Zachry Leadership Program diversifies student's experience


A lot has changed this semester for sophomore mechanical engineering major Emily Tasker. The 19-year-old from Round Rock, Texas is a member of the first cohort of students to participate in the Zachry Leadership Program at Texas A&M University.

The Zachry Leadership Program is a collaborative effort between the Dwight Look College of Engineering and Zachry Group. The program seeks to empower engineering students to become future leaders who are well versed in the free enterprise system, collaborative in their decision-making skills and humbly self-confident in their behaviors.

“It’s helping me diversify myself and become more marketable,” Tasker said. 

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The five-semester long course kicked off in November 2015 with orientation and a welcoming reception. The cohort of 32 students then attended a retreat at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas the week before the spring semester. The four-day camp allowed the students to bond with each other and get out of their comfort zones.

“I’ve been to camps before, and usually people only find a couple of people to connect with, but the atmosphere they fostered was an atmosphere of openness and vulnerability,” Tasker said. “They were working really hard to make sure that everyone was meeting everyone and getting to learn people’s strengths and weaknesses.”

As a result, Tasker said she is close friends with people who she might not have taken the opportunity to get to know before. It’s been a lesson in compassion and understanding.

“I learned a lot about myself and about others — how you can have differences without having to have a debate about it,” she said. “I can have a completely opposite view, but we don’t have to argue about it until someone changes.”

In the end, Tasker said this helps foster an environment of inclusion, where everyone can bring something different to the table.

“I’m diversifying myself by spending time with people who are different than I am,” she said, adding that these skills will be beneficial when she enters the workforce.

“I learned how to have compassion and empathize with people. I learned to try to understand the history behind people’s actions instead, and that so many things could have brought them to this point.”

The Zachry Leadership Program gives students perspective on how they will fit into this world, a deeper insight into their individual potential and a specific view of how they want to begin their professional careers. The students meet once a week for two hours, working on group projects and learning content that is built on the three pillars of the program — leadership, business and citizenship. The students in the program also gain advice and life lessons from business and engineering professionals.

Tasker said she’s learning about business and marketing — skills that expand on her engineering abilities.

“As an engineer, I can build something or fix something, but unless there is somebody who wants that, it doesn’t matter if I can fix it,” she said. “It’s helped me see that there’s so much more to it.”

Students in the program earn a certificate in Engineering Leadership upon completion of the five-semester program. For more information, visit the Zachry Leadership Program webpage.