sealPurdue News

March 21, 2002

Purdue students learn leadership skills from pop culture programs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A popular reality television show is teaching Purdue University students how to develop leadership skills to survive beyond the classroom.

Though nobody ever gets voted out of his student leadership development class (EDPS 300A), which will be offered again in the fall, Pablo Malavenda, associate dean of students, is a proponent of learning from television shows like "Survivor." He also employs books, movies and other popular culture media in the classroom.

"Leadership lessons are everywhere, and this class teaches students to develop leadership skills and learn about leadership theories and styles in a manner that is far from typical," Malavenda said.

The unusual approach to teaching leadership also resonates with students.

"I really enjoyed this class," said Adrienne Dant, a junior majoring in industrial engineering from Dayton, Ohio. "It forced me to look at leadership on a deeper level, and we used very unusual and fun methods to do it."

Malavenda asks his students to watch the television program "Survivor," evaluate the group dynamics of the contestants and observe how leadership emerges with each survival challenge portrayed. Every Thursday, when the show airs, students are asked to compare contestants' leadership styles with their own beliefs of what a successful, ethical leader should be and do.

Throughout the class, students also study prominent leaders in history, interview a community leader, participate in a community leadership project and examine the role leadership in their own lives.

Inspired by the book "Leadership Jazz" by Max De Pree, former chairman of the board of Herman Miller Inc., Malavenda also will take his students on a field trip – to a jazz concert.

"I ask students to reflect on the leadership similarities between a jazz performance and the challenges that students face in school and their subsequent careers," he said.

By the end of the semester, Malavenda said students will have examined leadership from a broad perspective and, hopefully, be inspired to become active leaders in the Purdue community and later in life.

"I am now very aware of what leadership techniques I or anyone else use on a day-to-day basis," Dant said. "Although there were no pop quizzes or mid-terms in this class, the real test will be if we can apply what we learned to benefit our student organizations."

Dant said the class she took last semester has already helped her as a precollege guidance counselor involved in the Society of Women Engineers.

The 300-level class is open to students who are "campus leaders and potential leaders," Malavenda said. "The class is open to all students, but I do ask if they are currently involved in a leadership position on campus and/or in the community."

To enroll in the course, contact Malavenda at (765) 494-1231 or A current syllabus is available online.

Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 497-4491,

Source: Pablo Malavenda, (765) 494-1231,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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