The Lead

2017 Fall Issue

 Announcing the Launch of "The Lead"

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Fall Orientation

Capitol Leadership Lab

Family Day

High School Leadership Academy

ILA Conference


Leadership Challenge Event

Community Spotlight

 We Escaped!

Team successfully tackles escape room.

By Michaela Miller - On Friday, August 25th, the Leadership Institute held its annual Fall Orientation. This year, the theme resembled a rising trend: Escape Rooms. This year’s attendance exceeded previous years, bringing in over one hundred and twenty students. Students broke into teams and set forth to conquer the two escape rooms. Puzzles included balancing equations, decoding messages, deciphering hints and clues and finding the correct number of combinations in order to move on.

There were two Escape Rooms for the students to tackle. The objective was for students to solve three stages worth of puzzles, each more difficult than the last in order to escape and win the game. The team that escaped the fastest from both rooms wins.

Team working to escape the mummy.The first room was “The Mummy,” which had a time limit of thirty minutes. The objective was to escape from beneath the pyramids. In this room, teams had to use four journals to decipher a Rosetta stone, translate their clues, and align the stones of a maze puzzle to find the number combination that unlocked their next step. The next stage involved solving a heart puzzle and solving a math equation to balance the mummy’s heart with the weight of the Feather of Truth. The last stage required students to use obelisks and a pyramid to construct a compass that gives them the directions to get out of the maze and unlock the reward chest. For escaping this room, students received gummy candies resembling mummies.

The second room was “The Virus.” This room had harder puzzles; so, the allotted time limit was sixty minutes. For this room, the teams immersed themselves in a laboratory setting in which they had to decipher clues in order to find an antidote to the virus. The puzzles in this room involved using the periodic table, test tubes, flasks, beakers, keys and a decoder machine. In order to escape this room, the students needed to remember every chemistry professor’s favorite element: the element of surprise.

Students left orientation having learned more about the Leadership Institute and the different teams on which they can get more involved. Based on the amount of enthusiasm shown by the teams, it is safe to say that this year is off to a great start.

 Leadership with a Capitol “L” 

Students at a Leadership Lab at the Capitol

By Michaela Miller - On Saturday, September 16th, 17 students in the Washburn University Leadership Institute visited the Kansas state capitol building. The trip was a part of a leadership lab, which aims to show students examples of leadership in action in the community. The Washburn Leadership Institute hosts several leadership labs each year and allows students to discover how they can put their leadership skills into action. First, the students were led on a historic tour of the capitol building. The students learned about the construction of the capital as well as the history behind the artwork in the capitol. They were also able to view the state Senate, Supreme Court, and House of Representatives chambers. Then, the students climbed the 296 steps to get to the top of the capitol dome. As the students climbed the stairs, they viewed the inner and outer domes and learned about the architecture of the building as well as some Kansas history.  Through the leadership lab, the students were able to learn how leadership is shown in our state government. “I really enjoyed the leadership lab because we were able to bond as a group and because we were also able to see where our elected officials work and where our laws are created,” said Melissa King, a student who attended the leadership lab.  

 Family Day Fun

Brianna Barrientos Speaking at Family Day By Brianna Barrientos - On September 23rd, more than 35 families came out to help celebrate Family Day with the Leadership Institute. The family day celebration was held in the morning in the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center, and families came from far and wide to enjoy the festivities. Family day is an event that Washburn University has been holding for many years. Family day in itself is a day for Washburn students, staff, and faculty to invite their own family to campus and experience what is so wonderful about Washburn.

Family Day Many different organizations and teams host their own events for their members to bring their families to, and many families enjoy tailgating and attending the football game that is held. Seven years ago, the Leadership Institute started hosting our own gathering on the day of family day and attendance and support have done nothing but grows year after year. Through this gathering of WULI students, families, and staff, many great things come about. First off, there is an opportunity to meet one another’s families and really get to know one another better. This also gives students families a great opportunity to see what their student is a part of and get a grasp on what the Leadership Institute is all about, learning of all the accomplishments and events that took place in the previous years. Family day for the Leadership Institute is also a day for fun, and to enjoy spending time with each other. Family Day

This year’s family day, because it was held in the morning, was centered around the concept of “Good Morning Washburn”. Breakfast was served and there was something on the menu for everyone. Choices of food ranging from pancakes to seasoned breakfast potatoes to fruit skewers, and of course, there had to be coffee. Outside in the lawn area, there were plenty of yard games for all ages. There were ladder ball and washers for the more competition-driven families, and there were beanbag and Frisbee tosses that enticed the little ones. Inside, there was a photo booth with plenty of silly props to capture the memories of Family Day and to remember for years and years to come.

