He has always been interested in leadership, so it was natural that Scott Williams, Ph.D., professor of management at Wright State University, would agree to co-facilitate YMCA Junior Leadership Dayton.
The program prepares high school juniors for leadership roles by exposing them to social and economic issues and opportunities.
“Effective leadership is difficult and impressive,” Williams said. “I expected Junior Leadership Dayton to be interesting. What I didn’t anticipate was how inspiring it would be.”
Williams joined Junior Leadership Dayton in 2019 and facilitates it with Taylor Walker, who coordinates most of the activities and oversees the students’ service projects. Williams, who teaches leadership courses, focuses on the academic side.
He forms diverse project teams that challenge the students to collaborate with people who see things from different perspectives. He assigns and reads the students’ essays that reflect on their learning experiences on each program day.
“I present the theoretical frameworks of psychosocial needs and of servant leadership,” he said. “I ensure we’re achieving the learning objectives of examining psychosocial needs and opportunities for servant leadership in our community.”
Ella Pleiman, a student at Oakwood High School, said the program has greatly helped her prepare for her future by giving her the opportunity to meet companies’ chief executive officers.
“These are experiences not many teens can get,” she said. “Through meeting these empowering powerful people, we learn many traits that won’t ever fail us — from communication skills and greater respect to those above us and simply motivation through their challenges.”
Pleiman said the most gratifying part of Junior Leadership Dayton is seeing an improvement in her communication skills and having new respect for people.
“I have learned through meeting all of these great people that everyone faces challenges to get where they are so they deserve a lot more respect than most may think,” she said.
Pleiman’s community service project is volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters, a mentoring organization that matches adult volunteers with children.
“Bigs and Littles hang out two or three times a month for a few hours doing normal, everyday activities like seeing a movie, doing homework, playing games, going out to eat or just hanging out,” she said.
Williams and the students hold what is called “Feel Good Fridays,” which he says are uplifting.
“Maybe it’s because it feels so healthy to set aside your to-do list for a day and think about others’ needs; maybe it’s inspiration from spending time with leaders of organizations that are striving to help meet needs in the community; maybe it’s because the students who Junior Leadership Dayton attracts are special,” he said.
Williams earned his bachelor’s degree in business and his master’s degree in business administration from Southern Illinois University and his Ph.D. in management from Texas A&M University.
He joined the faculty at Wright State in 2000 and served as the executive director of the university’s Center for Innovation Management from 2006 to 2013.
He has conducted research on competitive dynamics, business ethics, management development, creativity training, outdoor experiential training and training evaluation.
Williams said Junior Leadership Dayton is a reminder that there are needs in the community and ways that anyone can help.
“The program attracts impressive students,” he said. “They have achievements and they’ll accumulate many more throughout their lives. Their successes are a reason people will follow their lead. I hope that Junior Leadership Dayton shows the students how important, healthy and rewarding it is to also help others meet their needs.”