Building Student Success For Today and Tomorrow

OSU College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Academy


Ken Munson, OSU 74’, 79’
Chair, Leadership Academy Advisory Board

When I graduated from OSU Fisheries & Wildlife several decades ago, I left campus with the belief that my college program prepared me for a successful career in natural resource management. Boy, I was wrong. It did not take long to encounter situations for which I was totally unprepared. Those challenges had nothing to do with my ability to identify animals or fish, to recite scientific names from memory, to balance chemical equations, or explain the photosynthetic pathway. The difficult situations were mostly related to my relative lack of core skills such as self-awareness, motivation, managing conflict, negotiations, effective listening, compromise, personal effectiveness…in a nutshell, leadership skills. Fortunately, I spent most of my decades-long career with an organization that had great leaders as examples and invested in developing people as future leaders. Formal training over the years helped, but I had to learn a lot in the proverbial “school of hard knocks.” Many times during the second half of my career I wished that in my college experience I had been more aware of the importance of, and encouraged to develop, the core skills that are critical to success both personally and professionally. I can think of more than one required course I took that had little or no value. When I learned about the College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Academy, I realized that was exactly what I needed….and should have been required…. during my undergraduate experience. Thus began my commitment to helping the Leadership Academy grow; to impact immediate student success and to sharpen core skills sought by employers.

If you are still with me, please allow me to share a little more about the Leadership Academy.

The goal of the Academy is to produce graduates who are lifelong learners and leaders in their industries with the vision, passion, and drive to make an impact in their world. One of only a few programs in the country, the Academy prepares students to effectively lead themselves and others by providing critical leadership perspectives from academic and industry professionals through yearlong coursework, experiential learning, and mentoring relationships. Academy students are primarily juniors and seniors.

Since its inception in 2011, the Academy has:

  • > 300 students graduated
  •  >$50,000 in scholarships awarded
  • 98% OSU graduation rate of Academy alums
  • Cohort size > doubled from 25 students in 2018 to 67 in 2023/24.
  • 17 majors in current cohort
  • 28% of students from underrepresented groups ( vs CAS population 16%).
  • 82% of Academy graduates receive a job offer prior to graduation.
  • Made a real IMPACT!

The Leadership Academy has proven to be the catalyst for students realizing who they were created to be and gifted to become. Purposeful learning and impactful application enable students to develop preeminent leadership and serve as part of a brand that stamps Academy students as having the best talent in, and outside of the classroom.  

“The Leadership Academy will have a long-term impact on students, communities, and the nation, fulfilling the land grant mission, and positioning Leadership Academy students to be leaders in their fields, across the world.”
Dr. Jonathan Velez, Department Head and Co-Director, Leadership Academy

“Relationships with industry and other external stakeholders are vital for the long-term success and viability of the Academy.  We are grateful for their many contributions of strategic direction, program content, enthusiastic support, and gifts.”
Dr. Haley Traini, Professor and Co-Director, Leadership Academy

We are thankful for the visionary leadership, collaborative partnerships, and passionate support across multiple colleges and departments as we work to enhance the success of our students. College and Department leadership has been unwavering in their support to make student success a reality.”
Faith Vawter, Assistant Director, Leadership Academy

Our greatest appreciation goes to the students who voluntarily invest their time and emotions to make the Leadership Academy an enriching experience for themselves and fellow cohort members.”
Ken Munson, former Director, Global Forestry, International Paper

If you are currently a student at OSU, I encourage you to explore the Academy to complement your program. If you are an OSU alum and want to help students succeed, consider contributing to one of the Academy’s three Endowed Scholarships on Dam Proud Day or Giving Tuesday. It’s a great way to show your support with high confidence of making an impact.

For more information and how to apply, please contact Faith Vawter, Assistant Director of the Academy, at

More information about the Academy can be found on the website.

Thank you for your time and interest. Please join me in support of this important work of the College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Academy.  I offer special thanks to Dr. Selina Heppell, Department Head, Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Sciences, for her strong support of the Academy and her commitment to developing highly capable natural resource professionals.

I close with a few messages from Academy graduates.

Mahi Pandey: Leadership Academy
Marina Larson: Leaderhsip Academy
Melissa Robel: Leadership Academy