“I’ve been able to collaborate with other students and talk to different faculty, and I feel much more comfortable talking to them and putting myself out there.” – Kaitlyn Pineda
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Kaitlyn Pineda was pretty shy and reserved when she arrived at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
She knew that had to change.
The biology major and pre-medicine student wants to be a physician working in pediatrics or neonatology. But physicians are leaders, and Pineda recognized she needed to develop the confidence and communication skills that profession requires.
She’s been able to do that through the UNK Leadership, Education and Development Series (Leads), a program launched in 2017-18 that prepares students for their postgraduate careers by developing leadership qualities through a variety of activities, experiences and educational sessions.
“Through this program, I’ve been able to collaborate with other students and talk to different faculty, and I feel much more comfortable talking to them and putting myself out there,” said Pineda, a sophomore from Kearney.
The self-guided program promotes effective leadership by focusing on 12 core competencies – collaboration, conflict negotiation, creating change, diversity, ethics, positive attitude, problem-solving, productive relationships, reflection and application, self-development, social responsibility and verbal communication.
Students learn from and network with campus and community leaders while actively participating in various activities and civic events.
“It’s all about experiential learning and connecting outside the classroom,” said the group’s adviser, Renae Zimmer, who joined UNK’s Office of Student Engagement in December as assistant director of leadership and student engagement.
Zimmer, a UNK graduate who spent 27 years in corporate and IT sales, uses her own experiences and community connections to help guide and mentor program participants, who receive input from other UNK professionals during leadership presentations.
The group, which has 15 current members, also gets involved off campus.
UNK Leads students recently attended a Kearney Public Schools Board of Education meeting and they’ll be at next week’s Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference sponsored by UNK. On Wednesday evening, they visited the new Central Nebraska Veterans Home, where members toured the facility, learned about its history and played bingo with residents living there.
Participants are required to write about their experiences in “reflections” that detail the lessons they learned and skills they gained. These reflections are shared during monthly meetings.
Pineda, a recipient of the Kearney Bound, Chancellor’s and Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation scholarships, said UNK Leads provides value beyond what students are taught in the classroom.
“The skills you learn will transfer to whatever career you pick later on,” she said. “They will transfer to different relationships you build.”
The program is open to any UNK student but geared mainly toward freshmen and sophomores. There is no cost.
Participants, who have up to four semesters to complete UNK Leads, receive a letter of recommendation after finishing the program.
Cory Holsapple, a UNK sophomore from North Platte, knows that will come in handy down the road.
“Anything that involves improving your ability to lead and cooperate with others looks great on a resume,” he said.
The international studies major and U.S. Army Reserve member understands the significance of developing leadership skills in college, which is why he’s part of UNK Leads.
“Those traits are very important when you get in the workforce,” Holsapple said. “That’s what employers are looking for. It just opens so many doors when you join a program like this.”
UNK Leads members (listed by hometown)
Adams – Lauren Parde
Aurora – Cheyanne Diessner
Elgin – Lydia Behnk
Grand Island – Alex Gewecke
Hastings – Gerardo Castillo
Hebron – Marissa Asche
Henderson – Leslie Braun
Kearney – Kaitlyn Pineda
Kearney – Tanya Wasson
Lalitpur, Nepal – Preeti Timalsina
Medellin, Colombia – Daniel Vargas Castano
North Platte – Cory Holsapple
Omaha – Daniel Zavadil
St. Paul – Emma Thede
Wood Lake – Britley Schlueter
Join UNK Leads
For more information on the UNK Leads program, contact Renae Zimmer at 308-865-1603 or firstname.lastname@example.org