Gettysburg battle offers Lycoming College students insight into leadership

Gettysburg battle offers Lycoming College students insight into leadership

Students learn about Civil War battle field tactics, including the use of canons.

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An experienced southern general with one final shot at success plans a desperate attack in enemy territory. Facing him, a newly appointed risk-averse general is challenged to defend the North’s southern border. The result of the clash between the Confederate and Union armies at the Battle of Gettysburg turned the tide of the Civil War.

Did the generals make sound decisions about maneuvers leading up to and during the famous battle? What would you decide, given the same number of war-weary troops in your command, the supply and communication challenges, the terrain, and the counter-advice of your most capable colleagues? How does commanding an army differ from controlling it? How would you motivate your soldiers to pursue an approach that some felt was doomed?

Those questions are examples of the challenges posed to 18 students at the College’s Student Leadership Capstone Experience held on the Gettysburg battlefield earlier this spring. The students, who were nominated by faculty and staff to participate, were encouraged to draw upon prior leadership experiences to determine the approach they might have taken under such difficult circumstances.

Led by staff members from the Gettysburg Foundation and Lycoming’s Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development, the first day consisted of an intensive battlefield tour where participants learned about the generals who made key decisions on both the Union and Confederate sides. They also learned how those decisions demonstrated leadership styles, approaches and their effectiveness. The hands-on experience involved discussing lessons in leadership as well as group exercises, such as building fences and loading replica cannons. On the second day, students are prompted to closely reflect and draw parallels between the leadership lessons learned on the battlefield and their individual past experiences. The reflections help students to see how they can become more effective leaders in the future.

Lycoming College students at the Gettysburg Battlefield

Lycoming College students learn about leadership at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

“Something special happens when we bring students to Gettysburg — the lightbulbs definitely turn on — it is a powerful experience for students,” said Larry Mannolini, director of student programs who participated in the experience. “This type of intensive immersion helps students internalize important concepts that they can then apply to campus activities and future careers.”

The Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development sponsored the event as part of its leadership program: http://www.lycoming.edu/studentPrograms/leadership.aspx.