August 17, 2009
RSU Student Leaders Begin Academic Year with Trip to Historic Sites
In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into the all-white Central high School in Little Rock, Ark. The decision - widely considered to be one of the most important events of the Civil Rights movement – was the centerpiece of this year's annual trip of the President's Leadership Class at Rogers State University.
Each year, members of the President's Leadership Class (PLC) make a journey to study the leadership exhibited by one of our nation's presidents.
This year, 42 PLC members journeyed to Little Rock on a Hillcat bus to tour Central High School and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. They were accompanied by RSU President Dr. Larry Rice and First Lady Peggy Rice, Dr. Carolyn Taylor, PLC coordinator, and Stephany Foutch, RSU alumni director.
Before their trip, the students were assigned to read the book "Eisenhower Soldier and President" by Stephen Ambrose. They also were required to write a paper on President Eisenhower's leadership in regard to his decision to send federal troops to accompany the "Little Rock Nine" into the previously segregated high school.
"There's no better way to study leadership and how major decisions are made than to visit historical sites focusing on our nation's presidents," said President Rice.
RSU is fortunate to have so many presidential historic sites within driving distance of the university, Rice said. During the last few years, PLC students have visited the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., and the Sixth Floor Museum at Deale Plaza in Dallas, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
"The purpose of these adventures is not only to study the leadership of our nation's presidents, but to provide a bonding experience for members of the PLC," Taylor said. "This camaraderie helps students develop their own leadership skills and strengthens their academic experience."
In Little Rock, RSU students received a guided tour of Central High School, where more than 2,600 students attend classes today. They also visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, where they viewed a film on how the situation at Central High School helped shape the civil rights views of President Clinton.
"It was really an eye-opening experience," said Paula Blalock, RSU junior from Pryor. "Visiting the high school made it real for me – it is such an important part of our history."
The students also toured the Tyson Research and Development Center in Springdale, Ark., where the company develops and tests new products. Tyson Foods, Inc. was founded in 1935 and is the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500. The company also is the largest producer and marketer of pizza dough in the U.S. During the tour, the RSU students learned about the global and domestic career opportunities available to them at Tyson.
The President's Leadership Class is a four-year scholarship program designed to develop leadership skills and enhance the academic experience for participants. PLC members coordinate community service projects, spearhead various campus initiatives, attend alumni and other university events and participate in recruitment events at area high schools, serving as ambassadors for the university. They must live on campus and maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
RSU President's Leadership Class members include the following students. All communities are in Oklahoma unless otherwise noted.
For more information on the President's Leadership Class at RSU, contact Dr. Carolyn Taylor at (918) 343-7627.