Clarion call

L.A. Times

Against a rising chorus of concern about the cost of higher education and debate over the relevance…

Georgia (Aug 12, 2011)

Against a rising chorus of concern about the cost of higher education and debate over the relevance of a college degree, a unique student exchange program at Kennesaw State University seeks to address this crisis in confidence.

Launched in 2009, Kennesaw State’s Center for Student Leadership initiated a hands-on leadership exchange program focused on homelessness. Fifteen KSU students traveled to the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, to study how that community deals with the issue of homelessness, followed by a visit to Atlanta by the USC students. The next year, Suffolk University in Boston joined the exchange.

“There’s the discipline of leadership, then there’s the practical application of leadership,” said Brian Wooten, director of the Center for Student Leadership. “This program connects university course work with social issues.”

As with all social issues, homelessness is a complex problem with no easy solutions, Wooten said, and through this exchange students learn it takes more than volunteering at your local food bank to make a difference.

“Students learned they need to be thinking about how and where they’re volunteering; how they’re voting and how that affects the issue,” Wooten said. “It’s about helping them to see the issue in totality, and I think that’s the hallmark of this initiative.”

Zach Hofmann is a senior business management major who participated in the inaugural exchange to Los Angeles. He spent time at an L.A. homeless shelter, a halfway house and down on the city’s infamous Skid Row.

“It was kind of scary, but eye opening at the same time,” he said. “It was interesting to see how societies handle problems like that. It takes important decision making. A lot more can and should be done.”

As a result of the success of the first two exchange programs, this summer CSL hosted a conference, “Leadership in Action: National Leadership Summit,” to bring together collegiate leadership professionals from across the country to showcase the program and explore ways to expand it.

“People tend to think cultural competency is gained overseas, and while that is true, an L.A. student is a much different student than a KSU student,” Wooten said. “The cultural exchange adds to the richness of this experience.”

With aspirations to be a business consultant or operations manager, Hofmann believes his experience through CSL’s leadership exchange program will help him stand out in the job market.

“Through this program I learned you have to look at problems like homelessness with an open mind,” he said, “and that’s definitely a skill I will take with me into the workplace. Participation in this program was voluntary, and I hope it shows a perspective employer that I have initiative and want to do more with my life than just get a job and make money to improve my own situation.”

-- Jennifer Hafer



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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