Vermeer support provides new program for ISU students to lead in global society

Scholarships and an international trip will be available to selected students in Iowa State University’s leadership studies program through the generous support of the Vermeer Corporation, a global industrial and agricultural equipment company with headquarters in Pella, Iowa.

During the next four academic years, 18 students will be selected annually to participate in an immersive year-long study of leadership. The Vermeer International Leadership Program will develop students’ abilities to lead in multi-national organizations and address global challenges.

When the Vermeer International Leadership Program launches in fall 2015, it will be the culmination of two years of development and planning by faculty at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, which coordinates the university’s leadership studies program; staff at the Iowa State Foundation; and key employees at Vermeer. In addition to scholarships and international travel stipends for the selected students, the gift includes funding for experiential learning, faculty development and administrative support.

“I’m so excited that students are going to experience this intense year of leadership development. It really will positively change the lives of participants as they build their skillset for leading in our global community,” said Clint Stephens, lecturer in leadership studies who will coordinate the program.

A new cohort of 18 students will participate every year over the first four years of the program, providing an in-depth leadership experience to 72 students. Participants will study leadership through three academic courses selected to elevate their knowledge, skills and attitudes. All three courses will count toward the leadership studies program’s certificate or minor. In these courses, students will identify and research a global challenge on which they wish to focus throughout the year. Similar programs at other universities have focused on such global challenges as clean drinking water, disease prevention, poverty, disaster relief or food insecurity.

Beyond the classroom, participants in the Vermeer International Leadership Program will engage in addressing their selected global challenge at the local level through service projects in the Ames community. They will also travel to Vermeer headquarters in Pella to learn how companies operate on an international scale, interview employees at multiple levels of the company and participate in leadership-in-practice case studies.

“This is an exciting new way for us to contribute to the development of future leaders in the state of Iowa and beyond,” said Mary Andringa, CEO and chair of the board of directors at Vermeer Corporation. “We look forward to engaging with the students both on campus and during their trip abroad at our international facilities.”

Vermeer International Leadership Program participants will begin their leadership study together through a course in the fall semester. For one week over winter break, participants will travel internationally together to visit a Vermeer facility in Europe, Asia or South America. On location, participants will learn about leadership in an international setting. During this week, participants will meet with local government officials, visit a university and participate in community service related to their chosen global challenge.

During the spring semester, participants will continue in a class together to delve into their international experience and address their global challenge. Their year-long experience will culminate with a presentation of their findings to industry leaders.

“This new program adds to the Catt Center’s international experience offerings to Iowa State students,” said Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center director. “Building upon what we started with the Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, the Vermeer program affords students an international experience in a different format. Through these two new programs, Catt Center faculty will provide international leadership development opportunities to some 38 students this year.”

Through the Vermeer program, participants will develop their cross-cultural communication skills, study leadership in global organizations and contribute to addressing a global challenge of their choice. Afterward, participants will be better prepared for careers in multi-national organizations.

As of the March 2 deadline, 87 students applied to the Vermeer International Leadership Program. Applications are currently under review to select the 18-member cohort for the 2015-2016 academic year. The program is open to all full-time undergraduate students at Iowa State, with priority given to students with an interest in business, engineering or agriculture who have two or more years of study before earning their bachelor’s degree.

To help recruit students to apply for this inaugural year, Matt Winkleblack joined the Catt Center staff in January as the Vermeer International Leadership Program student intern. He created marketing plans and advertised the opportunity to students via emails, social media and club meetings. Winkleblack has helped coordinate and organize many other facets of the program.

"I have a lot of responsibility to complete projects and get things done," said Winkleblack, a senior in marketing who is also enrolled in the certificate in community leadership and public service. "It's exciting for me to use my various skills and experiences I've had on campus to develop the activities for this new leadership program. I thank my supervisor, Clint Stephens, for having faith in me to be organized and lead projects. He has empowered me to be a high quality student employee, and I am very thankful."

Winkleblack also works in the Leadership and Service Center in the Student Activities Center at Iowa State. He's been involved in Business Council, Dance Marathon, Delta Tau Delta and Freshman Council and served on the 2015 Women Impacting ISU calendar selection committee. He studied abroad in New Zealand during the spring 2014 semester and participated in the College of Business Gerdin Citizenship Program. Winkleblack is from Ames, Iowa, and plans to work as a chapter consultant for Delta Tau Delta fraternity after graduating in May.