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Public Leadership

About the Program

"The purpose of education in a university is not only to develop the mind, but to nurture the heart–to prepare students for a life of constructive citizenship and leadership. This means giving back their time, their talents and their resources to improve their communities and society."   
- Wallace D. Loh, President of the University of Maryland

Public Leadership explores the theory and practice of leadership, empowering students to become social change agents through hands-on public service projects and examination of pressing social, political, and economic issues. Public Leadership is defined as “the inspiration and mobilization of others to undertake collective action in pursuit of the common good.”

Students become informed citizens able to reason critically and persuasively about public matters and to apply diverse approaches to leadership and citizenship in a multicultural society. Students learn to form an ethical vision and develop their own leadership potential as they explore and assess personal values, beliefs, and purpose.

Public Leadership is a community of students from all majors who are committed to developing their leadership skills for the common good.

Colloquium and Lecture Topics

•       Why would anyone want to be lead by you?

•       Leadership and Social Change application

•       Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

•       Persuasion and Motivation 

•       Understanding leadership strengths in yourself and others

Curriculum Overview

The following table represents a typical four-year curriculum, but individual schedules may vary. Details about courses and requirements can be found on the Public Leadership Citation Checklist.

View, print or download Public Leadership Citation Checklist

Faculty and Staff

Public Leadership Program Office: 1214 Centreville Hall - UM, College Park MD 20742
Phone: 301 314 8657
Jennifer Littlefield
Program Director; Public Leadership

Jennifer Littlefield is the associate director of the Do Good Institute. She has been involved with the Scholars Public Leadership program since 2007, serving as both assistant and associate director prior to her appointment as director in 2013.  

Her career began in the area of fundraising and program development for nonprofits and universities. Prior to coming to the University of Maryland, she served as the assistant director of the Institute for Leadership Advancement (ILA) in the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. In this role, Littlefield assisted with all areas of the institute, including working with two undergraduate leadership programs, planning and coordinating a study abroad program to Tanzania, Africa, and working with various corporate and community partners of the ILA. She assisted in the planning and implementation of the Georgia Leadership Institute, a leadership development program for high-level executives in state government.  

Littlefield has also been heavily involved in civic engagement and service-learning initiatives at both the University of Maryland and the University of Georgia. Over the past 10 years, she has taught numerous courses in the area of leadership and career development. For four years she served as a research consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. She has also conducted extensive research in the area of cross-sector collaboration and effective grant making. She has authored numerous articles and presented at various conferences on this topic. Littlefield earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from the University of Georgia as well as a PhD from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

Sarah Gordon
Program Coordinator; Public Leadership

Sarah is a second year Masters student in the School of Public Policy at UMD studying social policy. She is an alumna of the PL program (Class of 2012) and graduated from UMD in 2014 with a degree in Biology and a minor in Public Leadership before returning to the Master’s program. Sarah is a Philanthropy Fellow working with the Washington Regional Association of Grant makers Healthy Communities Working Group. Once she graduates, she hopes to work in the federal or state government working to advance the visibility of women's health issues and reproductive rights.

Brendan McCormick
Program Coordinator; Public Leadership
Brendan is a first year Masters student in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland studying Education Policy and Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Brendan graduated from the University of Maryland in 2012 with a Bachelors of Arts in History and he is an alumnus of the Public Leadership Program (PL class of 2010). Prior to returning to UMD for his Masters, Brendan worked at the National Trust for Historic Preservation for three years as the Grants and Awards Coordinator.  In that role, Brendan coordinated the National Trust Preservation Funds – a grants program that awarded approximately 200 grants for a total of about $1.2 million a year, and he also managed the National Trust’s awards program.  Brendan also has experience as an undergraduate Washington Regional Association of Grant makers Fellow working as an intern at the Washington, D.C. Office of Partnerships and Grants Service where he worked to assist D.C. area nonprofits to expand their capacity in Social Media Capacity as well as their ability to find potential foundations to work with.

Active Learning

Located near the nation's capital, the state capital, and a large international diplomatic community, the University of Maryland is an ideal setting for examining and growing public leadership. PL provides a variety of engaging field trips, professional development seminars, and speaker events.  Past field trips have included trips to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, U.S. Capitol, Goddard Space Flight Center, US Justice Department and the Peace Corps Headquarters.

