Future leaders of America start at Virginia Tech

By Zeke Barlow

The job market is tough for anyone out there these days, much less for a recent college graduate.

This is precisely why Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Eric Kaufman believes a minor in leadership and social change is all the more valuable. Students who minor in the subject learn how to become leaders in the business and social communities.

“In this competitive job market, it is increasingly difficult just to get an interview,” said Kaufman, who teaches leadership in agriculture and Extension education within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Students who have a background in leadership have a leg up on the competition because it is an important and valuable skill to employers.”

This could be one reason why the minor has seen a more than five-fold increase in students in the last four years. The minor moved to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2008 and has seen continuous growth in recent years. In 2008, there were 14 students graduating with the minor; in 2011, there were 92.

Beyond teaching students to lead in the traditional business world, the minor is also of interest to students interested in working in nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations that have an agenda for social justice and government.

Morgan Slaven, a sophomore from Weyers Cave, Va., who is majoring in agriculture sciences, said she hopes a minor in leadership and social change will be an invaluable asset after graduation.

“Whether I am in a professional position or a community volunteer, the leadership and social change minor can be applied to just about any situation. As I continue to grow into the person I will be, my leadership skills will do the same,” said Slaven, who is vice president of Feed by Seed and is on the Virginia FFA staff.

Zach Wakeman, a junior from Toms Brook, Va., who is majoring in agricultural sciences, said he hopes the minor will help him in a career as an agricultural educator.

“Team building and communication have been major areas of focus within the leadership and social change minor,” Wakeman said. “Without these two components, our nation would be in trouble. I’ve learned the importance of building team cohesiveness and communication, and the importance that they play in the real world no matter which field you enter.”

The minor has an interdisciplinary approach, drawing classes from a variety of colleges. It also incorporates the Residential Leadership Community, where students live in an environment that fosters leadership in a residential setting.