In MSB, Students Learn Leadership
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Saturday, October 19, 2013 13:10
In the McDonough School of Business, students learn skills ranging from accounting to finance to prepare for their entrance to the business world. But one MSB course tackles a more abstract part of the real world: leadership.
For the fifth year, MSB associate professor Brooks Holtom is teaching “Leadership,” a management course that has inspired student initiatives within a variety of campus programs and organizations, including Relay for Life.
The course, which is open to students from all undergraduate schools, emphasizes action rather than passive learning.
“There are some topics, particularly in business schools, that are mathematical and you can apply statistical or mathematical reasoning to solve those problems,” Holtom said. “Leadership problems are complex and dynamic because it is about interpersonal relationships, it’s about understanding psychology and sociology. Leaders learn by doing … so that is reflected in how we approach this course.”
Students in the course apply leadership principles to community activism in the form of a large project.
Haley Allen (COL ’14), who is currently working on a women’s health initiative that would bring experts to campus through the course, said that the independence she is given within the course and her project enhances her experience at Georgetown.
“Rather than having the teacher tell me what to do, it is very much a ‘I take this course on my own terms’ because it is all about who I am as a leader and what I want to do,” Allen said. “It sort of puts the ball in my court rather than the professor’s.”
Frank O’Driscoll (MSB ’08) planned a conference of South Atlantic colleges for his “Leadership” project in order to spread the successful marketing strategy of Georgetown’s Relay for Life.
“What Professor Holtom has taught me is that in order to affect the world outside, you have to understand the world within. And so he would make us do things like ‘what do we value,’ ‘what makes us tick,’” O’Driscoll said. “Themes start to emerge throughout your life, and when you see those themes, you identify who you are, and when you identify who you are, you can stand for something, and when you stand for something that is when you have the first seeds of leadership.”
Holtom’s focus on passion has led the students to choose projects that are individually meaningful.
Jack Schumacher (MSB ’15) and his partner Max Allen (MSB ’15) are working to raise money for organizations including the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and the Honor Flight Network, which invites World War II veterans for tours around Washington, D.C.
Schumacher spent six years in the military, and during his time in Afghanistan, he was severely wounded, leading to the loss of his leg.
“While I was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I saw how much of an impact small groups such as the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team truly had on returning veterans,” Schumacher said.
Because Allen is also on the Georgetown baseball team, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team was a way for the two to express their passions simultaneously.
Previous projects have also made an impact, according to Holtom. One student started a project to help homeless people find jobs by providing resume-writing workshops and helping with interviewing techniques. By the end of the project, half of the participating group had gotten jobs for the Christmas season. Holtom said that this creativity in solving real world issues is effective leadership.
Holtom emphasizes introspection in the class because he believes the characteristics of a leader are very individual.
“I can’t tell you what a good leader looks like,” Holtom said. “You have to determine what you want to be as a leader and some people want to be a leader in their home, that’s great, some people want to be a leader in their community, some people want to lead the free world.”
Holtom further emphasized the role of passion and interest in leadership and entrepreneurship.
“Great entrepreneurs are born of passion. It’s not just a job, you have to have something you care about personally,” he said.
Holtom refuses to take credit for the successes of the projects and the students in the course. However, students said that Holtom’s guidance helps them develop their leadership skills.
“He definitely has a big role in the success of the class,” Matthew Hickey (MSB ’14) said. “Everyone that I’ve talked to just rants and raves about him.”
Hickey is working on an initiative to improve the university's relations with the Georgetown neighbors.
“I think just from a personal and human level, he really gives you inspiration and lets you find your own direction,” Schumacher said. “I want to be in the classroom, I want to hear what he has to say because he really does inspire me personally.”