Students participate in a team-based capstone experience that uses the skills developed in the program to create and implement consulting projects addressing real issues in our community.  These projects allow students to apply skills related to leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship to make an impact on a social issue or problem of their choice. The project also includes an opportunity to effectively raise, manage and deploy real funds to achieve social impact.

Service Learning and Civic Engagement

In the spring of their first year, students participate in PL's Community-Based Learning program in which they engage with an organization in the wider community to design and implement a project of their choice. The projects give students the opportunity to use their leadership training outside of the classroom, thus helping them become more thoughtful and experienced leaders, while also providing a service to the community.  Current projects include mentoring local middle school girls in math and science, lobbying for sustainable energy policy in DC, making a video to publicize the work of a shelter for victims of sex-trafficking, and collecting books for child literacy programs in Africa. 
For a brief description of all projects Public Leadership in which PL students are currently engaged, please read below.
Leadership in Practice: Student Organizations
Demonstrating their learned leadership skills and a wide rage of interests, many Public Leadership students have founded a vast array of student organizations here at the University of Maryland. From advocacy-based initiatives, to sports clubs, to singing groups, Public Leadership students have demonstrated their passion for civic engagement and stand out as true leaders in the University of Maryland community and beyond.
Service Day
On Scholars Annual Service Day, students from each of the Scholars programs join together to help out the surrounding community. Beginning their day at Comcast Center, faculty, staff, and student leaders greet the incoming Scholars class, and prepare for a full day of service. Service Day gives students the opportunity to get to know fellow Scholars and start building relationships with faculty members. Through teamwork and cooperation, Scholars not only become acquainted with the program, but also come away from the day knowing that they helped to make a difference in their community. More information is available at our Service Day site.

"Step Up to Bat for Kids" Charity Softball Tournament

Every spring, the Scholars programs come together and engage in some healthy competition, all for a good cause. This daylong tournament fields teams from each program on our campus engineering fields. Since the first teams took the field in 1998, the "Step Up to Bat for Kids" Charity Softball Tournament has been able to donate over $10,000 to charities around the world who deal with the health and welfare of children and families. The success of the event relies completely on the dedication and support from students and staff. While Scholars are responsible for raising all of the money, faculty and staff plan far in advance in order to provide students with a memorable and rewarding experience. More information on the tournament is available on our "Step Up to Bat for Kids" site.

Study Abroad

The public leadership study abroad trip provides students with the opportunity to explore modern leadership and citizenship issues through the lens of Moroccan culture and history. Through living with host families, students are fully immersed in the Moroccan culture during their three weeks in the country. Visits to religious establishments, state agencies, and nongovernmental organizations allow students to engage directly with public leaders and to explore current issues in Moroccan society. Students learn basic Arabic expressions upon arrival to aid in forming relationships and addressing topics such as gender, religion, human development and rights, and economics. These topics are further explored through local field trips, community service, and dialogues with Moroccan students. Although the primary residence is in Rabat, students travel to sites of cultural importance including Casablanca, Marrakech and Fes. More information can be found on the University's Study Abroad office website.


Program Sponsors

Student Leadership Opportunities

Program Representative, Student Advisory Board
The College Park Scholars Student Advisory Board provides a unique leadership opportunity for students to serve their peers, their programs, and their community. Each Scholars Program has two seats on the Board - one freshman and one sophomore. The Student Advisory Board assumes multiple roles within the Cambridge Community, including:
  • Providing student voices to the Scholars Executive Director and Central Staff;
  • Communicating curricular, extracurricular, and noteworthy components of their program experiences to the Executive Director and to other board members;
  • Assisting in the management of Scholars-wide events, such as: Service Day, Citation Ceremony, Terrapin Pride Day, the annual Charity Softball Tournament and its fundraising efforts;
  • Responding to incidents, concerns, or issues within the Cambridge Community or on campus.

Teaching Assistant Opportunities

PL alumni have the opportunity as juniors and seniors to return as teaching assistants in either the Freshman Fall and Spring Colloquia or the Sophomore Fall Colloquium.  Students earn 1 – 3 credits depending on how many sections they assist and how much responsibility they take on in those sections.  Duties include attending the weekly colloquium, assisting in the course development and grading, helping lead class discussions, and mentoring community-based learning group "service" projects. This is a great opportunity for students to stay involved with PL, be a mentor to the younger class, boost their resume, and get some great experience.

Campus Resources

Educational and Research Resources