumni.

Each school year since fall 1998, the PLA has enrolled a cohort of 15 to 30 new students who learn servant-leadership. Every cohort has been encouraged to take on leadership roles across campus so they can share their experiences and cultivate their life-learning skills with other emerging campus leaders.

All of them have been exceptional, but the 2014 cohort has managed to do something none of the others has accomplished: It has 100 percent retention.

“Typically, we’re in the high 80s or low 90s, but it really depends on the year,” said Jacob Clemens, associate dean of students and director of the PLA. “There have been a few cohorts that only lost one person.  

“In PLA, one of the reasons our retention is so high is that we have such a strong network of support, regardless of academic background and academic preparedness coming in, that there are just a lot of resources and support for the students to do well. This cohort has been pretty committed to supporting each other throughout the entire process.”

The 2014 PLA cohort consists of Jauntez Bates, Madeline Baumle, Sarah Buczkowski, Meg Burrell, Riley Delben, Avery Dowell, Samuel Hoesl, Amy Holthaus, Alan Hunt, Ashley Jackson, Bria Johnson, Kyla Lewis, Joshua Moore, Lauren Parks, Jennifer Poling, Richie Racette, Mark Rochester, Kyle Jumper-Smith, Lariel Turner and Philip Zitko.  

The PLA has provided Holthaus with the resources to achieve her goals as a student and as a leader at BGSU.  

“The endless support I have received from the staff and other scholars has empowered me to make innovative decisions in the PLA as the community service coordinator for the program,” she said. “I have applied what I have learned about leadership in PLA to my student organizations and programs.  

“As a senior, I have come to understand that learning about leadership is easy, but applying it to real-life situations is not. Having such a unique experience to simultaneously learn about and practice leadership in college is one of the many reasons I am so grateful for the PLA.”

Baumle’s experience in the PLA has changed her life.

“When I first started my journey, I had no idea what being a true leader meant,” she said. “Since then, I have been taught the value of self-awareness, working with others and serving whatever community I am a part of. Over the past four years in PLA, I have been constantly challenged and encouraged to go outside of my comfort zone. I believe that this is what has made me into the person and leader that I am today.”  

One of the reasons the PLA has become such a strong campus institution is that it’s considered a national best-practice-for-leadership program.  

“It is really grounded in a strong theoretical framework, specifically around servant-leadership,” Clemens said. “This idea of the main purpose of leadership is serving others first and not for the self, which is very counter to our culture. While you can hold positions of power, the purpose of being in that leadership role is figuring out ways you can serve other people first. The idea of serving other people first is looking for opportunities where you can help other people grow and how you can support other people. In general, the PLA from Day 1 starts the summer bridge program with that mindset.”

Now in her fourth year of the program, Holthaus can appreciate the entire learning process.

“Learning from practical situations and receiving feedback from others about myself has instilled humility, respect for others and dedication in me,” she said. “I feel equipped with the skills to be successful in my career upon graduation from BGSU because the PLA has taught me that learning is a lifelong process. I know I will continue to learn about myself and how to work effectively with others over the course of my life. I am forever grateful for the experiences and lessons the PLA has taught me.”

The cohort, which is averaging about a cumulative 3.5 GPA, made a commitment to make positive decisions on and off campus, Clemens said.

“They really took to the idea of being a role model, so there’s no major conduct issues with the cohort,” he said. “I think they’re all committed to their individual success as well and reaching their full potential.”

Baumle believes the cohort has a 100 percent retention rate because the majority of them are goal-oriented students.  

“Our goal of 100 percent retention started at the end of our summer bridge program in 2014,” she said. “It continued to be a goal set by our cohort every single semester. There is also an emphasis on individual relationships, and I have built some of my closest relationships from my cohort and PLA. During these four years we have all had a tremendous amount of support from the staff, other cohort members and fellow scholars to make sure that we continued on our path for success.”  

PLA awardees receive a renewable scholarship up to the cost of in-state instructional (tuition) and general fees.