Leadership Practicum: Learning to Lead at Booth

Leadership Practicum: Learning to Lead at Booth

One of my goals when I was looking at MBA programs was to develop myself as a leader, and I chose Booth because I recognized the school’s focus on this goal as well. The indicator was that our sole mandatory class is Leadership Effectiveness and Development, better known as LEAD. Taught by second-year students, LEAD is our first class at Booth. It teaches you a range of important leadership skills, from first impressions to cross-cultural communications.

For me, what the LEAD course kick-started in my leadership development during my first quarter — Leadership Practicum truly helped round out as I finish up my second year.

Chris Collins, Carrie Lydon, and Mary Reid Ervin at the Leadership Development Office launched Leadership Practicum after a conversation with Booth’s Graduate Business Council (GBC) in which they recognized the need for a roadmap for leadership after LEAD. The goal was to create a program that maximizes flexibility for individuals to focus on their specific goals, but at the same time, creates opportunities for group collaboration and growth.

Carrie shared, “We recognized many students’ post-internship reflection is that the first year is so busy, but now they want to be intentional about focusing on leadership development. It is an intentional approach to development: we want the student to take this opportunity to be reflective individually as well as with their peers.”

And thus, three years ago, Leadership Practicum was born.

Focusing on second-year full-time students, the program was structured as a series of modules spanning the three quarters of the second-year. The first module in the fall quarter, called Potential, establishes a strong foundation for all of the 2Ys. In the following two quarters, each participant can choose from five additional modules: Development, Leadership, Engage, Improvise, and Vision. Additionally, each student is assigned a Leadership Coach, with whom they can have one-on-one coaching to supplement the modules and workshops.

Over the past three years, Carrie, Mary Reid, and the team have created a truly incredible program. Through conversations with the students, they have critically analyzed and modified the programming to provide the greatest value. The best example of this is the Vision module. What had once started off as a five-workshop series has now been transformed into a weekend getaway at Destination Kohler, in Kohler, WI.

Mary Reid described, “The intention behind location was to get a reflective space to think about life goals: what is self, what brought you to Booth, what has remained the same, what has changed? Kohler has a strong mission, and lots of ties at the location are positive reflections of that mission. The different spaces, all exceptionally picturesque, combining Zen and freedom, created opportunities for different kinds of learners.”

The idea was to step out of a familiar environment and habitual routine to get a larger perspective on the past, present and future. The goal behind the module was to create your personal vision. Carrie highlighted that, “A vision statement is a thing that isn’t in stone. You should be iterating on it. There are a lot of unknowns about what will be once you leave Booth, and we want you to think about it now so you learn to iterate it based on future events.”

Over this past year, I had the opportunity to participate in the Potential, Improvise, and Development modules. As a group-focused module, Potential helped me identify my strengths, my motivations, and my stress “triggers” and then work with my peers to analyze and discuss these different aspects of our personality. Hearing different stories and perspectives provided me with different examples on how these triggers are manifested.

I loved connecting with my Leadership Coach, Carrie, after each group workshop to dive deeper into my triggers to help me understand the benefits and dangers of the manifestation of these traits. By asking specific questions, Carrie forced me to reflect on my motivations and strengths. She encouraged me to define and focus on specific leadership development areas. And most importantly, Carrie pushed me farther to reflect, to gain confidence, and to create an effective, personalized solution for my goals.

The Improvise module helped me gain confidence in my communication and presentation while the Potential and Development modules helped develop my self-awareness and provide an approach to leverage my strengths effectively as I go forth in my career.

Leadership Practicum helped me achieve a very important MBA goal for me, and for that, I am so grateful for Carrie and her team.

One of the strengths of Leadership Practicum is that it allows each student to create our own path to help us reach our personal leadership development goals. It was a pleasure to hear the thoughts and reflections on Leadership Practicum from my classmates as well… Read on for thoughts from some of my fellow Practicum participants!


