For the past six years, the University of Illinois has been part of a coalition between the top business organizations and top business schools in America, including Duke University, Stanford, Dartmouth, and University of Pennsylvania. The Leadership and Development Program in Business (LEAD) has fostered an environment in which high-ability high school juniors from diverse backgrounds may develop a sense of what a business education means, and what a career in corporate America may bring.
Each year, approximately 800 students submit essays and transcripts to the LEAD program for an opportunity to not only network with business professionals at outstanding corporations, but also network with the top faculty and students across the United States. The list of applicants is narrowed down to 300 students who represent what is sure to be the movers and shakers of tomorrow. This year, the University of Illinois’ College of Business will be hosting 30 of those select students for three weeks in July.
Throughout their stay, LEAD participants will receive multi-faceted instruction from college faculty. Presentations will include an introduction to Business, as well as modules on Finance, Accounting, Marketing, and other business majors and minors. Given that each University tailors its program to its specific educational opportunities, the College of Business will also include presentations that highlight some of its unique offerings, such as Illinois Ventures. Instruction will also be focused on soft skills and business professionalism, including business etiquette, networking, effective interviewing, and developing a successful resume. Included in the experience is a case study that provides the participants with practical real-world experience. Cases in the past have included a promotion campaign for concerts at the Assembly Hall. Through interviews, presentations, developing a sense of the target demographic, and incorporating their learned business acumen, the case study allows participants to develop important business concepts.
The program has not only been influential in the students’ lives, but has also left its footprint on the University of Illinois. The program has led the College from number 10 in the Big 10 in minority recruitment to its current reign as number 1. Its inception and continuation has not only enhanced the reputation of this fine institute, but its diversity as well. “LEAD,” says Assistant Dean Jewell White, “is just a microcosm of what we do in the College in terms of developing leaders. It has allowed us to reach a demographic that has not historically been reached. But that’s what we do here . . .we’re a leadership factory.”