Family day is always a day that the Leadership Institute looks forward to and anticipates at the beginning of each fall. Family Day of 2017 is one to remember, and we look forward too many family days to come! 

 HSLA Reunion

Students enjoy the first reunion for the High School Leadership Academy.

By Morgan Holloway - This past summer, Washburn University Leadership Institute hosted the first High School Leadership Academy (HSLA) on June 11-17, 2017. As Lauren Edelman said before, this opportunity was “made possible by a grant from the Topeka Community Foundation, as well as the collaboration between the Foundation, Washburn University and the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce.” During that week, nineteen students participated in the program with ten Washburn University students serving as peer mentors. The high school students gained a greater awareness of their personal leadership abilities and how they can positively impact their communities. In addition to this transformational experience, the bonds created between the peer mentors and the students left everyone with memories that will last a lifetime.

On September 27, 2017, peer mentors and students had the chance to reunite at Burger Stand for a social event. Eleven high school participants enjoyed reconnecting with the peer mentors. The evening was filled with food, laughter, and entertainment as students enjoyed playing ping-pong, pool, or darts, eating, and catching up. Personally, as a peer mentor, it was so exciting to see how much the high school students have changed since the summer HSLA program. Another amazing result of the program was that the high school students remained connected through social media and some have talked every day since the end of the summer. One week allowed students to recognize their leadership abilities, learn about Topeka, and create lifelong connections

  Learning Through Experience: Exploring Brussels and Leadership

The Leadership Institute had the opportunity to send six students and two faculty members to Brussels this last October. The International Leadership Association Global Conference in Brussels, Belgium was held October 12-15, 2017. The theme of this conference was “Leadership In Turbulent Times,” and sessions and speakers alike focused on the concept of leadership in anxious, complicated and difficult situations and settings. By going to eight different sessions, which consisted of workshops, panels, symposiums, or presentations, we got immersive experiences to help us better understand how to approach leadership in turbulence. Along with the sessions, we also competed in the Cases Study Competition and attended the Women’s Leadership Affinity Group Luncheon and the Youth Leadership Members Interest Group Dinner. 

The International Leadership Association Global Conference experience challenged and pushed us to think critically about leadership, education and ourselves as individuals. We kicked off our conference experience with the Case Study Competition. Prior to arriving, the students separated into two groups of three students where we studied and analyzed a social issue where we applied leadership theories to help tackle these issues. The group of Emma, Katelyn and Morgan had the opportunity to spread their message about modern sex slavery with conference attendees from all over the world. Their knowledge gained is parallel to Alexis, Brooke and Claire’s group which investigated the effects of poverty and mental health on children. Prepping for the competition taught us how to broaden our research and thinking critically in an academic space that we had not done so before. This made competing alongside schools such as Kansas State University and University of San Diego worthwhile. 

The days following the case study were spent in and out of conference sessions, luncheons and exploring the city. For most of us, our favorite part of the trip were the conference sessions we attended. Here we heard speakers such as Joanne B. Ciulla who we read in our textbooks in our leadership classes at Washburn. We met some of our idols that we came to the conference wanting to meet and some we discovered for the first time at the conference. Morgan, for example, continually ran into Jody Fry who is a spotlight for spiritual leadership. Claire, on the other hand, met one the keynote speakers George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece.