Ken Perkins
Leadership Practicum has been a very valuable experience for me. It is quite easy to find and take personality/leadership tests or read books on leadership. However, working through the nuances of your own experiences, interests, and personality traits can be more challenging, and finding active ways to grow from your findings can be even harder still. Where do you begin?

Fortunately, Booth’s Leadership Practicum allowed me to efficiently and effectively clarify how to leverage my interests, strengths, and weaknesses to develop a relevant leadership vision and a personalized set of goals. Whether through one-on-one coaching, class sessions on leadership theory, or interactive vision / goal setting during a (fun!) leadership retreat in Kohler, Wisconsin, Leadership Practicum gave me the much-needed resources to develop a concrete plan for individual growth.

Barbara Scharle de Vasconcelos
Through the program, I was able to explore my strengths and areas of development, as well as understand how to leverage them as so to develop my signature leadership style. Additionally, Practicum made me reflect about life in a broader way and helped me define tactical actions to bring me even closer to the life I envision for myself.

In my opinion, the two highlights of the program are the personal coach meetings and the Vision Retreat. Initially, the coaching sessions played a key role in this process since they were based on my HDS and MVPI test results and shaped to my specific needs. With the help of my coach, I was able to dig deeper and understand in which situations my areas of development are more prevalent and what is the best strategy to close those gaps.

At the end of the program, a weekend getaway, the Vision Retreat, gave me time to reflect on how to structure my next steps, given everything that I learned with the program. Being surrounded by my Booth friends and engaging with them in a set of activities designed to focus on reflection allowed me to put things in perspective to ultimately create an action plan that will guide my post-MBA life.

The Leadership Practicum is a unique program that Boothies should take advantage of. For me, it was one of the most impactful experiences I had at Booth and made me feel confident that I have the necessary vision and tools to succeed in my career and personal life.

Eunice Lee
The Vision Retreat was a great opportunity to step away from our busy lives in Chicago to reflect on the past, aspire for the future, and enjoy the present with fellow 2Y classmates. The retreat was thoughtfully planned and crafted by the Leadership Development office and took place in Kohler, WI where we got to visit the Kohler Design Center, the American Club, and the Whistling Straits Golf Course.

During the retreat, we had time to reflect back on our transition to Booth and take stock of which aspects of our lives came to close, continued, or began during that transition. With this reflection of our transition to Booth as a base, we thought of ways we could be intentional in our upcoming transition into life after Booth, leveraging our personal strengths and being conscious of possible challenges. We culminated the retreat by beginning the process of drafting our personal vision statements for the year to come.

In some ways, I think many of us may have left the retreat with more questions than answers, but I realized the most powerful part of the retreat was that it started the spark and conversation to begin thinking about these important questions, which we all too often forget about during the busyness of our day to day life.

So, to end, here are a few questions that I left the vision retreat with:

As this chapter of Booth comes to a close, what will I leave behind, what will I take with me, and what new beginnings are in store? And looking forward, what kind of person do I hope to become?

Rickpaul Dhindsa
I honestly think that Leadership Practicum is one of the best things I did while at Booth. Since our first day at Booth, alumni and staff have taught us that developing yourself as a leader and a citizen is as important — if not more — than developing technical skills. It can be hard to be mindful of being so reflective on one’s own, though, so it was a real treat to have the opportunity to do this through a dedicated program.

What sets this apart from other programs is that we were given one-on-one coaching to engage with the particular set of challenges that you are dealing with, in a way that his highly personalized to you. Along with my coach and the rest of the Leadership Staff, I have made enormous strides in developing myself as a person and finding out what I want my career and my life to look like.

Specifically, the Vision Retreat was a great opportunity to continue some of the work that we have started by engaging in challenges and developing a vision statement to describe how we want our transition out of Booth to look like. It was also a welcome opportunity to cap off some of the rich experiences I’ve had with some of the people who I’ve come to really respect over the past two years, not to mention an incredibly fun weekend.