On the RISE: Moravian Elevates New Leadership Program


Reflection, integrity, and skill building, or simply put: RISE. This is the name of the new leadership program that Moravian University is rolling out in the spring of 2023.

Created by Dr. Robert Brill, professor of psychology at Moravian, its main purpose is to help students cultivate their teamwork and leadership skills through activities and simulations.

“Moravian needed a special program to focus on teamwork and leadership,” said Brill. “Two pieces of research are driving the need.”

The first is an internal study carried out by an external agent that was looking at how Moravian could strengthen its curriculum. The second is a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

“The research is asking employers: What do they want to see more of from students coming out of an undergraduate experience?” said Brill. “Two of the eight are teamwork and leadership skills.”

That discovery prompted the University to ask Brill to put together a program that would give students at Moravian the necessary tools to succeed in the workforce after graduation. To do that, Brill got together a task force composed of other faculty members who had experience with leadership and team building;  some of Moravian’s career development specialists also joined them.

One specialist, Moravian graduate, Baru Roberson-Hornsby (’19), helped the taskforce to model the initiative after one he completed called Leadershape, a national program that emphasizes confidence, integrity and equity.

After reviewing Leadershape, Brill and his team designed a program that is unique to Moravian, establishing a four-phase curriculum that centers around team experiences. “We wanted to have an experiential team like actual team experiences, where they’re in a competitive setting, but they have to collaborate with each other,” said Brill.

The first phase is an orientation, in which students are introduced to the RISE program. Then, in phase two, students enroll in the first of three quarter-unit classes. They also participate in team-building experiences, such as working together to leave an escape room.

“They’re participating as team members, but then there’s a lot that they’re going to be asked to learn from that experience,” said Brill.

The third phase, which is the second course, includes a virtual simulation where students hike up Mount Everest as a team, something Brill calls a “goose chase on steroids.”

​In the final phase, students get hands-on with their skills and work with a local organization to complete a community project.

Brill is currently working with Gillian Sharkey, Moravian’s director of Civic Engagement, to place students for work opportunities with local organizations, such as the Banana Factory, IronPigs, and B Braun.

A review of the phases can be found on the RISE program’s website.

While RISE does focus on teamwork and leadership, Brill also wanted there to be a significant moral component. “We expect that to reflect a kind of moral vision of their leadership and teamwork, as they proceed in the future,” said Brill. “We very much wanted to have a component that included sensitivity and  compassion, and was very DEI-oriented, specifically.”

Any student can register for the upcoming spring course and join the RISE program. However, there will still be some expectations.

During the second phase, while students are taking course TWL-110, students will be expected to be a part of a student club or group, which can range from a sport to the Kubb Team.

During the third and fourth phases, students will be expected to take a leadership role within their group of choice so that they have real-life context for the skills that they are learning in the program. “We also want you to be in a formal leadership role,” said Brill. “It could be informal but some leadership role so that as you’re doing the skill development modules, you’ve got real life context to make sense of them and to think about them. All this is to prepare you so that we can really do some really formative and positive impacting projects in the community.”

RISE  will not earn students a badge or an academic certificate. Instead, it will help them build their resumes. Any students wanting to join the program can register for the first course, called Exploring/Discover What You Offer (TWL- 110), during fall registration.