Director of Leadership Institute recognized for excellence in classroom, campus, community

Whitney Clum

Based on his work with the Leadership Institute, Michael Gleason was awarded the Achieving Excellence Award by the student life office. As director of the Leadership Institute, Gleason works with graduate students, interns, teaches Leadership Skills Development and helps oversee the co-curricular programs that the Leadership Institute is responsible for.

“Dr. Gleason is a professor and mentor that pushes his students to reach their full leadership potential through fresh ideas and perspectives,” Abigail Hosek, sophomore chemistry major said.

The Achieving Excellence Award can be given to a faculty, staff or community member that has been nominated based on their exemplary conduct and adherence to the list of specific standards described by student life.

“It was really surprising and really humbling. [The] part that was really cool was as faculty staff member, and I assume students too, you get to see other people that have won it in the past, and so I hold those people in really high esteem, and the works that they do, and so to receive it was really humbling for me,” said Gleason.

One of the things that Gleason believes is to be massively important to the Leadership Institute and, by extension, the students who belong to it is the connection Washburn has to the community.

“When I came to work here [the community] was one of the things that most excited me, because Washburn, as a municipal university, receives a lot of resources from the local community that I think feels a strong commitment to give back to the community, and so it’s this really great relationship, and in our program, we need those community partnerships in order to help students grow and develop,” said Gleason.

Over the course of the five years he has overseen the Institute, the connection with the community has grown. One of the best examples of this is the High School Leadership Academy, a program spearheaded by Gleason himself. Designed as a way to fill a need as well as tighten bonds with local schools, the idea for a week-long summer camp for high schools in Shawnee county eventually got funding from the Topeka Community Foundation.

In addition to pulling in younger members of the community, Gleason has also made strides toward leadership education beyond getting an undergraduate degree with the addition of a graduate program, Masters of Arts in Communication and Leadership.

“I think Topeka has a strong interest in thinking about how they can utilize the knowledge of Washburn students, and young people in general, and developing the future of the city,” said Gleason.

The numbers alone speak to Gleason’s success. Under his direction, the number of people involved in his program exceed 200. However, as he is clear to note, there is always room for more.

“If you have any interest or skill set, let us know, and we can find a way for you to contribute in a meaningful way,” Gleason said.