April 27, 2007

Meeting explores intergenerational leadership

CARBONDALE, Ill. — On most days, the Illinois Senate Chamber in Springfield is the setting for discussion, debate, and deal making, but on Tuesday, April 23 it was the stage for championing intergenerational leadership.

What is intergenerational leadership? Students and retirees from around the state pondered that question in the meeting, led by Senate President Emil Jones Jr. and sponsored by the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Center for Intergenerational Leadership at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

SIU President Glenn Poshard and interim Chancellor John M. Dunn selected SIUC's delegates to the meeting. They were: retirees Dave Christensen and Bob and Sally Harper; students Gene White, Bernadette Summerville, Taunjah Bell and Everett Neasman; and Kathleen Plesko, director of Disability Support Services at SIUC, and Seymour Bryson, SIUC's associate chancellor for diversity.

Lucy Sloan, vice chair of the IBHE, opened the meeting of 70 delegates from universities and community colleges throughout Illinois. Sitting at senators' desks, they discussed how they could create more opportunities for students and retirees to develop projects of mutual interest that have an impact on education.

"Intergenerational leadership is based on an understanding of history—of how our families struggled, succeeded, failed, started over again," Jones said. "It is about the respect we have for one another across generations and cultures, and how that respect is intrinsic to democracy."

IBHE Chair Carrie Hightman described intergenerational leadership as "the essence of learning, learning about other generations, their needs, issues, and ability to be involved to improve the educational system."

Jane Angelis, director of the Center for Intergenerational Leadership at SIUC, said, "As we anticipate a world that is older, we must look for opportunities and not dwell on problems. One resource that hasn't been effectively tapped is the strong team of younger and older generations working together—intergenerational leadership. The potential is boundless."

Bryson, associate chancellor for diversity at SIUC, received a special award for mentoring from Senate President Jones. Gene White, a master's student at SIUC, acknowledged Bryson's contributions to his education, noting, "He gave me an opportunity to pursue my dream to be a teacher and the guidance to succeed."

Taunjah Bell and Everett Neasman, Walker Scholars from SIUC, thanked President Jones for their scholarships and presented him with the commitments of delegates assembled in the Senate. Delegates pledged to bring generations together on campuses and in communities throughout the state.

Jones said, "Leadership evolves. It isn't something that the retirees and students will take home with them today, but they will have a fresh perspective and commitment to foster connections between generations on our campuses and in our communities."