Course on Leadership Features Community Impact Projects

What do 48 crates of carrots, 10 refugee support volunteers, 200 Hartford town ballot signatures, 45 freshly baked loaves of challah, and the wagging tails of just-adopted shelter dogs have in common? It's the PBPL 47 Leadership students, whose final project involved spearheading a community impact initiative that held personal significance to each of them. After intensively studying the science of leadership and formulating their independent project ideas, the students enlisted the help of their Dartmouth communities.

Concerned about the well-being of dogs in the Springfield Humane Society shelter, Eddi Aronson '26 recruited Twenty-five students with this appeal:

Do you love dogs?  Do you miss your pet at home?  Do you wish you could hike, pet, and cuddle with dogs at Dartmouth? If so, the Springfield Humane Society needs you to promote adoption in the Upper Valley. There are hundreds of dogs in Upper Valley shelters. Service & Snuggles, Dartmouth's first animal shelter volunteering club, can and will find them a home. We have levels of involvement open for everyone, no matter your schedule. Can I count on you to join us?

(see the photo above)

Concerned that 15-20% of Upper Valley residents are food insecure, Callan Noonan '26 led students on a mission with Willing Hands, to glean 48 crates of carrots from the fields of Dartmouth's O-Farm, for distribution to local families. Callan discovered the importance of matching different leadership styles to followers' individual needs.


Students picking carrots in a field
Students picking carrots.

"The warm smell of yeast, the gritty feeling of flour, the sticky, sweet taste of honey on a tongue, the laughter and smiles of dancing in a kitchen, the heat of the oven felt in the air all around — these are the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings of leadership and impact through Challah for Hunger, an emerging service organization on Dartmouth's campus," writes founder Lindsey Geer '25. She and her new recruits sought to help end hunger locally (through the Upper Valley Haven) and nationally, through the Jewish tradition of baking challah and donating the proceeds from sales.  


Lindsey Geer '25 baking challah
Lindsey Geer '25 baking challah

Several students wanted their projects to benefit Upper Valley children. Emma Key '24 initiated a program to donate used and surplus sports equipment from Dartmouth athletes to local community groups, starting this fall with the CCBA recreational center in Lebanon.  Shay Desai '25 and Aidan King '25 worked to strengthen the mentoring approach in the local youth activity-mentoring program, DREAM. Blake Brookes '24 inspired lacrosse interest with a clinic he organized with his Dartmouth Men's Lacrosse teammates.


Dartmouth students teach local students lacrosse
Dartmouth students teach local students lacrosse

Sydney O'Connor '27 organized a door-to-door campaign in Hartford to collect 200 signatures needed for a town ballot vote to grant funds to the Special Needs Support Center. Sydney said she, "saw firsthand the importance of team diversity, the benefit of understanding leadership science, and the reality that truly anyone can become a leader when empowered to be one."


Screenshot of a social media post showing three students canvassing.
Dartmouth students canvassing

Concerned about the plight of refugees, Aleemah Williams '24 and her followers organized a movie screening coupled with a presentation and educational stations. They enlisted ten new volunteers for the local SHARe organization, committed to support refugees in the Upper Valley. For Aleemah, "PBPL 47 was a transformational experience that allowed me to combine my passion for leadership with supporting refugees. We were encouraged to conduct a social impact project by leading through others and employing leadership styles that best suited our needs, the situation, and our followers. Dr. Jordan gave us the tools to motivate followers by exposing us to various leadership theories and encouraging us to learn from alumni while broadening our network. While the course is primarily about the science of leadership—it is also about your personal development as a leader."  


Collage of photos of Aleemah Williams '24 working on her project.
Aleemah Williams '24 working on her project

This leadership course (cross-listed as PSYC 54.08 and PBPL 47) was designed and taught by Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences Lecturer John Jordan '78. Dr. Jordan returned to Dartmouth part-time in 2021 to "give back to the College and inspire better next generation leadership," bringing decades of expertise developing leaders globally.  Jordan says that "the leadership default for most undergraduates is to do most of the important work themselves, or if others are involved, telling them what to do. Neither approach is efficient or effective in most situations. Instead, this course immerses students in the rich psychological science of leadership, including how to inspire, persuade, direct, coach, and support team members based on the unique strengths, needs, and motivations each person brings to the task at hand."

PBPL 47 / PSYC 54.08 students also learned about leadership by interviewing top leaders, initially in-class and then independently. Recent in-class experts included Delaware Governor John Carney '78, Congresswoman Annie Kuster '78 (leader of the New Democrat Coalition), Brian Rolfes (recent global head of recruiting for McKinsey & Co), Dr. Shontay Delalue (Dartmouth's Senior Diversity Officer), and Dan Reicher '78 (former U.S. Asst. Secretary of Energy). After Dr. Jordan models effective interviewing methods in class, each student is challenged to interview three top leaders in a field of personal interest, comparing their insights to leadership theory. Dr. Jordan explains, "I explicitly encourage students to reach out to extremely accomplished Dartmouth alumni for their interviews. In doing so, they not only learn powerful networking skills but the power of the Dartmouth alumni network. More than one student has landed an unsolicited internship or job offer."

Sydney O'Connor '27 shared "PBPL 47 is the perfect class for anyone seeking to understand the science of leadership and apply that science outside of the classroom. The incredible leadership opportunities I found in PBPL 47 - including the opportunity to individually interview U.S. Senators and CEOs - made me a more competent communicator, delegator, and leader."

"Taking this course allowed me to gain a nuanced understanding of leadership from both an internal (personal) and external perspective. Internally, the course endows you with an understanding of how to best harness your personal strengths and address your own weaknesses as a leader. Externally, the course theory provides you with a keen, critical eye for assessing leadership in the world around you. This course serves as a strong jumping-off point for a future of responsible and effective leadership," Shay Desai '25 reflected. 

Psychological and Brain Sciences Senior Lecturer John Pfister said, "so often we hear that things that happen in classroom do not translate to real life, but this really shows that there is a powerful connection between learning, service, and understanding."  

PBPL 47 / PSYC 54.08 will be next offered in Fall '24.