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Defining Leadership A Question and Answer Session with Dr. Arthur Schwartz

Dr. Arthur Schwartz seized the reins last fall as the founding executive director of the new Oskin Leadership Institute. Formerly a senior scholar for the Center for Character and Leadership Development at the United States Air Force Academy and a senior executive for the John Templeton Foundation, Schwartz has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and served as a director of dropout prevention programs for the School District of Philadelphia, an effort that resulted in recognition at a White House ceremony in 1991. He is interviewed here by Sam Starnes, editor of Widener Magazine.

Dr. Arthur SchwartzWith our campaign Widener Leadership Works, Widener has become more widely known as a university committed to developing leaders. What do we mean when we say "leadership"?

Leadership is conviction in action. It starts with passion and the courage to say, "This is how I want to make the world a better place."

How is leadership different from management?

Leadership is not simply holding a position of authority. If you believe in something, you can live into that conviction whether you are in a position of leadership or not.

How is the Oskin Leadership Institute unique?

To my knowledge there is no undergraduate college or university that is intentional in its effort to make leadership a core attribute of an undergraduate education. When a Widener student graduates he or she will understand what it means to be a leader and will possess the qualities, the habits of mind, the habits of action, and the integrity required of leadership. We will develop a common language to talk about leadership, and students will understand the courage, character, and competencies required of leaders. We have the potential to lead the country's colleges and universities, to be a pacesetter.

The institute began with a $5 million gift from Pennsylvania Military College alumnus David Oskin and his wife, JoEllen, and their son, the late David Oskin Jr. How will the institute function within the university?

The Oskin Leadership Institute serves all the schools, all the centers, all the colleges, and every student—undergraduate and graduate. We are drawing on a long tradition of leadership at Widener going back to the Pennsylvania Military College days when leadership was in the air. It was infused in everything that the PMC cadet did. It's that spirit—that comprehensiveness—that we are trying to live into.

University trustee Richard Tan recently committed $1 million to the Oskin Leadership Institute to expand partnerships with universities in China. What will this mean for students?

We often grow most when we are outside of our comfort zone. The Tan gift will provide opportunities for Chinese students and our students to get outside of their comfort zones. That's the vision—to challenge our students to understand and practice the global competencies they will need in the global marketplace.

What will be the long-term impact of the Oskin Leadership Institute?

We will offer each Widener student a leadership toolbox that they will be able to carry around with them no matter where they go or what they do. They will grasp that leadership is not limited to a particular situation or job responsibility.

How does the Oskin Leadership Institute fit into Widener's mission?

If you view Widener as a three-legged stool, two legs of the stool are very well established: The benefits of a liberal arts education and the university's commitment to civic engagement and service learning. Leadership is the third leg of the stool. Through inspiring our students to lead, to put their convictions into action, the Oskin Leadership Institute is continuing Widener's long and noble tradition of developing leaders who will affect positive change throughout the world.



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