Leading and Thriving: How Leadership Education Can Improve First-Year Student Success

Leadership development transforms the lives of many students and leadership educators regularly witness these changes. But little research has articulated what is being taught that facilitates this change, how we can make it happen more often, or how we can measure this change. These transformations contribute to desirable outcomes including student persistence and academic achievement. Leadership studies programs have great potential to contribute to these positive student outcomes especially with first-year students.

Using the Social Change Model of Leadership Development, we delineate how the study of leadership aids students in experiencing these transformations, as defined by Schreiner’sThriving Model, along with example lessons that serve elements in both models. Significant implications are discussed, including greater engagement with first-year students and outreach to at-risk students. This is followed by recommendations for leadership educators and a discussion of future research focus areas.