A call for leadership skills to become a greater focus in higher education was a central focus of retired Maj. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell in his presentation Oct. 27 in Emerson Suites.
Bartell’s presentation, “Leadership: Don’t Leave School Without It,” drew approximately 200 Ithaca College and Cornell University ROTC members, students, staff and faculty.
The Jahn Family Civic Leadership Fund, an organization that supports the ROTC at the college, sponsored the event. Robert Jahn Jr. founded this organization after his son, an Ithaca College student and ROTC member, died in a car crash in 2005 during his senior year.
Bartell presented data that showed how the U.S. ranks lower than other nations in terms of student preparedness for their future. Bartell said an approach that focuses on leadership in an educational setting could work to prepare students for their future.
“Leadership skills need to be learned by our young people as part of their secondary and postsecondary education,” he said. “By learning the principles of leadership, our students will learn the skills they need to succeed academically and, while still in school, the skills they need to succeed in whatever career paths they choose later. The challenge we face is this: Leadership development is not getting the attention that it needs in many of our schools.”
Currently, Bartell is the president of the Army and Navy Academy, a military boarding school in California. Throughout his speech, Bartell pointed out to audience members that his military academy and other military-based schools produce successful students.
Freshman Skyler Hollenbeck, one of four audience members that participated in the Q&A session after his speech, asked Bartell why he believes his school produces successful students. Bartell responded by saying his school is a boys-only school. Bartell said students benefit from a gender-specific learning approach because they will not feel distracted by members of the opposite sex and they can learn in ways best fit to their brain development.
“I think [that way of thinking] was just kind of medieval,” Hollenbeck said. “I think that one of the most common stock stories we need to address is ‘boys will be boys’ because I think that kind of acceptance that, ‘Oh, he’s just being a boy,’ I think that’s something that needs to be abolished.”
Hollenbeck said she attended because she wanted to learn more about leadership, and prior to enrolling at the college, she did consider joining the ROTC.
“He talked about a lot of programs that [the ROTC and military schools] have. It was pretty informational, but he didn’t touch as much on the leadership I was hoping,” she said. “I did think it was very gender biased, which was why I got up and asked my question. I think that one of the reasons I was pretty hesitant to join the ROTC program was because I kind of knew it was a boys’ club, and it kind of was reinforced with this speech a little bit.”
Senior Benjamin Grove, who is also an ROTC cadet major, said he enjoyed Bartell’s speech.
“He mentioned a lot about problems that are afflicting the nation and discussed ways that those problems could potentially be fixed,” Grove said. “I had not really thought about — too deeply — all the problems in terms of leadership and how that affects the civilians sector, because for me, personally, I want to be just like him. I want to do this for 36 years or longer if I can.”
Jahn said he hopes that in the future more students and faculty come to listen to these speakers.
“If, God willing, we do this eight more years, no speaker is going to be the same,” Jahn said. “Every time there’s a speaker, we’re at a different place and time in our universe — individually and collectively.”