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  Leadership in Action: Coached Leadership Practicum

—by John Rivera

When the Department of Business and Economics was seeking seasoned professionals to coach its students in the art of leadership, it had to look no further than the roster of alumnae and alumni.

Leadership in ActionThe result is a new program that pairs graduate students in the Leadership and Management and Nonprofit Management programs with professionals in the business community who volunteer to act as leadership coaches. During the Leadership in Action: Coached Leadership Practicum, the students will lead a project in their workplaces or communities while volunteer coaches. While the projects are expected to have a positive impact on their targeted groups, students will receive the “learning by doing” practical benefit that is expected to greatly enhance their leadership development.

“The coaches bring their experience to bear for the students as they encounter obstacles and problems in the execution of their leadership project,” says John Pollard, a long-time associate faculty member who directs the program. “It’s not their job to tell students what to do, but to encourage, assist, ask questions about, ‘Well, you have this problem, what are you going to do about it, what options are you considering?’”

The nine coaches trained so far come from diverse backgrounds—economics, government, the financial sector, health care, public relations, publishing and nonprofit management—and are paired with students by Mr. Pollard and Deborah Calhoun, Department Chair of Business and Economics, based on shared interests.

One of the coaches, Lori Pollack ’08, says her mentors during her years at Notre Dame were professors like Dr. Charles Yoe and Dr. Patricia Brelsford, and she still calls on them for advice from time to time. Ms. Pollack, who has a background in business and economics and will soon embark on a Ph.D. in biostatistics, relishes the opportunity to share her experience.

“It just seemed like such a great way to give back to the school—a way to be there for somebody, to be someone they can bounce ideas off of,” she says. “It helps you step up your game a bit when you have an accountability partner. The ball is in their court to come to us, so we don’t have a new job ourselves. But we’re there for them if they need it.”

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WINTER 2014

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