Throughout her time at Ball State, nursing major Kadee Dollar, ’14, has learned to take blood pressure, navigate lunch lines at The Atrium, and study while pedaling a stationary bike. But more importantly, the Hiatt/Wickham Scholarship recipient has gained the value of leadership. 

As an eager freshman, Dollar joined Excellence in Leadership (EIL) to take advantage of the program’s rich lineup of high-profile speakers, dynamic weekly workshops, and range of community service opportunities. However, EIL soon became far more than its list of extracurricular endeavors as Dollar engaged in transformative self-reflection of her personal leadership style. 

“I was always classified as a leader in high school; however, I could never tell you how I lead. After growing through EIL, I can tell you that I lead by example and confront challenges in a positive and encouraging manner,” says Dollar, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in pediatric nursing. “One of the most valuable experiences you can have in life is to learn about yourself—your strengths and weaknesses. Excellence in Leadership has enabled me to analyze myself and continue to develop.” 

The Program 

Each fall, 300 students are accepted into the four-semester program designed to foster emerging leaders. Lauren Berger, assistant director of student life, says the first phase of the program, semesters one and two, challenges students to examine personal leadership styles, set life goals, and evaluate strengths and weaknesses. The second phase, semesters three and four, encourages participants to apply those ideals to lead organizations, create and articulate group visions, and inspire others to exercise leadership.

"Excellence in Leadership is a great program for students of all ages," says Berger. "The EIL program offers education to supplement the learning that students are getting in the classroom and allows them to learn more about leadership and strengthen their skills as a leader at Ball State."

Lessons among the Trees

To help participants achieve the educational outcomes and personal goals of each phase, EIL hosts weekly workshops and motivational field trips. Among the program’s most rewarding experiences is an outdoor team-building excursion among 30 acres of Camp Yale’s wooded recreational park in east central Indiana. Dollar says navigating through 20 low-ropes course stations and traversing a 450-foot zip line taught her to balance leading and following. 

“Camp Yale taught me how to be a team member with 10 to 15 other leaders,” says the EIL student ambassador, who received the 2010-11 Parent Advisory Council Scholarship. “I learned that being a team member sometimes means taking one for the team and not trying to force leadership. In doing this, I spoke up only when I felt there was a better solution to the challenge we were facing, and I learned to really listen to others expressing their ideas.” 

Renowned Speakers

As part of its annual speaker series, the program has invited a range of distinguished leaders—from civil rights activist Jesse Jackson to Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell—to address campus. EIL participants are among the first students selected to engage in small group discussions with these renowned visionaries. Dollar says the intimate talkback sessions inspire students to achieve and make their own lasting mark on the world. 

“My favorite EIL speaker was WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings,” says Dollar, a native of Galveston, Indiana. “The way she approached every setback in her life, including hearing impairment, was commendable. After listening to her story of playing basketball and learning about her charity, I was inspired to do more good in our community.” 

Credit Where Credit is Due

Student accepted into the program may engage in EIL as an extracurricular venture or elect to earn 1 credit hour per semester. Berger says that many students who complete both years of the program apply those 4 credit hours toward graduation or a minor in
leadership studies

The impact of the program is palpable. According to the Office of Student Life, 23 program participants won scholarships and awards, and eight presented at professional conferences in 2010. Nearly 40 EIL students held campus leadership positions and 32 engaged in community service activities that same year. 

Students interested in the leadership program should e-mail, call the EIL office at 765-285-3476, or stop by Pittenger Student Center, room 133.