Thanks to the generosity of a former Frostburg State University educator and her husband, FSU students will have more ways to discover their sense of self through new and expanded experiential learning opportunities.
Marion Leonard, an art and community wellness advocate and a professor emeritus of FSU’s College of Business, and her husband Kim Leonard, president of Aircon Engineering in Cumberland, Md., have established the Kim and Marion Leonard Wellness Outreach Fund. The fund was created to support FSU’s Student and Educational Services division in developing more programming and activities that empower educators to design learning experiences focused on “mindfulness, authenticity, awareness, vulnerability, openness, trust, listening and respect.”
“I think today, higher education is increasingly aware of its responsibility to educate the whole person,” said Dr. Tom Bowling, FSU’s vice president of Student and Educational Services. “This not only helps students better identify their sense of self, but it also gets into the whole area of encouraging students to take responsibility for their own education, both that which occurs inside the classroom and those opportunities that occur outside the classroom as well.”
The need for students to determine what really inspires them is so important to their becoming life-long learners, Marion Leonard said, and can be supported through experiential learning techniques that bring about more meaningful interactions with others and a more authentic sense of self. She first began encouraging students to be more self-reflective by asking her MBA classes introspective questions while she was teaching communications, leadership and organizational development in Frostburg’s College of Business. Her work as an educator and her own personal journey led her to obtain a master’s degree from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and to seek out yoga and other more holistic wellness practices.
“What really motivates us? I think when it’s motivation from a heartfelt place, it’s the right motivation,” she said. “But how do we learn what that is and how do we learn about it? How do we explore it? So many people are brought up with all external standards: be successful, get the right degrees, study hard. I don’t think we’re given the fundamentals in terms of how do we explore what’s really going on inside.”
A former financial planner who has led numerous classes and workshops in leadership training, she was excited when, in the ’90s, the business world began putting more emphasis on emotional intelligence as a key component of good leadership. Offering more education on emotional intelligence can really enhance how students become successful, she said.
“We need more leadership communication that integrates personal values, a personal sense of leadership that’s based on authenticity,” Leonard said. “When we’re open to our emotions and responsive in a responsible manner, we can lead from both the head and the heart. I think that’s really missing today.”
The Kim and Marion Leonard Wellness Outreach Fund comes to FSU at a time when the University is placing more emphasis on experiential learning – how students understand what they learn in the classroom by applying it to “outside-the-classroom” experiences such as internships, volunteerism, research and other hands-on learning activities. The University’s focus on experiential learning also includes helping students find their authentic sense of self through more introspective educational experiences. FSU has identified further developing experiential learning as one of its most important institutional priorities.
Bowling has led the way in developing many of FSU’s experiential learning opportunities over the years, including his role in establishing FSU’s Roadtrip Nation program (based on the popular television show of the same name) and incorporating StrengthsQuest in orientation classes, which helps students identify five personal strengths they can use to achieve academic, career and personal success. The Kim and Marion Leonard Wellness Outreach Fund will help Student and Educational Services expand those existing programs and grow new opportunities, he said.
“If students can become authors of their education, I believe that their time at Frostburg State University will become much more meaningful and much more productive,” Bowling said. “But we’ve got to connect with students’ hearts as well as their minds.”
For more information about supporting FSU, visit foundation.frostburg.edu or call 301-687-4161 or 1-866-241-3296, toll free.
Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions and two regional higher education centers of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity.