Why leadership education matters

2013-02-27 20:39

Liberal arts and leadership education are crucial in today’s rapidly changing world, said the president of Claremont McKenna College, a prestigious liberal arts college in Claremont, California, noted for its leadership development programs.

“Liberal arts is teaching you life-time skills,” said Pamela Brooks Gann, the president of CMC, during an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul.

“It’s teaching you critical thinking. Most of the hard problems that have to be solved today are interdisciplinary. And you need to understand the different methodologies to solve the problems, so we do that extremely well.

“We also pay a lot of attention to personal leadership development. You learn critical thinking, writing, communications, and leadership development and so on,” she continued. 
Pamela B. Gann, president of Claremont McKenna College, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul on Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

“In a rapidly changing world, we would argue that you come away with a lot more adaptability and flexibility that make you better prepared for the dynamic economy (by obtaining liberal arts and leadership skills).”

The private college was founded in 1946 with the mission to foster leadership in its students in various fields ― including the government and international affairs ― in the aftermath of World War II. The school’s Henry R. Kravis Leadership Institute is, according to CMC, one of the best leadership programs for undergraduate students in the U.S.

CMC also offers a lot of pre-professional training and overseas studies opportunities for its students. Many CMC students get internship placements and are eventually hired in Silicon Valley. In 2011, the largest employer of CMC students was Google. Korea’s Yonsei University has been one of its international partners for many years.

“What we try to do at our college is that you are going to get a great liberal arts education but we are also going to give you pre-professional training so you are really ready for the job market,” Gann said.

Prior to joining CMC in 1999, Gann worked as dean of Duke University School of Law and as a faculty member for 24 years.

Gann said it was important for senior leaders like her to be a “noticer” of the talent below them.

“I try to do this in our college,” she said. “I would take younger women to lunch and just say, ‘I think you have terrific leadership capacities, what are your personal goals in your life, how can I help and how can this college help you succeed?’ And just even signaling to them that you care and you are noticing is huge.”

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)
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