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Future Leaders Have Success in Common

Group photo of the 2005 Illinois LEAD students.This July the College of Business once again welcomed to campus some of the nation's highest-achieving minority students who participated in a three-week long LEAD program. The Leadership, Education, and Development (LEAD) Program in Business selects more than 300 of the most talented high school juniors from a national applicant pool of over 1,200 and places them into 11 of the nation's most prestigious business schools, including Virginia, Stanford, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois.

The College of Business joined the Philadelphia-based program two years ago, and Illinois, with such top-flight corporate sponsors as JP Morgan, Bank One, and Ford, hosted 27 LEAD students this year. Participants were exposed to a rigorous curriculum taught by a host of volunteer faculty and staff.

LEAD alumnus and Resident Advisor David Kadzai believes the exposure to core business areas like statistics, finance, and mock interviews offers the prospective business students a foundation that is unparalleled. "What LEAD gives students -- the exposure, the contacts with executives in the corporate world, the head-start on their collegiate preparation -- is unlike anything I've experienced. There are few programs at this level." Kadzai, now entering his first year of law school at Illinois and who attended the LEAD program at Virginia, also calls the program "revolutionary" in what it does with demographic diversity. "LEAD really is an amalgamation of people, from Black to Hispanic to Indian to Pacific Islander."

LEAD participant is all smiles!And ethnicity isn't the program's only unifying arena. Students traveled from Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Indiana, New York, Texas, Washington D.C., Maryland, California, Minnesota, and Illinois to the Urbana-Champaign campus. Student William Monts de Oca came to the Illinois LEAD program from Colegio San Ignacio High School in Puerto Rico and plans on applying to Boston College, Miami, and UCLA. The potential entrepreneurship major is one of three Puerto Rican students who attended the Illinois program and hopes to continue his education in the contiguous United States.

Allison Barker, a Racine, Wisconsin, native and LEAD student participant who hopes to major in marketing at Wisconsin, Illinois, West Virginia, or Tennessee, viewed the program as an opportunity to meet new people and to develop teamwork skills and a business acumen that would benefit her in college. Barker also stressed her interest in the collegiate curriculum that LEAD exposed her to, saying, "I particularly like the college classes. They give us a heads-up on what college will be like when we get there." As the students' top 3% ACT scores and high GPAs attest, Barker and her peers should expect admittance into practically any school of their choosing. Previous LEAD students have attended Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Giving it some thought...While the LEAD program is developed for students who at least have an interest in going into business, joining corporate America is not the mandatory career path. Although upwards of 65% of LEAD students eventually go on to pursue business degrees, others like alum David Kadzai, may opt to work in another field such as law. Several of the Illinois participants hinted at careers in journalism.

Despite the mix of probable vocational choices among the students, one unifying element prevails. Said Associate Dean Mullins: "While some students in the program will select a major outside of business upon college entry, these same students may choose to a minor in business or await enrollment into a graduate business program. LEAD students are focused and most will ultimately become leaders in their respective fields of interest."

This is the real goal of the LEAD program.

--Michael Romain
August 2005