Cornell LEADS (Leadership, Entrepreneurship, And Distinctive Service) is a distinctive leadership program in which students examine the qualities of leadership and its social importance by interacting with leaders from all walks of life. Each year a select group of 20 students has the extraordinary opportunity to learn about leadership by participating in a seminar, a panel discussion and a field trip in which they meet distinguished leaders in eastern Iowa and Chicago.

Cornell LEADS is supported by a generous endowment gift from Tom Jarom ‘66, a life trustee, and a former chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees. All major expenses of Chicago trip are paid by the Berry Center.

2016-2017 program

The 2016-2017 LEADS program features the following events:

  • Kick-off lunch to talk about this year’s program and meet other program participants.
  • Leadership seminar led by former Cornell president Les Garner.
  • Distinctive Service working with The American Heart Association for the GO RED Campaign
  • Panel discussion with leaders from the eastern Iowa business/entrepreneur community.
  • Weekend in Chicago to meet with leaders in a variety fields, including business, public policy, arts, and entertainment.

Applications for the 2016-2017 LEADS program are being accepted now.  Contact Dawn Pitts for more information.

Recap of the 2015–2016 program


Students attended a leadership seminar hosted by former Cornell president Les Garner in the fall, participated in networking and a panel discussion on entrepreneurship in February, and traveled to Chicago in April for site visits with leaders in public service, non-profit, and the startup tech community. Students stay at the McLennan Center for 2 nights and enjoy 3 days of site visits, group meals, and the chance to explore the Wrigleyville neighborhood. 

10 Commandments of Leadership

In the seminar hosted by Les Garner students considered the “10 Commandments of Leadership” by viewing contrasting leadership styles in the BBC docu-drama “The Last Place on Earth”, chronicling the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen (Norway) and Robert Scott (Britain) in 1911. After discussing the docu-drama, students met in small groups to identify the objectives and attributes of leadership.

Panel discussion and networking with local young entrepreneurs

The panel discussion allows students to interact with young entrepreneurs in the area about their college to career story, what resources they found, and what leadership challenges they faced when launching their own business. Through this initiative, students met entrepreneurs who are involved in a variety of businesses including a fundraising platform, One Mission, a home health care service agency, To The Rescue,  and Swinetech, a piglet protection system. Introducing the panel and the value of entrepreneurial thinking was Sarah Binder from The Gazette Co. 

Chicago site visits

The Chicago trip enabled LEADS participants to meet with leaders in various fields of endeavor dedicated to creating opportunity by overcoming long odds. In addition to group meals and an alumni networking event, 2015-16 LEADS students visited the following organizations:

For more information about Cornell LEADS, please contact the McWethy Program.