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FHSU students earn first place in leadership challenge

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

A Fort Hays State University leadership studies team brought home the gold when team members showcased their collaborative skills at Washburn University's Leadership Challenge Event.

Five leadership studies students competed in the event, now in its second year, March 30, winning first in the collegiate division. In addition, six other college teams and a high school division participated in the weekend's conference and challenge event sponsored by the Washburn Leadership Institute.

The leadership challenge, which simulated a real-world organizational crisis, tested students' collaborative and communication skills in a "time-sensitive, kind of hit-the-ground running kind of way," said Brett Whitaker, faculty adviser.

Team members Laura Dougherty, Colby senior; Jason Dreiling, Great Bend senior; Jill Moeder, Hays senior; Tyson Miller, Colby junior; and Levi Unruh, Hays junior; each represented a hypothetical school district, each with a specific job description and title.

"It was like a typical day at the office," said John Montgomery, faculty adviser. "A typical day when a crisis occurs."

The crisis simulation, which entailed discovery of a $6 million embezzlement from a $10 million budget, unfolded during an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day.

"As different organizations, we had to work with each other and decide which programs were most important," Dougherty said. "And decide how to most effectively use the money that we now had in deciding what programs to keep and modify."

Students had no advance notice of what crisis they would face during the simulation and met with challenges such as emails, meetings and concerned parents and community members, role-played by volunteers.

"The student teams were judged not necessarily on the recommendations they came up with, but their ability to process through it and use collaborative processes and work with other entities and come up with quality solutions that solved bigger problems than just their individual project," Whitaker said.

Throughout the day, students were faced with individual and team scenarios, culminating with a presentation of their comprehensive plan, including their findings and recommendations. All events and activities throughout the day were evaluated by a team of judges.

Montgomery said he was pleased with the opportunity for students to display their talents and represent FHSU in a positive way.

"The application is huge, being able to take the classroom experience and apply it," he said. "That's what makes it unique and important."