July 22, 2016 at 9:45am
Dane Lisser

Leading by Example

Students enrolled in Millikin University's Organizational Leadership (OL) program learn to become stronger professionals and effective organizational members through team-building practices. Millikin's most recent PACE cohort of OL students have taken team-building practices to a new level with a capstone project that's making a positive impact in the local community.

The OL capstone project is the culmination of the Organizational Leadership major integrating elements of leadership, communication, finance, human resource development and organizational behavior. The students set the framework to make strategic and ethical decisions related to the future of an organization.

To grasp a deeper understanding of what it takes to become a leader, the Millikin students decided to work together on a capstone project with Habitat for Humanity in Decatur, Ill. The students pitched a project proposal to help market Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, a new and revitalized project under the direction of Ed Smith, Decatur-area Habitat for Humanity executive director.

PACE Organizational Leadership

"We wanted to do more than just a final assignment," said Jan Coventry, a senior from Forsyth, Ill. "We wanted to go out into the community and make a difference rather than speak on the business side of things. We wanted to apply our leadership skills towards the business."

The Habitat ReStore sells materials that are donated from individuals, contractors, building supply stores and local businesses. The proceeds from the ReStore help fund the construction of Habitat homes within the local community.

PACE Organizational Leadership

The ReStore will be located at 932 E. Wood St. in Decatur with the grand opening set for the end of summer.

"We've been going into the ReStore to help remodel," said Sean Ekiss, a senior from Mt. Zion, Ill. "We put in new ceiling tiles and have helped with anything they've asked us to do."

The benefits coming back to us as a result of volunteering with this organization are monumental and life-changing.

To help build awareness of the ReStore and the opening, the Millikin students engaged the community by organizing fundraisers and appearing at local events.

Among the recent activities was a wiffle ball tournament the students played in on July 16 to benefit Habitat for Humanity for their on-going capstone project. The tournament was titled Swing for Homes, an opportunity for members throughout the community to come together and support the homeless. All the proceeds raised from the tournament went to Habitat for Humanity.

PACE Organizational Leadership

"The tournament was a great event and everyone is looking forward to doing it again next year," said Ed Smith. "Being able to see the students advance this project from an organizational standpoint has been amazing. They're making such an impact and earning important experiences."

Currently, the 16 PACE students have given a cumulative total of 297 hours towards the Habitat for Humanity project. The students have worked under the guidance of Professor Elizabeth Lahey, chair of the Department of Sociology and Organizational Leadership at Millikin.

PACE Organizational Leadership

Jan Coventry noted, "Volunteering is giving us the opportunity to change lives, strengthen our bond to the community, expand our network of relationships, apply and improve our leadership skills and advance our careers. The benefits coming back to us as a result of volunteering with this organization are monumental and life-changing."

In reference to Millikin's PACE program, Daniel Bradford, a senior from Decatur says, "I would never have been able to go to college without the PACE program. We're able to build bonds in the community and the faculty have been supportive. I hope that future Millikin PACE students will have the same positive experiences that we have shared through this program."

Millikin University's PACE program is designed for individuals who want a more flexible way to earn a degree. Accelerated classes take place online and during evenings and weekends. New PACE offerings provide a similar flexibility but may incorporate daytime courses. For more information on PACE, visit millikin.edu/pace.