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Staley School Student Team Takes First Place in International Leadership Competition

A Staley School student team won a case-competition on leadership at International Leadership Association Conference in Brussels, Belgium.

The Staley School of Leadership Studies is home to the 2017 International Leadership Association case competition champions; Lauren Mertz, senior in mass communications, Bailey Porter, senior in biochemistry, Emily Polston, senior in gender women sexuality studies, and Suvana Badgett, junior in entrepreneurship. The student team, coached by faculty member Marcia Hornung, traveled to Brussels, Belgium on October 10th through the 16th to compete in the International Leadership Association Conference to compete in the undergraduate case-competition.

The International Leadership Association Conference (ILA) is an opportunity for students to “showcase their knowledge about leadership through the analysis of a contemporary socio-political-economic problem on the global or national level” (CITE).

The team was tasked with proposing a case about a social issue and a response to that case by preparing a brief and a poster presentation, followed by an invited presentation in the final round. The team began by identifying social issues that they felt they could propose a leadership response to, “That conversation led us to police militarization. We are all passionate about violence against marginalized communities, and in particular when that violence is enacted because people are speaking out against injustice,” Emily Polston said.

The team honed their focus through research, reading, reviewing classroom learning, learning from their majors, and visiting with peers and colleagues about the issue. Eventually, they decided to focus beyond police militarization as a problem and toward police militarization as one symptom of a larger social, political, and economic system.

That larger issue, “we concluded, was polarization – a skew of power between marginalized populations and people that hold power over those communities,” Bailey Porter said.

After dissecting the issues through different leadership theories, the team decided to use an “adaptive leadership framework and civic leadership lens, ”  and then created “action steps to engage all voices of the community members in a values-based conversation in order to co-create a public narrative that reflects the needs of the community members, instead of those in power,” Lauren Mertz said. Their prepared brief was entitled, “Addressing Polarization: Deconstructing Tools of Division.”

Their time at the conference was a whirlwind. “At the conference, our initial presentation was presenting our poster to people attending the conference and the judges,” Porter said.

48 hours later, the team received notification. They made it to the finals. On Saturday, October 14, the students presented their research to a team of judges.

The results came in, the four Kansas State leadership studies minors won first place in the competition.

Through the experience the team gained key insights and valuable learning outcomes. Polston said, “we had the opportunity to receive feedback from people from around the world and my personal realization that there are people outside of the US working towards the social change that we are, was incredibly reassuring.”

“I loved how challenging the level of critical thinking this case study called for; we were working on big issues with no clear answer and I loved the problem solving and collaborative energy around this process,” Mertz said. “Our hard work paid off and I am so grateful for this experience.”

The Staley School looks forward to celebrating the 2017 case-competition team. Their work exemplifies how leadership can be used to tackle complicated issues that require innovative thinking from across sectors.

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