Do you have a passion for a career field but can’t find the path to your dream? Buckeye Leadership Fellows (BLF) is a unique opportunity available to students at Ohio State. The program is designed to give students specialized and individualized tools to ensure they are successful in their post-graduate life. The BLF program is a two-year multidisciplinary experiential leadership cohort. Each cohort consists of 25 students, selected from a variety of majors and interests. The program exclusively focuses on building a firm sense of self and purpose while developing strong leadership and teamwork skills.
The experiences one can gain in BLF are unlike other experiences students traditionally encounter both inside the classroom or in a student organization. Meaghan Novi, a 2013 graduate speaks to her experience in the program, “as a Buckeye Leadership Fellow, I have been pushed beyond the limits of the traditional collegiate experience and have found self-awareness, inspiration and a commitment to becoming one of our generation’s successful global leaders.”
How To Become a Fellow
Any student in their second year at Ohio State is eligible to become a BLF participant; however, the admission process is competitive and selective. The application opens in fall semester between late September and early October. Of course, all students in the program are high achieving students, but the admissions selection is based off of students that have what Beth Johnson, the program manager, calls the “unique factor”. Johnson defines this as “students that know what they want to do and are extremely passionate about their field of interest and want to make an impact.”
While students may come from a variety of backgrounds such as theatre, engineering and business, the admissions committee seeks out students for BLF that will be leaders in their respective fields. Whether a student wants to be a public policy expert or a mechanical engineer, the Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program wants students to have the skills and attitude that will help them rise to the top.
History of BLF
The Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program was started in 2010 by Ohio State alumni and CEO of Iridium Communications, Matt Desch. Desch’s company specializes in satellite communication that offers a global voice and data communications coverage. Desch wanted to provide a platform for student leaders and Ohio State Alumni to lead the fray in whatever field they pursue by taking the initiative in the community, the industry and in their lives. Desch designed the program to push students by immersing them in problem solving situations in which they have to think critically, as well as give and receive productive criticism and feedback along the way.
Desch designed BLF because he “wanted to challenge [students] and inspire them through interactions with experienced alumni, and have them practice and hone their leadership skills to move faster and make a bigger impact after college.”
This program is distinctive because of how it focuses on leadership in action, rather than leadership in theory. BLF is currently leading into its seventh year, and has graduated over 100 alumni that live around the country.
What You Do As a Fellow
Buckeye Leadership Fellows meets once a week for a professional development event that is facilitated by anyone from CEOs to Ohio State faculty. Simultaneously, the students are working on leadership challenges in which they are split up into teams to compete against each other to solve real problems facing the BLF business partners. Students work to create a tangible solution which they later present to the company.
During Spring 2016, students completed a leadership challenge while working with Abercrombie and Fitch. The task was to determine the inventory of diversity and inclusion initiatives and produce a tangible campaign to promote and inform people of these practices. The advisory board, the program advisors, the business and the other students then provide feedback process to help students learn and grow as problem solvers. Additionally, all fellows are given an alumni mentor. These mentors help students with leadership challenges and give students feedback as alumni, former fellows and leaders who have experienced these types of problems first hand.
After graduation, Buckeye Leadership Fellows keep their resources and lines of communication open for whenever students may need them; whether one may want to network with other alumni fellows or as a mentor for the next class of fellows. BLF helps students find internships as well gives them more in depth interview and problem-solving skills. The BLF network gives students a lifelong network of peers and mentors who are there to help through your entire professional life. The BLF community creates an environment that encourages students to use each other as resources as well as utilize the leaders they work with during the program. BLF is designed to encourage graduates to be leaders in any and all fields. By immersing students in situations in which they have to work together, think creatively and use their resources, fellows leave college with experiences and support not common among their peers.