Shaquille Gould ’15 always had potential.
Native to the island of Antigua, Gould was an early standout in Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets, where he received the Most Outstanding Freshman Air Force Cadet Award and the Warrior Spirit Award. Not surprisingly, he moved into a number of Corps and campus roles as a sophomore, priming him to grow exponentially as a leader during his final years at Texas A&M.
That’s when Gould was introduced to the Hollingsworth Leadership Excellence Program. The program helped Gould, who also served as a Yell Leader, delve into leadership theory and concepts in the classroom and then apply and practice those lessons on the Quad. He has gone on to apply those lessons in his professional career during stints with PepsiCo, Google, several startups and Quake Capital Partners, a venture capital group. “The Hollingsworth Program greatly accelerated my progress and growth professionally,” he said.
The program has such potential that Commandant Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez Jr. ’79 has made the recently reclassified Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership one of the Corps’ top philanthropic priorities. The Corps also plans to expand the program’s work in developing leaders of character who are deeply immersed in all aspects of leadership and understand how to lead individuals, teams and organizations.
Building on a Solid Foundation
The center is an expansion of the Corps Leadership Excellence Program, created in the early 2000s. The program was named in memory of Lt. Gen. James F. Hollingsworth ’40 in 2012, thanks to an endowment created by his family. Hollingsworth, who was considered by many to be the most decorated Aggie in Texas A&M history and a 1980 Distinguished Alumnus, participated in seven major campaigns during World War II, served in combat in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and was liaison to the chief of staff in Washington, D.C.
The Hollingsworth Program, led by Founding Director Richard Cummins ’73, was tasked with creating leadership development opportunities for Drill and Ceremony (D&C) cadets, students who elect not to pursue a military commission. (These cadets currently make up about 55 percent of the entire Corps.) Cummins and his staff developed four courses as well as some initial experiential opportunities. The program also began hosting two conferences: the Intentional Leadership Conference and the Nichols Rising Leaders Conference.
In addition, the Hollingsworth Program created the Certificate in Leadership Study and Development, an academic credential recorded on the student’s official transcript. This certificate required students to study, have experience with and apply leadership theory, knowledge and skills.
The Hollingsworth Program also began focusing on career readiness through incorporating the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ core competencies (teamwork/collaboration, professionalism/work ethic, leadership, critical thinking/problem solving, global/intercultural fluency, career management, digital technology, and oral/written communication skills) into its offerings. To that end, retired Air Force officer Col. Kenn Allison ’85 was hired to oversee the program’s career readiness efforts and continues to work in partnership with Texas A&M’s Career Center to assist cadets in translating their Corps experiences for a potential employer.
Developing Corps’ Leadership 2.0
Cummins’ retirement in 2016 led to a reassessment for the vision of Hollingsworth Program. His replacement, Dr. David Keller ’07, was given approval to begin expanding the program’s portfolio.
One of Keller’s first efforts was transforming the program into the Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership within the Corps of Cadets and developing numerous programs. The center still primarily serves D&C cadets, but also encourages other cadets—including the broader Texas A&M community—to take part in the center’s offerings. In addition, some students from other Texas A&M University System institutions participate in the center’s conferences. The center’s team also plans to create new programs and services and develop the scaffolding to expand the program.
The center also spearheaded the development of a comprehensive Corps-wide leadership development model. “For years, the Corps’ mission has been to develop leaders. We have produced many exceptional leaders throughout the years,” Keller said. “However, we have not had a formal written process for exactly how we do that. So, one of the things our center has done over the past several months is develop a four-phase model that illustrates how a student can expect to be developed over their four years in the Corps.”
The model focuses on developing leaders of character through four phases:
- Developing oneself through learning
- Developing others through coaching
- Developing teams through mentoring
- Developing organizations through inspiring
The next step, which is currently underway, involves mapping all core activities to the developmental model. This process will help the Corps develop a more robust collection of clearly defined outcomes and objectives and also create appropriate assessments to ensure outcomes and objectives are being achieved.
The model’s creation has been a collaborative effort across the Corps of Cadets. “While the Hollingsworth Center has been the lead office for this, one of the really powerful aspects is that all of the stakeholders on the Commandant’s staff have had an opportunity for input—cadets, the ROTC offices, operations/training, academics, recruiting and others,” Keller said. “It has truly been a team effort and one that we all believe will serve as a strong foundation for future growth in the coming years.”
An Enhanced Career Focus
The center continues to offer career readiness support to cadets, including internships and job assistance. More than 90 percent of graduating seniors who have participated in the Hollingsworth Center have secured employment, been commissioned into the military or entered graduate school. Students have been hired by a wide range of major organizations, including NASA, Schlumberger, The Walt Disney Company, ExxonMobil, Southwest Research Institute, Lockheed Martin and HEB.
The Hollingsworth Center is also deepening its relationship with companies by inviting representatives to talk to cadets about career readiness. “Company representatives will speak about being a global company and what core competencies are needed to be successful employees,” Keller said. “They’ll still talk about the company’s internships, but they do that at the end of their presentation. Even students who are not planning to work for that company can still benefit from that presentation.”
Opening Up New Vistas for the Corps
The Hollingsworth Center is continuing to look for ways to create opportunities for current cadets to delve even more deeply into leadership philosophy and ethics. For example, classes look at different types of leadership styles and analyze the effectiveness and traits of these types of leaders. In addition, cadets learn about enhancing decision making processes and how to use various ways to make excellent decisions.
Cadets believe these opportunities provide them with a tremendous advantage as they prepare to enter the workforce. “We’ve gotten much more extensive leadership training in our classes than I would have in the Corps or in life, in general,” said Joshua Ostberg ’19. “We really go deep into the philosophies. We’ve touched on ethics as well as some of the big leadership traits that you wouldn’t get unless you were going to graduate school or a special leadership program at a corporation.”
While the Hollingsworth Program receives funding from an endowment established by Gen. Hollingsworth’s family, additional funds are needed as the Corps grows. Endowed gifts of $25,000 or more could fund corporate training opportunities and events, innovative classroom technologies, and more lectures by experts in industry, nonprofit and entrepreneurial sectors. Funds would also address the short-term need for additional staff to advise cadets and help the program achieve its vision as it evolves.
“Our resources have to increase with our scope," said Keller. “Our focus is to help cadets become better leaders as a result of their Corps experiences, so they may find success in their careers and proudly represent both the Corps and Texas A&M with character and distinction.”
To learn how you can support the Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership, contact Tom Pool ’96 below.