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New center helps students develop a competitive edge

Posted by | March 27, 2014

Getting job-ready just got easier for students with the addition of a new WSU Center. On February 13, the university Faculty Senate voted unanimously to bestow official WSU Center status on the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership (CTLL).

Developed by the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, the CTLL is the only center of its kind at WSU. The center provides beyond-the-classroom experiences and learning opportunities through internship coordination, customized industry access, international immersion opportunities, mentorship, added-value courses and leadership training. The center is working to give students the extra edge that is needed in today’s competitive job market.

“The Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership will serve as a hub for activities aimed at enriching the student experience at WSU,” said Dr. Daniel J. Bernardo, WSU interim provost and executive vice president. “By catalyzing numerous out-of-class activities, the CTLL will have a profound effect on our ability to develop students who are job-ready, day one.”

Starting strong
While the CTLL only just became an official WSU center, the driving forces behind the center, led by Dr. Kim Kidwell, director of the CTLL and executive associate dean of CAHNRS Academic Programs, have been busy developing and implementing programs for the past year and a half. Programs like the Transformational Leadership Symposium for Women, Provost Leadership Academy, and online Tidal Leadership Professional Certificate. The center has also been busy connecting students and industry through internships and mentoring programs.

John Kuhn, senior in Crop & Soil Sciences

John Kuhn, a senior graduating in May from the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, has already landed a job with Wilbur-Ellis, an international marketer and distributor of agricultural products. Kuhn was introduced to a team of Wilbur-Ellis employees at a CTLL-sponsored event.

“The CTLL arranged an interview with a group of Wilbur-Ellis employees from various areas in the northwest,” Kuhn said. “This was a great jump-start for me looking into careers with the company.” Wilbur-Ellis flew Kuhn to their corporate headquarters in San Francisco for an interview and later offered him a job.

“For industry, CTLL is a single avenue to post jobs, interact with students, and set-up interviews and formal meetings,” said Rob Stutesman, training and development manager at Wilbur-Ellis. “The CTLL can help industry find qualified students for different roles and responsibilities.”

“Creating a smooth college-to-career transition is what this is all about,” said Jessica Munson, CTLL program coordinator. “Being that connection point between industries and our students is transformational for both.”

Industry professionals and WSU students collaborate at 2013 design charrette for the Eggert Family Organic Farm.
Industry professionals and WSU students collaborate at 2013 design charrette for the Eggert Family Organic Farm.

Last fall, the CTLL joined forces with the WSU School of Design and Construction to sponsor a “charrette,” or design brainstorming session, to generate ideas for developing the Eggert Farm, a 30-acre organic teaching and research farm in Pullman. The charrette brought more than 60 students and industry representatives together in Seattle.

Megan Pharmer, a senior in the WSU interior design program was one of ten students who received a CTLL scholarship for the daylong session. “Being an interior design student at WSU, I have participated in many charrettes,” said Pharmer. “This one was different because it was about more than just design, it was a launching point for the future of the farm. It was great to have insight from professionals in the organic industry and see how what we learn in school is applied in the field.”

“Participation at the charrette gave students real-world, hands-on experience while connecting with professionals and brainstorming thoughts and design approaches for the project,” said Katie Bang, one of the industry experts who participated. “The design industry is excited to be a part of this project as it moves forward and is inspired to work with students on the farm’s design and construction implementation,” said Bang, a project manager and landscape architect at Berger Partnership, a Seattle landscape and urban design firm.

CTLL donors Sue & Ken Christianson and CoBank representative Chuck Olsen.

An essential ingredient
A key to the CTLL’s success is the generous support of several donors, including WSU alums Ken (’74) and Sue (’76) Christianson and corporate sponsors CoBank and CHS.

The CTLL’s focus on leadership development and its goal of providing firsthand experience in agricultural research and practices appealed to CoBank, said Chuck Olsen, CoBank lead relationship manager. “Over the next several years, CoBank will…support these efforts to truly prepare the next generation of agricultural leaders to meet the real-world challenges of the industry,” he said. “We’re confident that [the CTLL] will help young people not only meet those challenges, but succeed and thrive, and continue the great tradition of American agriculture.”

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CHS 2013 Interns

The work of the CTLL also builds upon CHS’s focus on building a strong workforce, now and in the future. “A lot of what we do focuses on the upcoming workforce, and the CTLL does that too, but it offers a different perspective,” said William Nelson, vice president of CHS Corporate Citizenship and president of the CHS Foundation. “It comes back to the concepts and inspiration behind the CTLL that focus on being job-ready from a higher level.”

Hard work pays off
“I’m delighted to learn the University has granted ‘Center’ status to CTLL,” said Sue Christianson. “It affirms the thought, hard work and innovation of the CTLL team, all to benefit & enhance the students’ experience on campus and beyond.”

For Kidwell, the CTLL is the result of many years of hard work by the academic programs team that has culminated in a University Center that will pass the torch to the next generation. “It is also a co-creation from the incredible input, feedback, and support of the members of the CAHNRS National Board of Advisors and our industry partners like CHS and CoBank that will redefine what a high-quality college education is.”

To learn more about the CTLL, visit