Creating leaders


UO students proudly display over 700 pounds of tomatoes they picked last fall at Hideaway Hills Farm as part of Project Tomato. The students brought the tomatoes back to campus and made pizza sauce that was served in the UO dining facilities.


When Brian Carter ’09 came to the University of Oregon as a freshman, he remembers being “self-conscious and uncertain about myself.” Participating in Leadershape—a six-day program of student leadership training, serving as chair and president of Alpha Phi Omega community service organization, and completing internships with human service agencies gave him the confidence and skills he is using now as a social worker in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

For Rob Biskupic-Knight ’10, it was Leadershape, the President’s Leadership Symposium—an annual conference for students active on campus and in the community, and a leadership academy for fraternity and sorority presidents that helped shape his college experience. After graduation, he plans to teach high school biology in the Teach for America program.

Lexi Stickel ’10 plans to attend graduate school in the UO’s Appropriate Dispute Resolution program and international studies. She says that serving as codirector of the UO’s Dance Marathon in January—which drew more than 500 student participants and raised $30,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, plus programs such as Alternative Spring Break and Leadershape “have given me the leadership abilities and confidence to pursue opportunities that I would not usually consider.”

All three are examples of how the UO’s five-year-old Glen and Gloria Holden Leadership Center is changing the student experience at the University of Oregon. Gifts from donors such as Glen ’51 and Gloria Holden ’50, Patrick ’74 and Stephanie Kilkenny, and Andrew ’55 and Phyllis Berwick ’56 have spurred the tremendous growth and development of the program that now supports eighteen major student leadership and community service programs involving thousands of students.

UO students proudly display over 700 pounds of tomatoes they picked last fall at Hideaway Hills Farm as part of Project Tomato. The students brought the tomatoes back to campus and made pizza sauce that was served in the UO dining facilities.

The center, headquartered in the Erb Memorial Union, started in 2005 as the Leadership Resource Office to meet a need identified by then-UO President Dave Frohnmayer to consolidate some of the hundreds of programs on campus under one “roof.” The program was renamed for the Holdens the following year.

“A civilization cannot grow and protect its people without developing leaders of high principle in all aspects of society,” the Holdens said when they made their gift.

As UO students, the Holdens, who live in Los Angeles, were both very active in Greek life, Glen as a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity and Gloria as a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. After a successful career in the life insurance industry, Glen was named U.S. ambassador to Jamaica by President George H.W. Bush and served in the post from 1989 to 1993. Gloria worked as an elementary school teacher and has provided leadership to many educational, service, and cultural organizations.

The Holden Leadership Center was assigned to manage existing student organizations such as Greek life, ASUO student government, and the Service Learning Program, which integrates academic courses with community service experiences. In addition, the HLC has started many new programs, including Leadershape, the President’s Leadership Symposium, and the Alternative Break Program, which sends students into communities that need help during spring break and winter break.

“This is a very service-oriented university, but the challenge is to facilitate engagement opportunities for 22,000 students with different backgrounds, skills, and interests,” says HLC director John Duncan, who grew up in Elkton, Oregon, graduated from Oregon State University, and was recruited by the UO to develop the leadership center.

The UO has long had multiple outlets for student involvement, but they weren’t well coordinated. Now, “our framework sets us up to be one of the preeminent student leadership centers in the country,” says Duncan.

Duncan has ambitious goals for the center and hopes private gifts will help meet them. For example, he’d like to add another

Leadershape Institute during the year. Last year, 168 students applied for the sixty spots in the fall session. He wants to increase the number of alternative spring and winter break experiences and add an international component. He would like to start special leadership programs directed at specific groups such as women, students of color, student athletes, and first-generation college students.

“We want to expand our leadership programs to every single student at the university and empower them to make a difference,” says Duncan. “We want our students to be prepared not simply to respond to change but to guide it.”

Students who have experienced its programs say the HLC has made a significant difference in their university experiences and their lives:

Brian Carter: “The HLC programs and insights that accompanied them gave me fuel for facing some of the difficult challenges in international human services.”

Lexi Stickel: “My experiences with the HLC have allowed me to realize what my passions are and have given me the skills necessary to pursue those passions.”

Rob Biskupric-Knight: “I think the HLC shows the importance of never underestimating the power of every individual to make a difference.”