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Teachable Skills

Learning to lead is part of the curriculum at SDSU.
Jordan Harrison and Savanna Tierney were Quest for the Best winners.
Jordan Harrison and Savanna Tierney were Quest for the Best winners.

This story is featured in the summer 2014 issue of 360:The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

It may be true that leaders are born and not made, but leadership skills can also be taught, and Sean Kashanchi, ’11, was an apt pupil.

As a student, Kashanchi led Sigma Phi Epsilon’s community service efforts and held increasingly responsible roles with Associated Students (AS), including executive vice president.

Leadership opportunities abound at San Diego State University for receptive students. The Center for Student Life and Leadership offers an 18-24-month leadership certificate program; a variety of leadership workshops and an annual Leadership Summit.

“Student leadership development has tremendous momentum at San Diego State,” said Timothy Quinnan, associate vice president for Campus Life and Leadership.

Kashanchi learned his leadership lessons well, and together with fellow AS alumnus Matthew Keipper, ’08, he is applying them to create a campaign initiative supporting leadership training at SDSU.

The two Aztecs contacted dozens of former AS leaders and collected more than $50,000 to create the Dan Cornthwaite Leadership Endowment, supporting leadership training and activities for current and future AS executives.

Kashanchi said students benefitting from the gift will honor Cornthwaite, whose guiding hand helped create the newly opened Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union before he retired after 30 years as AS executive director.

Gifts to support leadership activities and training — for AS executives and a variety of other student leaders—are a key component of The Campaign for SDSU.

The largest campaign gift received so far — a $20-million endowment from philanthropist Conrad Prebys — includes scholarships for student leaders. Other major donors to leadership initiatives are the Aztec Parents Association and PepsiCo, sponsor of Quest for the Best.

The students chosen annually as Quest for the Best winners represent SDSU’s standout leaders who have excelled academically while serving the campus and community.

Born leaders? Maybe so, but Quest for the Best winner Savanna Tierney identified another factor at work in the leadership equation. “The confidence that faculty and staff have in Aztec students creates an environment that builds leaders,” she said.

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