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Governor Deval Patrick talked to Honors College students in the Becoming a Leader class about humility, listening, and tone. (Photo by Colleen Locke)
May 6, 2016

Community of Leaders Serves as Teachers for Honors College Students


  • Boston
Governor Deval Patrick Final Guest Lecturer of Becoming a Leader Class

A new Honors College course is teaching students how to lead by example.

Eleven students in the Becoming a Leader class have spent the spring semester gaining leadership lessons from an impressive roster of CEOs, politicians, nonprofit chiefs, and entrepreneurs.

Former governors Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis, YouthBuild founder and CEO Dorothy Stoneman, and Joyce Linehan, chief policy advisor to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, were among the guest lecturers who visited the class, providing students with an abundance of inspiration to draw from.

“This class has been amazing. We’ve met so many great people,” said Esthanette (Estie) Reid, a junior psychology major in the Honors College. “It’s letting us know that our leadership skills are actually going to make a difference and can make a difference in the world to come.”

Students were able to observe leaders at work during tours of the State House and the Suffolk County House of Corrections (below, with Sheriff Steve Tompkins '11).

Each student also spent 10 hours shadowing a leader, such as Cambridge College President Deborah Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, and MassPort CEO Thomas Glynn.

All of this is building to the class’s final presentations on May 16 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where they will share their own leadership philosophies.

Ira Jackson, vice provost for economic planning/resources and special projects, and Michael Metzger, assistant dean for the Honors College, co-taught the course, which included a mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors in a variety of majors, from nursing and biology to management and psychology.

“Our objective was to combine theory with practice, and to stretch students to examine their own leadership abilities and aspirations in the context of both conceptual models and real world examples,” Jackson said.

“A large number of our Honors College students remain in the commonwealth after graduating and therefore we have an obligation to them and the citizens of our state to provide engaging theoretical and hands-on leadership training opportunities, as these students offer great potential to lead around pressing public good challenges,” Metzger added.

Former governor Deval Patrick spoke to the class on Wednesday. Patrick, now a managing director of Bain Capital’s Double Impact business, spoke of growing up in poverty on the south side of Chicago, and how it shaped his leadership style.

“We had a very strong sense of community,” Patrick said. “Community is understanding the stake you have in your neighbors’s dreams and struggles—not just your own, your neighbors. And that is a life lesson for me. It’s not just part of the leader I’ve tried to be, but the man I’ve tried to be.”

Patrick went on to list other life and leadership lessons: the importance of humility, listening, and tone.

“It’s true in the private sector, it’s true in politics, it’s true in philanthropy, it’s true in the classroom—every leader has setbacks,” Patrick said. “And leadership is about getting back up and setting the tone again, learning from that lesson, being resilient, and continuing to move forward, and I think optimism is the fuel for resilience. You have to believe that you and your team and those you lead can actually reach higher ground.”

Reid says one of the lessons she took away from Patrick’s visit was that leadership is entrusted, not entitled.

“You never know when you’re going to be called upon to be a leader or in what space it’s going to be,” Reid said. “It helps to help your followers and the people that you’re leading see the vision that you want and they help you to build upon that vision.”

Jackson, Metzger, and the Honors College hope to offer this course again in the future.

Patrick also met with students in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development on Wednesday.