There is a common but wrong-headed myth that goes something like this: “Your college experience will be the best time of your life.” In other words, you get four good years, maybe six if you pursue a master’s degree, and everything goes downhill after that.

Students in the Sullivan Foundation network know better. There’s a bigger, more exciting and challenging world out there—beyond the classroom and the textbooks, beyond the football games and the swaps and the dating scene. It’s a world that’s waiting to be changed, improved and reshaped by young leaders who want to make a positive difference.

For these students, the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad France program, taking place June 25-July 23 in Strasbourg, will be more than an educational trip to a beautiful and historic city in the heart of Europe. It will be a transformative journey of self-discovery. College students with a passion for leadership and service will come home changed, inspired and prepared to take on even grander and more fulfilling life experiences. Not experiences that are thrust upon them, but experiences that they create for themselves as leaders and influencers for their own generation and for generations to come.

One of the three courses offered during Study Abroad France—called Leading for Impact + Innovation—is specifically aimed at putting you, as a student, in the driver’s seat of your own life as a change leader, according to Dr. Jody Holland, a University of Mississippi professor who will teach the course with Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement.

“Leading for Impact + Innovation is for any student who desires to lead change in their schools, organizations or communities,” Holland said. “This class is designed for current student leaders and for students who are not in a leadership position. Students will learn to enhance their leadership literacy, providing them with a strong foundation for designing innovation and change.”

Cecilia Trotter enjoys the breathtaking scenery during her 2019 Summer Abroad adventure in Prague with the Sullivan Foundation.

Cecilia Trotter, a University of Mississippi alumnus who attended the Foundation’s 2019 Study Abroad adventure in Prague, can attest to that. “The great thing about the courses offered through the Sullivan Foundation is that any student can benefit from them,” Trotter said. “We will all be called or challenged at some point in our lives to be a leader and have opportunities to serve or stand up as a leader. That’s why I think it’s important to take Sullivan’s study-abroad leadership course—so you may have the opportunity to dive deeper into learning about yourself and how you may lead others.”

Maybe you already see yourself as a leader. Maybe you want to be a leader but you haven’t yet found your “superpower.” Either way, the Leading for Impact + Innovation course will help get you where you want to be by tapping into your full potential as a leader and changemaker.

The course introduces students to the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and innovation. It also helps them develop their individual and collective capacities to solve society’s problems through innovative, impactful, sustainable and scalable methods.

The course is built around two proven frameworks: INSPIRED and CANVAS. Using the INSPIRED framework, Holland will focus on eight dimensions of personal leadership development:

Introspective: Examining your thoughts and feelings
Nimble: Moving quickly and easily and adapting
Service-Oriented: Serving others
Purposeful: Understanding, articulating and implementing your purpose
Influential: Influencing others toward a common vision
Relational: Connecting, building trust and celebrating others
Emotional Intelligence: Managing emotions and influencing the emotions of others
Determined: Persevering and achieving long-term goals

Dr. Jody Holland is an associate professor of public policy leadership at the University of Mississippi.

It’s one thing, after all, to be—or to become—a leader. It might come naturally to you, or it might be something you have to work at. Regardless, you need to know why you want to lead and how you lead or will lead—your own personal leadership style and philosophy—to be effective and get results.

“The biggest takeaway for students will be understanding how to develop their own leadership profile while using the tools learned in the course to design impactful change,” Holland said.

CANVAS: Putting Ideas into Action
Along with understanding and refining your leadership skills, The Leading for Impact + Innovation course is about putting your ideas into action and your skills to the test. With that in mind, Marshall, an experienced social entrepreneur and author of  “Designing Creative Communities,” will guide students through the CANVAS framework for leading change in their communities in six simple steps:

Step 1: Chart Your Path: Determine what success will look like, how your unique style will influence the idea, and how to move past fears that prevent you from getting started.

Step 2: Ask Probing Questions: Get a pulse on what your community needs by getting face-to-face, testing your assumptions, and learning how to ask curious questions.

Step 3: Name Early Adopters: Identify those who are most eager to rally behind your idea and build momentum by asking for deeper engagement over time and incrementally.

Step 4: Visualize a Prototype: Develop moments of wonder, which are small experiments to tangibly test your idea and learn what works. Think small, cheap and fast to test the boundaries of what’s possible.

Step 5: Articulate Your Story: Design a clear and compelling narrative for your project that stands out and is easily shareable, while leveraging various media forms.

Step 6: Sustain Efforts With Partners: Find partnerships that satisfy a mutual need and learn how to lean on your network’s trust as a critical currency of partnership-building.

The CANVAS framework “is about applying students’ unique leadership style to tangible projects they want to implement in their community,” Marshall said. “They’ll get hands-on practice building prototypes, engaging community members to discover the root needs in a community, and rallying early adopters to support their efforts.”

Spud Marshall is the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement and author of the 2021 book, “Designing Creative Communities.”

Other Courses
The Leading for Impact + Innovation course unfolds over the first two weeks of the Study Abroad France program. The course will take study-abroad students on a new path in life, whether they want to be social entrepreneurs, nonprofit directors, business owners or simply better citizens of the world with a fresh, innovative approach to problem-solving in their communities.

As an option to the leadership course, students can sign up for a class called Intercultural Communication, also offered during the program’s first two weeks. This course will introduce you to key concepts and theories of international and intercultural communication. It’s designed for students of all majors who want to acquire the knowledge, skills, insights and sensitivities to become upstanding global citizens and successful leaders.

During the final two weeks of the summer program, all Study Abroad France students will take the Leadership by Design course, which explores a range of leadership philosophies and styles. Through readings, research, dialogue, critical analysis and interactive learning, students will discover how to effectively interact in culturally appropriate and sustainable ways and become global leaders in a complex and interconnected world.

Lori Babb enjoys a visit to Prague’s famous astronomical clock during her Sullivan study-abroad experience.

All of Sullivan’s study-abroad courses will change the way you look at the world—and yourself, according to Lori Babb, a past study-abroad participant and graduate of Campbell University. “I learned how to widen my scope when approaching not only academics or business but in all aspects,” she said. “This mindset of igniting change and working towards a common good shifts your perspective on everything.”

The deadline to register for the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad France program is March 15. Click here to learn more and sign up.

The Study Abroad France program is offered in partnership with the CEPA (Customized Educational Programs Abroad) Foundation. Click here to learn more about CEPA.

Scholarships for the program are available through CEPA and the Sullivan Foundation. Click here to learn more about Study Abroad France scholarships.

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