Hanging on Kapelski Learning Center is a daily reminder that courage and leadership are contagious.
When Gabrielle Gehron, a biomedical engineering student, strolls past the Kapelski Learning Center academic building, she glances at the banner strung high across the brick façade.
It’s her daily reminder that leadership is not just a concept learned in a Widener University classroom, but a characteristic that can shape her entire life.
“We are surrounded by so many messages – social media, advertising – so it is nice to have a more positive and purposeful message on campus,” Gehron said.
Now a fixture of the campus aesthetic, the banners challenge students to think about the qualities of a leader. It’s a message that resonates loudly for all Widener students, especially those that undertake the leadership certificate or minor in the university’s Oskin Leadership Institute.
The idea for the banners began with Dr. Arthur Schwartz, director of the institute, in response to a growing body of research on the effect of posters and slogans as ethical reminders. “I wanted to have students think about leadership in ways that are not classroom-based,” Schwartz said. “The banner speaks to everyone across campus.”
The inaugural banner, displayed almost three years ago, featured a picture of Malala Yousafzai, a 20-year-old Pakistani activist who was the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, and the question ‘What makes Malala a leader?’ Since then, Widener students and graduates have designed four more banners, all with similar themes.
The latest – a female silhouette filled with the words ‘Are you standing up for what you believe in?’ – was created by Ian MacGregor, a 2013 graduate and graphic designer.
MacGregor said he initially majored in engineering at Widener, but switched to communication studies after his professor saw his notebook doodles and encouraged him to take graphic design courses.
“When students enter college, they are trying to find themselves and find out what they want to do in life,” he said. “As they go through the process, they are faced with the question of ‘What are you going to stand up for?’”
Boyd McCoy, an accounting and finance sophomore, said the messages behind the banners are working. Each week, when he walks out of his philosophy class in Kapelski, he connects the lessons he learned in the classroom to what is happening in his own life.
“On the days you are really struggling, it’s a great reminder,” McCoy said.