WSU Honors course challenges students' mindsets



The Honors Leadership Challenge is a course taught by Peter Cohen whose mission is to challenge students and help them reflect on their interactions in class to prepare for life.

Students seek to identify ways to grow as individuals, and use their strengths to interact with the group. During one class session, students worked in pairs on an exercise known as Immunity to Change, in which students identify behaviors and beliefs which hinder them from achieving specific goals.

"You’re challenging students, challenging their mindsets and behaviors that work for them or don’t, getting them out of their comfort zone and supporting them through difficult work," says Cohen.

According to Lucy Petroucheva, a former student who has become an assistant faculty member for the course, students who risk new behaviors in the class ideally abandon their assumptions and fears about others. They take ownership of situations with confidence in themselves.

As your capacity to get in touch with your own feelings grows, the more capacity to get in touch with others’ feelings grows.
Lucy Petroucheva

Cohen and his faculty members provide a strong support system at all times during the semester to make sure that students manage the stress of the course well.

Jannet Balderrama, a former student, believes that Cohen’s support is integral to students’ success in the course.

“He’s more than just a teacher,” said Balderrama. “He’s a mentor. He’s a friend. He’s someone that I feel I could personally trust.”

According to Petroucheva, Leadership Challenge is a course unique to Wichita State University. Although other universities like Harvard have similar adaptive leadership programs, few focus on the development of young adults and their interactions in social environments.

The class holds the idea that innovation happens in hearts and minds, and extends into every aspect of learning at WSU and beyond.

Cohen encourages students to practice many of WSU’s core values, such “adaptive approaches,” “teamwork” and “positive risk-taking,” and to apply the values to real-life situations.

HNRS 152F, Leadership Challenge, is offered as a semester-long course. Another course, HMCD 308, Leadership in Self and Society, is offered as a one week pre-session. Students should apply early, because courses fill quickly.