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Walter Center leads through uncertainty

Thursday, September 24 2020 08:00pm

The center helps enhance the virtual learning capabilities of students.

By Josie Madden

Athens looked unmistakably different this year as a select number of students returned to campus to begin classes for the fall semester. Streets, small businesses, and academic buildings that would usually teem with activity are less busy. While the experience may have changed compared to past years, the Walter Center for Strategic Leadership is poised for success.   

The Walter Center exposes students to real-world challenges in order to help them develop into the next generation of leaders. One distinctive way the center has done this recently is through the creation of supplemental, interactive materials that help enhance the virtual learning capabilities of students.

Lost at Sea is a virtual escape room designed for Professor Tammy Reynolds’s Human Resource Management course. Students work in teams to solve challenges relating to key topics covered in the course. The escape room activity will be an engaging and unique experience in the absence of a classroom and will re-enforce the importance of staying connected.

Tammy Reynolds“It’s more important than ever to create a sense of community in virtual classrooms so that students feel a sense of connectedness,” said Reynolds, an executive-in-residence in the Management Department. “Ohio University’s College of Business prides itself on providing personalized, experiential learning. The simulations and escape rooms we have designed encourage students to collaborate in teams to share their best thinking and solve problems together. Additionally, VoiceThread has been instrumental in helping us get to know each other on a personal level and increase the level of connectedness and belonging.”

Interactive learning tools, such as the Lost at Sea escape room, teach students how to make tough decisions in team-related settings to help prepare students for experiences in the professional world. While these current circumstances are certainly not devoid of challenge, the Walter Center continues to bring leadership experiences to life in a creative, engaging manner.

The center also is currently working on shifting this semester’s programs and other events to a virtual, yet engaging setting. The center will offer a virtual event for its international partner, Latin America Institute of Business (LAIOB), which will showcase OHIO’s campus and highlight four TED Talks-style sessions with a focus on strategic leadership.

While in-person experiences are not currently an option, Select Leaders will meet via Microsoft Teams on Tuesdays from 6–8 p.m. and Emerging Leaders will meet on Wednesdays from 6–8 p.m. Both groups are holding virtual executive engagements with business professionals from various companies and will continue participating in philanthropy and community engagement in order to ensure that each student can continue to learn and grow during this semester’s unique circumstances. Multiple health and safety measures also have been added to the center to protect students, staff, and visitors when in-person opportunities become available again. 

Despite the changes the center has undergone this semester, it remains dedicated to delivering the same high-touch, leadership-centered experiences to students, while keeping health and safety a top priority. To effectively comply with social distancing, the Leader Lounge is closed for the semester and the Walter Center office is by appointment only. All College of Business programs will operate in a virtual setting in compliance with the University’s phased return process.

“Although aspects of our physical office have changed, our commitment to students remains and has taught us even more ways in which we can lead and make a difference,” said Amy Toth, the center’s assistant director for program operations and planning. “We develop leaders to adapt, change, and thrive in any situation, and it is an unforgettable journey to watch them grow into tomorrow’s leaders.”