This year, approximately 30 first-year students will have the opportunity to participate in the LEAF program in hopes of unleashing their leadership potential.

The LEAF program, which stands for Leadership, Engagement, Authorship and Future, was created by Corie Steinke, the associate director of student life. Steinke was asked in May by former Dean of Students Launa Leftwich to create a “campus-wide student leadership program.”

Steinke noted that although there are a handful of leadership programs on the Goshen College campus, many of them are linked with scholarships, intercultural students or student employment opportunities.

Steinke said, “[Leftwich] wanted me to look at opportunities and develop [a leadership program] that is open to anyone interested in furthering their leadership skills.”

From there, Steinke researched leadership programs at other schools in the Crossroads League, as well as other Mennonite institutions, but didn’t find much.

“I decided that we would have to reinvent the wheel,” Steinke said. “There aren’t a lot of broad, generic leadership programs that other schools are offering.”

The program encompasses all four years of a student’s college career (and potentially “super seniors,” said Steinke). Each year, students will focus on one of the four letters in the acronym. In their first-year, “LEAFers” will learn about different types of leadership, their own leadership personality and more. From there, the students will learn about community engagement and authorship in their sophomore and junior years. In their fourth year, students will focus on interviewing and job-searching.

The LEAF program focuses on creating leaders, but it also prepares students for their futures.

“Students will have the opportunity to work with others to learn these problem-solving, decision-making, communication skills,” Steinke said.

Students will have the opportunity to gain all of these skills through hands-on experiences.

“It’s not going to just be sitting in a classroom and listening to someone talk at them,” Steinke said. “We’re going to try and find conferences [and] trips. We might find a community partner and do a project with them. It depends on what we can find and what is applicable to the topic that year.”

Students involved in the LEAF program will participate in monthly workshops and yearly cohort projects that could range from participating in a service experience to creating an orientation program.

As of right now, the program only consists of a first-year “cohort,” as Steinke called it. However, every year for the next four years, LEAF will add a new cohort until there is one for each class.

The students currently involved in LEAF are from the SALT program, and by Winter break, 10-15 more students will be added. Steinke encourages first-year students who feel as if they have leadership potential to apply.

“We’re looking for students who want to take the initiative and realize that these soft skills are way more marketable than not having them. Having these experiences to speak to are going to be way more beneficial than the student who just wants to get up, go to class, and go back to bed.”

So far, the LEAFers have only met once – Steinke said she doesn’t plan on having too many meetings without the complete cohort, which won’t be established until the spring semester. However, that doesn’t mean the students aren’t ready to get started.

Kaelynne Gillett, a LEAFer and participant of the SALT program, said that although her scholarship requires her to be in the LEAF program, she would have still applied.

“I am a first generation student and the LEAF program helps me navigate my way through college and helps me understand what I need to become the best version of [myself].”

Students who are interested in joining the LEAF program can pick up applications from Wyse 105 or Ad 14 beginning Oct. 4. Interviews will begin in Nov.