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New Approach to Teaching the Leaders of Tomorrow

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Justin Beach

Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Prominent community leaders asked to take part in the Pioneer Leadership Program

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For more than 20 years, DU’s Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP) has worked with students to help them develop their leadership skills. This academic year, the program has added a new component.

Pioneer Leadership Program logo

“We were really looking for a way to get the students to know a prominent leader in the community,” says Paul Kosempel, interim director of PLP. This fall, PLP introduced the leader in residence program, which will bring a leader in the Denver community to campus and allow students to get to know them.

PLP is an academic minor that selects 88 first-year students each fall. Kosempel says the new leader in residence component will enhance the classroom learning that already takes place. Guillermo Vidal, former Denver mayor and director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, was selected to take part this year.

“Vidal is the epitome of a citizen leader,” Kosempel says. “He has such an amazing background of coming to this country from Cuba, working hard, going to school, realizing the difference he can make in the community. Then he progressed through so many different positions to eventually become the mayor of Denver.”

Vidal spent time on campus in early October, speaking in several PLP classes and having lunch with students. In January he will be back on campus to have lunch with students in Nelson Dining Hall and to attend first-year classes which center around developing one's self as a leader. Vidal will also attend the PLP capstone class where he will speak about the ethical challenges and responsibilities of leadership. Finally, he will host a PLP "share session," where he will present on leadership-related topics and issues with current students and alumni via Facebook Live.

“We are constantly expanding as human beings, and my experiences have shaped me to who I am today,” Vidal says. “To be able to share that with younger people who have yet to go through that self-evolution, this is an opportunity to give them insight and help them in the future. I am thrilled about the opportunity to do that.”

The students who are part of PLP understand how invaluable the lessons are that they learn from speakers like Vidal.

“It’s really awesome that we get a chance to listen to people who are making a difference — either now or in the past,” says JJ Khan, a second-year student. “We have the opportunity and we have the power to do that as well.”

“I think one of the most amazing things that comes from PLP is the opportunity to listen to speakers who come from so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences,” says Talia Reynolds, a second-year student. “My experience has taught me that there is so much to learn and there is so much potential if you stick to your values – since leadership really is value based.”

Vidal hopes the lessons and experiences he shares with students will help guide them to become better leaders. “Leadership is not something you can copy from other people,” he says. “It’s a personal journey that you have been taught through lessons in your life.”

"Leadership is not something you can copy from other people. It’s a personal journey that you have been taught through lessons in your life." Guillermo Vidal, Former Denver Mayor