The Leadership Academy

By Bruce Fisher (Ph.D. PSYC ’87)
Director, IIT Leadership Academy
Director, Center for Research and Service

Hand-in-hand with providing a robust academic experience, IIT has exhibited a growing commitment to developing the leadership strengths of its students. Through the Leadership Academy, which opened in 1998, our students are better equipped to advance to positions of leadership while as students and in their professional careers.

IIT has exhibited a growing commitment to developing the leadership strengths of its students.

The academy has had a great impact on all students and on how IIT is perceived in the marketplace. I have always appreciated President Lew Collens’ support for the academy and his role in cultivating the donors who funded this program. I am grateful for the generous contributions of Trustee Al Self and his wife, Lila, as well as John Mitchell (EE ’50), which enabled us to found the academy.

There are two levels of involvement among students. The first is the 25 Academy Scholars—the number has grown from 20 when it started—who receive a scholarship to fund their entire education. These are the best student-leaders at IIT.

The second level includes leadership retreats and seminars, which we offer to all undergraduates, not only to the academy scholars. On average, 150–200 students participate in them, which is nearly double the attendees from when we started. Lew is always right there, too, hiking and playing horseshoes with the students, encouraging them to test their potential.

The program has inspired a number of students to be more involved in activities on campus, within the country, and in other countries. A number of organizations initiated and managed by students got their start in the academy. 

Engineers Without Borders (EWB), which does similar work as Doctors Without Borders, is one of them. Right now, EWB is working on infrastructure improvement in Haiti. EWB also collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild houses destroyed during Hurricane Katrina.