It was within these encounters and sessions that we learned more about ourselves. Seeing the experience and maturity some people hold in their knowledge of leadership inspired us to delve deeper into our own leadership journeys. We held on to conference sessions about ethics, trauma, adaptability, authenticity, generation Z, leadership courses and much more. If you talk to anyone about the conference you will surely hear about the sessions. To some extent, it isn’t so important what the sessions discussed but rather how they made us feel and grow. To hear us still light up when we reflect on our experiences is what this conference was about. We grew as leaders and individuals and we can see that growth in ourselves and in others that we spent the week with. 

ILA was an experience we wish could have lasted longer. From exploring the city to exploring leadership, we were constantly amazed at how much still had to learn. To be surrounded by hundreds of people from around the world there to learn together was humbling. We all came with a different perception of what turbulence looks like to us, but we all left with the same vigor to do something about those turbulent times.

 Set Sail for Homecoming Week

Alexis Yelland, Homecoming Queen


By Michaela Miller - This year, the Leadership was proud to kick off an amazing Homecoming week. Leadership students participated in many of the festivities as the week sailed by.

This year, students took on the theme “Bods at Sea” and turned the Washburn campus into an interactive seascape. The LI office was transformed into a tropical underwater adventure with nets of fish and palm trees. Our fish mascot Houdini got to join in on the fun as we moved his fishbowl around the office. 

Leadership Institute Window Art

Students also participated in the Can-Struction, Hall Decorating, and Window Painting competitions. We are so proud of the Learning Community for placing in the Hall Decorating contest! Unfortunately, our adorable starfish did not place in the Can-Struction competition, but we are still proud of the construction team! We want to say thank you to everyone who took on a leadership role and to everyone who participated in the Homecoming Activities.

Also, thank you to everyone who helped with the parade! Sydney Fox did a great job coordinating the parade, and our very own Alexis Yelland walked away from Homecoming week wearing the crown. We are so proud! We had over 40 volunteers and over 40 entries in the parade this year. It was a tremendous turnout, and we could not have done it without the support of our volunteers and community. Thank you, everyone!

 Leadership Challenge Event™ Corner

Days until LCE™: 128

Sponsorships accrued: $30,510 (Goal is $40,000)

Teams Registered: 31 (Goal is 35)

Registered Volunteers: 87

Important Dates:

  • Oct 13 – Campus and Community Volunteer Registration Opens
  • Nov 16 – Student Volunteer Registration Opens
  • March 10, 12 and 13 – Volunteer Training
  • April 5 and 6 – Leadership Challenge Event™

 Community Spotlight

Cindy Wilson: Our Westar Energizer

Cindy Wilson

By Michaela Miller - Cindy Wilson is a member of the Advisory Board for the Washburn Leadership Institute. She is the Executive Director of Corporate Compliance and Internal Audit for Westar Energy. We are so lucky to have her on our team for the Leadership Challenge Event. Cindy has generously agreed to co-sponsor the event again this year, and we love that she is just as excited as we are.

As a Washburn Alumni, Cindy is a tremendous asset to the Leadership Institute. She is very passionate about Washburn, and she cannot wait to be more involved this year. Cindy decided to join the Advisory Board after being involved in the Leadership Challenge Event. She was impressed with how the event was managed by the students, and she was glad to help give back to the community. After volunteering, Cindy wanted to be more involved with the Leadership Institute and build relationships with students. Though it is her first year helping in this capacity, she is excited to learn more about the Leadership Institute and student involvement.

Cindy believes that the Leadership Institute has had a positive impact on Topeka. She says, “The Leadership Institute provides additional leaders into the workforce. It is important to continue to build the reputation of Washburn, and what the Institute does for the campus and the community is that it adds to the quality of the students.” Cindy’s favorite part about working with the Leadership Institute is listening to students talk about their experiences and watching them take advantage of opportunities to grow. It is a way to interact with the community and meet new people. Cindy says that being able to market yourself to potential employers and use leadership skills in the real world is what will make a person successful.

When asked about her favorite leadership quote, Cindy said that the words of Charles R. Swindoll really resonate with her. He says, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Cindy says she loves this quote because of the truth in it. Life happens, but what really matters is how you handle what life throws at you.

Cindy has one piece of advice for students. She says, “Don’t focus too much on the technical skills.” Major classes and the related skills required to get a job are important, but those are not the only necessary skills. “What’s important is getting your degree”, Cindy says, “because that gets your foot in the door, but leadership skills will grow and advance your career.” Make meaningful connections with people, because those connections are what will make you successful.

