Leadership is one of the key traits that Emporia State seems to value the most for its students, so when news that the leadership studies program was going to be shut down as a result of budget cuts, there was an outrage from students with a leadership minor.
Last semester, Erynn Dahlke, junior economics major with a minor in communication and leadership, along with several other leadership minor students, spoke up in hopes of saving the leadership studies program at ESU. Since then, the uproar has quieted as they wait for the final verdict in hopes that the program will be saved after all.
“What makes me so passionate about leadership, and especially the leadership program at Emporia State, is that the world has so many terrible leaders,” Dahlke said. “If we want to make the world a better place, we need to make sure that people know how to be good leaders.“
Dahlke is originally from Kearney, Nebraska and chose ESU for its affordability, small campus and its homey feel.
“I loved Kearney and am so grateful to have been raised there,” Dahlke said.
Allthough life is full of pivotal moments as we take steps into becoming the person we are, Dahlke attributes a women and gender studies class that she took in high school as one of those moments.
“That class taught me to think about the world in a different way and notice things in society that I had never noticed before,” Dahlke said. “The class helped me to develop opinions and be okay with feeling angry, or maybe a better word would be ‘passionate,’ about different circumstances people face around the world that I would consider to be unacceptable.”
Dahlke chose to pursue leadership as minor because she wanted the opportunity to work with Clint Stephens, former head of the leadership studies program, and learn from him.
“I also think that having a good understanding of leadership would be beneficial in nearly any situation,” Dahlke said. “Leadership is all about working with other people and rallying them to work for a common goal, and I think that is an important skill to have no matter what you end up doing in life.”
The leadership minor was officially cut during the fall 2017 semester but remained open to allow those students with leadership minors to earn the credit they need so they can graduate with the minor. Since then, students have met with Provost David Cordle to discuss possible options for keeping the leadership program and now have to wait for things to fall into place.
“I believe that developing leaders is something that Emporia State should prioritize and the program would be worth every cent of funding,” Dahlke said. “I think leadership has become something that is synonymous with being better than other people or having power over others and I don’t think that is what good leadership looks like. So, the main reason I am passionate about it is because I think we need to change the way we think about leadership and how we lead for things to get better.”
Dahlke has received motivation and support from her mother, her boyfriend, her academic advisor Rob Catlett, director for the center of economics and assistant professor of mathematics and economics, and Stephens, not only on preserving the leadership program but on facing the challenges of life as well.
“She’s a magnificent student,” Catlett said. “She’s incredibly well prepared, she’s motivated, she’s focused. Part of that is not only does she possess a pretty powerful intellect, but it’s hard work trying to put things into a realistic context. She’s got a passion for learning and she doesn’t duck a challenge.”
Despite all that Dahlke has done, she thought that she would never have been able to do something like she did.
“It takes some bravery, but I really do believe that anyone can make a change,” Dahlke said. “If you think something is wrong or something needs to be changed, push back against it and see where it takes you. The world is full of people who say to themselves that someone else will take care of it. Try not to be one of those people. Be brave and don’t doubt your ability to make a change. Your voice and your actions will get you further than you think.”