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President's Leadership Academy

Lead Campus & Community

President's Leadership Academy has been suspended for Fall 2020.

Application Process

To apply for President's Leadership Academy (PLA), a student must be nominated by a faculty/staff member or student peers during the nomination period in late Spring semester. Each student that is nominated will be sent more information including application procedures.

To be considered for the Presidents Leadership Academy a nominee must, at time of nomination,:

  1. Be in at least his/her second year of college;
  2. Be an active member in at least one student organization or community group;
  3. Be in good judicial standing; and
  4. Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75.  


The President’s Leadership Academy provides a professional learning experience for action-oriented students who have demonstrated a desire and commitment to improving their community and leading with integrity.

About the Academy

The President’s Leadership Academy (PLA) is a selective learning experience for 20 of Southeast’s most outstanding junior and senior student leaders.

Participants get the opportunity to use their leadership skills to make a difference within their campus community. The  PLA class will learn about major campus priorities and objectives in this academic year in order to propose, refine, and bring to fruition a Southeast Success Project, a group project allowing student leaders to work as a team to achieve a meaningful and sustainable influence on these goals.

Furthermore, as the top tier of the Southeast Leadership Programs, select University faculty/staff and community leaders are brought in to deliver leadership content and lessons learned from their own leadership journeys.

Learner Outcomes

Participants will…

  • learn, understand and value their personal leadership style and the styles of others.
  • increase their awareness of the University’s goals and the complexities involved in meeting these goals at Southeast and throughout postsecondary education.
  • understand how to apply leadership competencies to enhance their competitiveness for employment as early career professionals.
  • become responsible leaders within their respective university communities.




Rutradarshini Asokan

Biology: Biomedical Sciences

Seremban, Malaysia

Alexander Bargen

Mass Communication: Advertising

Moscow Mills, MO

Andrew Behrmann

Biology: Biomedical Sciences

Belleville, IL

Erika Bone

Political Science

Jacksonville, IL

Taylor Cissell

Health Management: Exercise Science

Saint Mary, MO

Alexis Dilg

Communications Multimedia: Computer Multimedia Graphics

Yorkville, IL

Gretchen Hanlin

Early Childhood Education

East Prairie, MO

Kate Herrmann

Communication Studies

Saint Louis, MO

Justin Jacobs


Barnhart, MO

Morgan Kaplan

Global Cultures and Languages: Foreign Language

Hawthorn Woods, IL

Maja Lundell

Biology: Microbiology, Cellular and Molecular Biology, & Biotechnology

Stockholm, Sweden

Andrew Marler

Agribusiness: Ag Systems Management

Imperial, MO

Akilah Murphy

Computer Science

Saint Louis, MO

Johanna Oster


Fenton, MO

Kaitlynn Ried

Agribusiness: Animal Science

Hernando, MS

Madison Straatmann

Exceptional Child/Mild Moderate Cross Categorical

Washington, MO

Sabina Tapscott

Business Administration

Springfield, IL

Bryan Turney

Social Science

Tamaroa, IL

Clayton Vassalli

Economics: Business Economics

Hillsboro, MO

Caleb White

Biology: Biomedical Sciences

Decatur, IL

2018 PLA Class

2017 PLA Class

2016 PLA Class

2015 PLA Class

PLA - Southeast Success Project

The Southeast Success Project is the capstone and most exciting portion of the course. Students will form groups to develop a project proposal to present to President Vargas with the objective of meeting one of the following institutional priorities:

  1. Implementing the Diversity Education Task Force Recommendations
  2. Increasing the First-Time, Full-Time Student Retention Rate to 80% and the 5-year Graduation Rate to 60%

Southeast Success Projects could include anything that would benefit the campus community and aligns with the institutional priorities listed above. A few examples that fit within each category are: advising, mentorship, feedback, financial support, and interdisciplinary approaches. You may choose to propose a project that helps Southeast students engage with their community (i.e. CampRedhawk, Student Involvement Ambassadors, Transitions Academy) or improves student learning through co-curricular activities (i.e. PLA, learning communities) or supports students financially (i.e. on-campus employment, student emergency fund). Once approved, Southeast Success Projects will be assigned a mentor, who will guide the group through their planning and implementation process.

When deciding on a project to propose, consider the following:

  • Is there a true need for the project?
  • What are the benefits to those involved?
  • What solutions can you offer to help your chosen population or cause?
  • Will this project be able to be planned and executed within the Fall semester?
  • What resources are needed? Man power, money, buy-in from fellow students or faculty?
  • Is there research or evidence that offers solutions or previous experiences with your project?
  • Will you need additional support to complete the project besides your fellow PLA students, your instructor, and/or assigned mentor?

Past Projects Include:

  • Southeast Cares: a project designed to increase student awareness of issues surrounding mental health. A mental health fair was organized to accomplish this in which vendors from various mental health-related organizations, such as counseling practices and student wellness organizations, gathered to present on topics in which they were informed. Students were invited to interact with the vendors for the duration of the fair and were then asked to fill out a brief survey, which consisted of demographic information as well as their opinion about the efficacy of the project. The topics that were discussed in the Southeast Cares Mental Health Awareness event included depression and anxiety, sexual violence, stress and coping, body positivity, and LGBTQ+, among others.
  • Show Me Shadowing: a idea for an on-going program that would connect students with employers for a shadowing experience that influences their college experience in a way that will directly impact the value of their degree. The project implemented during the PLA semester allowed students in the themed learning communities to experience their field without the commitment of an internship or career choice by traveling to the job site to job shadow.
  • Hawk Talk: a project idea intended to connect students to SEMO’s events and organizations by bringing awareness and informing students via short podcasts. The goal of this project was to encourage student engagement on campus and with the Southeast community, allowing the student body to feel more connected after being informed about events. Connections made thanks to Hawk Talk's podcasts could help graduation, transfer, and retention rates.
  • Elect to Go Green: PLA students created a week of activities to help the environment and convince students to “go green”. Activities/events included recycle basketball (with prizes!), a huge trash heap to show just a percentage of our daily waste, removing trays from the UC for a day and more.

Thoughts from past PLA participants

“PLA has been a wonderful opportunity for me, as it has taught me how to put in the leadership skills I learned in Emerging Leaders and in First-year Leadership Program (FYLP). I would like to encourage everyone to apply for PLA because you meet and work along with some of the best individuals across the University. There’s so much diversity in the way everyone thinks, and putting those ideas together helps you create a wonderful project.”
— Mannat Varshney
Presidential Ambassador, Emerging Leaders and FYLP Graduate, SEMO Redhawk Health Educator, Study Abroad Participant to León, Spain

“PLA was a great opportunity to get hands-on leadership experience. The Southeast Success Project gave our group a unique chance to identify a need, create a vision, and take all the necessary steps to accomplish our goal. If you're an involved student looking for something new, or if you simply have a desire to develop yourself as a leader, you should apply for PLA.”
— Benny Dorris
Former Lambda Chi Alpha President, Student Government President, Emerging Leaders Graduate


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