Foster Leadership Academy: Developing Authentic Leadership in Business Undergraduates and UW Athletes

Nearly 60 business students and UW athletes completed the inaugural year of the Foster Leadership Academy (FLA), a non-academic certificate program open to all UW students. Focusing on leadership development through the lens of Authentic Leadership, FLA provides a space for students to engage in leadership experiences, reflect on their own leadership journey, and connect with like-minded students in their cohort. Students in FLA attend workshops and participate in activities to improve their transferable skills (like problem-solving, giving and receiving feedback, and more). Upon completion, they receive a certificate, gift, and a valuable experience for their resume and future organizational roles, whether in school or off campus.

This new opportunity was developed in 2020 by Krista Jacobs, Student Engagement Manager for Foster Undergraduate Programs, and Erica Cenci, Assistant Athletic Director for UW Athletics. After realizing the alignment between their leadership philosophies, Krista and Erica saw the opportunity to utilize both of their resources and networks to provide important leadership development experiences to their students.

The program officially kicked off in fall quarter with curriculum centered on the four pillars of Authentic Leadership:

  • Moral/Ethical Perspective (acting in concert with your core values)
  • Transparency (sharing your true thoughts and feelings)
  • Balance Processing (taking in all relevant data and stakeholder views before coming to a decision)
  • Self-Awareness (mindfulness about how and why you think, feel, and choose to act)

A variety of workshops were offered in each of these four categories throughout the year, including activities such as the DISC assessment, Identifying Core Values, and How Diversity Makes us Smarter. There were also a number of notable guests who led workshops: Values and Decision Making with Josh Rodriguez (Foster MBA alumni, Goldman Sachs investment manager, decorated veteran, and national speaker), Personal Leadership Style with Courtney Thompson (UW volleyball national champion, U.S. olympic volleyball silver and bronze medalist), and Leadership Transparency with Jen Cohen (UW Director of Athletics, sole female director in the Pac-12). In January, the Foster Leadership Academy hosted a Leadership Summit, which brought in a variety of speakers, including Chris Petersen (former head coach of UW football), who was also acting as Foster’s Fritzky Chair this past year. Chris spoke about the difference between compliance and commitment, being a uniter not a divider, and the importance of relationships in leading. After each workshop, students wrote a reflection addressing a series of questions to demonstrate their learning and growth from the events.

Students were also presented with four Leadership Challenges, where they assessed their own leadership growth in each of the four pillars. For the Relationship Building Challenge, students identified a person they wanted a better relationship with, and asked them a series of questions such as “What are some behaviors you value in others?” and “What is the best way to communicate with you?”. For the Self-Awareness Peer Evaluation, students answered questions about themselves, identifying their core values, how they create a positive environment for those around them, and their leadership strengths and areas of growth. Additionally, the evaluator ranked the student on a scale of 1-5 in fifteen leadership competencies such as receiving feedback, reliability, flexibility, and being values driven.

The Foster Leadership Academy concluded with students completing a final reflection on the experience, including how they grew in each of the core pillars of moral/ethical perspective, transparency, balance processing and self-awareness. It was wonderful to see the students’ discoveries and deeper understanding of what it means to be an authentic leader.

Students shared their favorite parts of the program:

“I got to learn about the different aspects of leadership and how I could grow as a leader in my time at UW and later in the future.”

“My favourite part was listening and learning from a huge range of different people and seeing how their leadership has changed over time and being able to see how mine can grow too.”

“Getting to hear people speak about their leadership journeys was very inspiring and sometimes helpfully relatable.“

“It got me thinking about myself and my actions more, making me reflect more on how I am as a leader and what I could change to improve.”

“My favorite part was speaking with people I would probably never otherwise have and listening to their experiences with leadership positions/roles.”

“It was different than regular schoolwork, and stretched my thinking outside of academics.”

“Having the opportunity to hear from many great leaders of different backgrounds, and then applying it via reflection assignments and discussion, was very valuable and helped me grow as a leader.”

Click here to learn more about the Foster Leadership Academy on our website.