Like all colleges and universities, we are proud to emphasize what makes our institution unique. Here at The Woods, such examples are in abundance. One could cite our origins and history of nearly 150 years. Or how we have thrived in the competitive world of smaller, private universities through innovation–such as adding degree completion, graduate level, and online degrees of study before it was in vogue for institutions like ours to offer such programs. Or how we excel in certain majors that you will not find at most institutions of higher learning, making a national name for William Woods University through such offerings as American Sign Language and Equestrian Science to name only two.

Over the past few days, I have been reminded once again about another area where William Woods “leads” through innovation – our LEAD program.

We established LEAD (Leading, Educating, Achieving and Developing) 17 years ago with the idea that the best way to fully enrich a student’s college experience specifically required participation and involvement in university life beyond the classroom. Preparing to be a future leader involves more than merely achieving academic success, it also is aided by getting involved and becoming knowledgeable in the variety of activities a campus like ours has to offer–whether its attending seminars, concerts, poet readings, films, sporting events, art exhibits, or many of our activities.

This unique approach to learning has never been more significant in the education of the total person here at William Woods. For example, just last week as our students navigated the last week of fall semester classes before final exams, we had an interesting juxtaposition of LEAD opportunities for our students to experience.

One day students could earn LEAD points by attending a fascinating seminar on DNA forensics. One of our professors, Dr. Matthew Antonik, delivered the presentation, addressing how DNA is used to identify individuals in criminal, archeological, and missing persons cases. Science majors and students majoring in all disciplines were able to learn more about this fascinating technology which is currently extremely relevant – no doubt we all have noticed the proliferation of television dramas about Crime Scene Investigations, etc.

That same evening brought the opening night for our latest production in the William Woods Mainstage Season Series, “All Through The Night,” another opportunity for students to earn LEAD points. The subject matter for All Through The Night is sobering and disturbing, depicting the plight of German Gentile women attempting to survive in Germany during the coming of the Third Reich and World War II. It was not for the faint of heart, but it prompted discussion and critical thought – exactly the kind of exercises that help produce future leaders.

These are just examples from one random day last week – one snapshot in time for our university and our unique program. But throughout the year LEAD offers our students a variety of opportunities that both help them grow as human beings while also ensuring that our William Woods University community thrives with activity. And it is just one more example of how The Woods itself – continues to lead through cutting edge innovation!


Dr. Jahnae Barnett