CSB and SJU students share approaches to leadership at Grand Strategy Leadership Summit

Academics Campus & Community Student Features

May 3, 2024

By Frank Rajkowski

Leadership can take many forms and be demonstrated in a wide variety of ways.

That’s the message that was delivered by 25 students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University at the Grand Strategy Leadership Summit held Thursday afternoon in the Founders Room (Quad 170) on the SJU campus.

The event was open to the campus community and was supported by the Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Languages and Cultures departments, as well as by the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.

It was the culmination of the semester-long Classics 379A: Grand Strategy class taught by Jason Schlude, professor of classics and history at CSB and SJU.

In the course, students examined writings on leadership from across history – ranging from the Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Mesopotamia to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait, which covers the nonviolent movement against racial segregation in the U.S., focusing on the famous 1963 desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It’s really a deep dive into leadership across 4,000 years of history,” Schlude explained. “We wanted to examine the most important leadership texts in history from philosophers, statesmen and movement leaders. Then look at the ways they’ve really been in conversation with each other – influencing the generations that have come after.”

In the process, students also looked at the ways they lead themselves and why their leadership is so important. They put together personal leadership statements that were on display at Thursday’s event.

Those statements will also be on display at either or both the Clemens Library at CSB and the Alcuin Library at SJU this summer. Details are still being finalized.

“I haven’t thought of myself as a leader very much in the past,” said CSB senior Caitlin Shaw, a biology major and psychology and ancient Mediterranean studies minor, who was one of four students who delivered remarks at the event.

“But having the chance to experience all these different perspectives taught me that leadership looks different for everyone and helped me define what leadership looks like to me.”

SJU senior Jackson May, an economics and history double major, was also one of the students delivering remarks Thursday. He said the discussions he’s had with his fellow classmates over the course of this semester had perhaps an even bigger impact on him than the texts they were studying.

“I think I got more out of those discussions than anything else,” he said. “I would do the readings and come away with one perspective. Then I’d listen to the perspectives of other people, and it would blow my mind. They’d take away things I hadn’t even thought of.

“I think it really helps to expand your base of understanding like that.”

The keynote speaker for Thursday’s event was CSB and SJU President Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D . He shared his own approach to leadership while stressing the need for students to remain active leaders as they go into the world and begin their chosen careers.

“You’ve examined 4,000 to 5,000 years of human history, consciously asking determinative questions about the past and human behavior. What it means for today and the challenges the world faces – the crises you will individually face as you go forward,” Bruess said in his remarks.

“This brilliant course was designed to help you lead lives of impact and meaning. To become principled and empowered leaders. Wow. That is so cool. And what a beautiful reflection of our educational principles and values at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s.”

Schlude said the course drew students from a wide variety of backgrounds and majors, a fact reflected by the broad cross-section of the campus community that attended Thursday to show their support.

“One of the most important parts of my job is to help students see how amazing they truly are,” Schlude said. “That’s really how all professors work here at CSB and SJU.

“We try to meet students where they are and help them see what they can do next.”

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Grand Strategy Leadership Summit

Jason Schlude, professor of classics and history, speaks at the Grand Strategy Leadership Summit.