President Roush’s CentreTerm course a favorite among students
January 19, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
Study of and Preparation for Leadership — gives students the
unique opportunity to interact with President Roush one-on-one.
CentreTerm, Centre College’s short January term, offers students a wide array of classes that they might not get to take at any other time during their college career. One CentreTerm class — Rainmaking: The Study of and Preparation for Leadership — gives students the unique opportunity to call College President John Roush their professor.
The class, offered annually on an alternating basis to first-years and upperclass students, is offered to first-years only this year. Students taking the course read literature associated with leadership studies, discuss leadership with Roush and take at least one field trip to see a leader at work.
“The course has maintained a core element associated with John Gardner’s text, ‘On Leadership,’ and has normally had a secondary focus — this year it has been Abraham Lincoln,” Roush says.
The course came about because of Roush’s wish to interact with students in a class setting.
“CentreTerm made it possible for me to be professor,” Roush says. “The subject matter is suited right for this shorter term, as my promise to the students is to give them a primer on understanding the phenomenon of leadership in modern, formal organizations.”
Students, in turn, look forward to having the opportunity to take a course with Roush as the professor. Whitney Weber ’12 took the class as a junior last year, and it is still a talking point among her family and friends.
“When I tell people who are not familiar with the unique learning environment that characterizes Centre that I had the opportunity to take a class with President Roush, they are shocked. They primarily attended larger universities where they rarely saw, and certainly never spoke directly to, the president of their institutions,” Weber says. “Many of them ask how I was selected for the class and if it was only offered to a few privileged students. When I explain that registering for the class was no different than any other CentreTerm course, they are amazed.”
Cameron Fishman ’12, who also took the class last year, was equally excited to take a class with the President.
“It is pretty amazing to have the opportunity to take a class with President Roush. I learned much about his strategies, motivations and philosophies in life,” Fishman says. “It gave me great motivation — to listen and learn from someone who has been successful at developing and evolving this college into what it is today.”
Fishman and Weber both distinctly remember the day a guest speaker came to their class as a stand-out moment from their entire time at Centre.
“If I had to pick one experience that I found particularly entertaining and informative, it would be the opportunity to have Steves Kappes, former Deputy Director of the CIA and President Roush's college roommate, speak to our class,” Weber says. “He talked about his experiences and the special set of skills and circumstances that allowed him to not only obtain this prestigious leadership position, but to continue to thrive after ‘reaching the top.’ He helped me to see that capitalizing on my particular skills as a leader is my responsibility — as President Roush would say, ‘leadership is a choice.’”
“That was an amazing opportunity — to ask [Mr. Kappes] questions about the CIA,” Fishman agrees. “That day in class is something I'll never forget.”
Brian Anderson ’12 found that the best part of the class was to interact with Roush on a level that other college presidents don’t often allow.
“My favorite part of the class was the one-on-one attention that I received from Dr. Roush,” Anderson says. “He challenged us on more than an intellectual level: he made us think on a more personal and emotional level. He taught us how to be ethical and responsible leaders.”
Roush hopes his CentreTerm class gives students a jumping-off point to begin exploring their own leadership endeavors.
“My hope is that the students gain an understanding of the language, the concepts, those things we know about men and women who lead,” he says. “I repeat: my course offers a place to begin.”
Indeed, the students agree that the course gave them courage to step into leadership positions of their own.
“What I learned in this class last year will stick with me throughout my life. I understand more fully what an excellent leader [President Roush] is, and this has motivated me to put myself in more leadership positions,” Fishman says. “For example, because of how I became inspired by his leadership qualities, I became president of the Jewish Student Organization (JSO) at Centre.”
Weber shared a similar surge in aplomb after the leadership class.
“President Roush's class came at a time when I needed a push to seize the opportunities that I had been passing by, primarily due to a lack of confidence in my own capabilities. After listening to President Roush's lectures, I realized that I needed to gather up the courage to take a chance and pursue avenues to leadership,” Weber says. “I am now applying to graduate programs in healthcare administration, and I’m positive that President Roush's leadership course will provide me a strong foundation for my future endeavors, hopefully as a leader in the healthcare industry.”
For Anderson, the CentreTerm class was a reminder of advice President Roush is often heard giving students.
“There is one quote from class that sticks out: ‘do your best, be your best, no regrets,’” he says.
President Roush is just as affected by his students in the leadership class as they are by him.
“What goes on in Centre’s classrooms and laboratories and performance spaces is the most important thing we do — end of story,” Roush says. “I count it a privilege and an honor to play some small role in that experience.”
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.