Oh the Places You’ll Go: Why Not Visit Topeka

Rosa Cavazos

By Michaela Miller - Rosa Cavazos is a member of the Advisory Board for the Leadership Institute. She is the Director of Tourism Development for Visit Topeka. We are so glad to have her on our team. She is a great resource for community events.

Rosa has been a member of the Advisory Board for a few years now. Originally, she was asked by Dr. David Carter and Michael Gleason to join the Board and be a community liaison for the Leadership Institute. She was eager to learn more about the Institute and she had connections to the local high schools. She joined the Board to get students more involved in the community.

Rosa agrees that the Leadership Institute has had a positive on the Topeka community. She admires how students are actually going out and getting involved in the community. She is glad to see the students learning from the Advisory Board members and taking initiative. She is impressed that the Leadership Institute offers programs like the summer High School Leadership Academy (HSLA) program which allows students to learn about leadership skills and how to use those skills to benefit the community. By providing these opportunities to students, the Leadership connects with high school students in the community and helps bring pride to the city of Topeka. Hopefully, by having these experiences, students will develop a newfound pride in their community and want to stay in Topeka.

Rosa is looking forward to seeing how the Leadership Institute develops this year. She is excited to work with the new Advisory Board members and to see the student creativity evolve within the Institute. Rosa loves seeing the different themes for the Leadership Challenge Event simulation. She cannot wait to see what the theme will be this year. She is also looking forward to the second summer of HSLA. Since this is only the second year for the program, there is still so much room for it to grow. Hopefully, the previous group of students can be involved in mentoring the new group during the summer.

Students and community members often ask what Topeka has to offer. Rosa says, "Students just need to be more engaged in the community." Students need to check out the local news and radio stations and actively look for ways to get involved. There is always something going on in Topeka. To find out what is going on this week, check out

Rosa uses her favorite quote to remind students to be productive and use their time wisely. She says, “We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so what are you going to do with yours? If you are asleep for 8 hours, make the other 16 count.” As students, we need to enjoy ourselves and take the time to notice the little things as well as the big picture. As Rosa says, “You have plenty of time to become an adult later.”

Patroling the Hallways with Ron Brown

Ron Brown

By Michael Gates - Ron Brown is the current chief of police for Topeka Public Schools and a retired Major in the Topeka Police Department. He was also named the new Training Director for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a civilian volunteer position with the Department Of Defense. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Chief Warrant Officer, and he is a graduate of Washburn University. He also has a long and distinguished record of association with numerous community volunteer associations such as the Leadership Institute, where he has been a member of the Advisory Board for the past few years.

When asked what made him decide to be a member of the advisory board, he stated that he “saw it as a great opportunity to interact with other like-minded professionals who believe in our young people and understand the need for leaders in our community/State/Nation”. He has also felt a responsibility to an educational institution that had done so much for him in the past.

When asked what was his favorite part about working with the Leadership Institute he said, “Interacting with so many amazing students who are learning and growing in a nurturing and caring environment with outstanding teachers and mentors.”

When asked his views on how the Leadership Institute has impacted Topeka he said, ”It has been a joy to see this institute grow and produce outstanding leaders. Our students have taken on difficult subjects like safety, poverty, economic development, ethical issues and leadership development. They have asked the hard questions and debated tough issues all with the desire to make our community better.”  We as a leadership institute have put in the hard work to mentor and coach many aspiring leaders in our community. Moreover, it’s what he is looking forward to for this year.

When asked what his favorite leadership quote, and what it meant to him. He said that he was reminded of a quote from General James Mattis, who he had the privilege of working with during his career in the Marine Corps. The General once said “I don’t lose sleep over the potential of failure”, which means that if you worry about the possibility of failing to the point of where you can’t sleep you’re not going to be able to perform to the best of your ability.

When asked if he had any advice for incoming students he said, “You have been given a tremendous opportunity. Like me, you too have been ‘Blessed by God to be an Ichabod’. Go into the world and do great things.”