Cornell LEADS (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Distinctive Service) is a distinctive leadership program in which students examine the qualities of leadership and its social importance by interacting with leaders from all walks of life. Each year a select group of 20 students has the extraordinary opportunity to learn about leadership by participating in a seminar, a panel discussion and a field trip in which they meet distinguished leaders in eastern Iowa and Chicago.

The 2013–2014 Program

Students attended a leadership seminar hosted by former Cornell president Les Garner, participated in a panel discussion on entrepreneurship, and traveled to Chicago to meet with people who have been instrumental in developing a charter school, a community association, a small museum, and a training facility for champion golfers.

Les Garner

In the seminar hosted by Les Garner students considered the “10 Commandments of Leadership” by viewing contrasting leadership styles in the BBC docu-drama “The Last Place on Earth”, chronicling the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen (Norway) and Robert Scott (Britain) in 1911. After discussing the docu-drama, students met in small groups to identify the objectives and attributes of leadership.

LEADS 2

The panel discussion event allowed students to interact with young entrepreneurs in the area to talk about leadership challenges associated with launching start-up businesses. Through this initiative students have met entrepreneurs who are involved in a variety of businesses including a moped rental company, a frozen yogurt store, a data visualization service and a social media marketing agency.

LEADS 3

The Chicago field trip enabled LEADS participants to meet with leaders in various fields of endeavor dedicated to creating opportunity by overcoming long odds. The students visited the following organizations:

  • The Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy is a charter school that is succeeding in getting its students to college in a city in which many students do not earn a high school diploma.
  • The North River Commission brings together over 100 civic associations, businesses, schools, and houses of worship in efforts to improve the quality of life for people in Chicago's northwest side.
  • The Cambodian American Heritage Museum preserves the history of the genocide that took place in Cambodia almost 40 years ago and celebrates the culture of Cambodians who found new lives in the United States.
  • Mistwood Golf Club features a training center that develops the skills of many of the region's most talented players.

The Chicago Experience in Previous Years

The LEADS program enables Cornell students to visit major civic institutions and organizations in Chicago and to meet with their leadership teams:

  • Chicago Tribune newsroom
  • Notebaert Nature Museum
  • Motorola Corporation
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Albany Park Chamber of Commerce

Cornell LEADS is supported by a generous endowment gift from Tom Jarom ‘66, a life trustee, and a former chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees.


 For more information about Cornell LEADS,
please contact the Associate Director of the Berry Center.