Are you looking to bolster your Political Science experience at the U of A? Seeking a new academic challenge? A way to branch out beyond the walls of Tory Building? If so, I, Ben Throndson, your friendly neighbourhood Poli. Sci. student, highly recommend submitting an application to join the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. An immensely rewarding experience awaits you.
When I was first contemplating whether to apply to be part of the PLLC's pioneer class, I was in equal measures curious and skeptical about this new two-year certificate program at the U of A. Since I had taken (and enjoyed) Leadership CTS modules in high school, and I was looking for a way to be more involved at the University, I decided to give it a shot.
While I was excited to be accepted to the program, some apprehension remained. What if the PLLC ended up being like the caricature that some of those opposed to the College had described, and I was about to embark on two years of dreaded "networking" with uppity, self-interested people? What if the course content was a load of vapid, feel-good, "Go out and be the best leader you can be!" propaganda? What if it tanked my GPA?
Thankfully, not one of these worries materialized.
My fellow students are, in a word, awesome. They are some of the most passionate, interesting, community-minded, and optimistic people that I have met during my time at the U of A. I was concerned that the College would be full of resume-padders who put themselves first, but I am very relieved to have been wrong about that.
In the PLLC, we are divided up into approximately 10-person forum groups (like cohorts in the Business faculty), and it is with these groups that we have class, do group projects, et cetera. Additionally, these groups are interdisciplinary, meaning that the members of one's forum come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds. This has had a double benefit: not only have I been able to build friendships with students that I otherwise would never have met if I had remained cloistered in only Political Science and other Arts courses, but I have been able to learn a great deal more about disciplines that are not my own. In my mind, the PLLC is a great example of what a university Arts education should be: a learning experience that broadens one's horizons.
In terms of course material and class work, the PLLC has delivered in a big way. The PLLC courses, for third-year students, are divided into two, full-year, Monday evening classes that are held every second week. Basically, what this means is that we have one three-hour class every Monday evening.
Foundations of Leadership (INT D 301) provides a crash course in the theory of many important concepts in leadership. The course material is fascinating and engaging, and has been curated by the PLLC's Founding Principal, the Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, with one central question in mind: "What do leaders need to know?" It's been really neat to learn about the aspects of leadership that a former Prime Minister finds valuable.
Topics in Leadership (INT D 306), on the other hand, provides case studies of leadership in practice. For these courses, leaders from a wide variety of backgrounds are invited to give one hour lectures on the topics that we have been studying in the Foundations of Leadership course. These lectures are free and open to the public, and I highly recommend coming to watch one of them if you are at all interested in the PLLC — I will even guarantee that current students would be happy to take some time to talk with you about the program. See the schedule of Lougheed Lectures here, and please do consider joining us for one of these sessions even if you don't plan on applying - they are very illuminating: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/peter-lougheed/lougheed-college-lectures
While our workload as students has been challenging so far, I have not yet found it overwhelming. Many of the academic skills that Political Science students utilize on a regular basis — critical thinking, quick reading, essay writing — have proved to be very valuable to me as a PLLC student. If anything, I think we Poli. Sci students have a leg up, at least with respect to the third-year program of studies for the PLLC.
Finally, in what is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the College, the administration has been willing to listen to student feedback and refine the program as needed. The PLLC has hosted a town hall to hear and discuss student feedback, and forum groups are currently in the process of selecting student representatives to attend regular meetings with College administration. This give-and-take has really made me feel like students are being given the opportunity to shape the future direction of the College, which is a really refreshing approach to academic governance.
In short, if it interests you and works with your schedule, I highly recommend applying to become a student of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. I truly believe that the PLLC is an up-and-coming part of the University of Alberta, and being a member of the Pioneer Class is already the defining experience of my undergraduate studies at the U of A. Since becoming a student of the PLLC, I have made friends whom I otherwise would never have met, participated in fun and challenging activities to which I would never have had access, and learned a great deal about the theory and practice of leadership.
Applications are now open for the 2016-2018 cohort of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, and the submission deadline is March 20th, 2016. See https://uofa.ualberta.ca/peter-lougheed for additional details about the program and how to submit your application.
Ben Throndson is a third year Political Science student and the current VP Communications of the Political Science Undergraduate Association.