Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Leadership Skills Training

Beginning in the fall of 2019, the McKenna Centre will offer free, co-curricular courses that provide students with training in leadership skills. Through workshops, activities, and engaging presentations, a range of experts will share with students their own experiences and insights and offer students information on crucial, in-demand skills, tips and tricks for professionalization, and resources for further education.

Together, the courses answer a range of questions: Which skills must graduates across disciplines possess in order to take on leadership roles in their respective fields upon graduation? Which fundamental skills and abilities serve all students and all conceptions of leadership? How may we provide additional resources, training, and opportunities for professionalization for all students who wish to lead the way toward positive (social, environmental, political…) change in the future? And which important skills do organizations, professors, and employers identify most frequently as underdeveloped or even lacking in graduates?

Starting in September 2019, we will offer the pilot course, “LEAD 100: Strategic Communication, Media, Public Relations.” Based on student and instructor feedback, we will polish LEAD 100 and offer it alongside a second course, LEAD 200, beginning in September of 2020. Starting in the fall of 2021, the McKenna Centre will offer a full slate of four distinct courses. Students are able to take one course per year over the course of their four years of study. Although courses will be labeled LEAD 100, LEAD 200, LEAD 300, and LEAD 400, they can but need not be taken in succession. Students are only able to take one LEAD course per year.

Each course will meet every other week for twelve sessions (night courses) over the course of one academic year. To complete the course, students must attend at least ten out of twelve sessions as well as at least two McKenna Lectures and Workshops. Students registered in LEAD courses will receive priority for registration for the workshops that will be offered by the group of notable leaders that the McKenna Centre will bring to campus each year. Students who have successfully fulfilled all requirements will be awarded a certificate of completion at the end of each year.


LEAD 100: Strategic Communication, Media, Public Relations

Schedule of Sessions, 2019 – 2020 

09/19 “Communication Skills for Landing (and Keeping) Your Dream Job: An Insider’s View of the Hiring Process” (Joanna Henry and Alexis MacDonald)

Session Overview: Ever notice how almost every job posting includes a somewhat generic requirement for “strong communication skills?” What exactly does this mean in the world of employment? Far too often, employers aren’t really sure what they mean either, which offers you the ideal opportunity to show them. • This session will offer an insider’s view on the communication practices that land, (and lose) the job. • We will examine the top communication principles for the workplace and what these principles look like in action at each step of the hiring process. 

By the end of this session, you will have a clear understanding of how to rock the hiring process from first contact to signed contract 


09/25 “Storytelling: Sharing Voice, Sharing Space” (Joanna Henry and Alexis MacDonald)

Session Overview: In business, “facts tell, stories sell.” In the world of writing, it’s “show, don’t tell.” Why? Because stories are memorable. They connect us, and they make us feel something. And, contrary to common belief, the primary drivers of our decision-making processes are feelings, not logic. Do you know how to tell a great story? 

• You will develop your own mini-story for a job interview that will show, not tell, who you are in your chosen field. 

• We will examine how to tell other people’s stories through collaborative storytelling techniques: interviewing, accountable feedback systems, positioning oneself, selecting photos and quotes from a humanizing vs objectifying framework.

You will leave this workshop with enhanced storytelling and story-analysis skills, and more able to share your voice while sharing space. 


10/09 “Smart Communications Strategy for Savvy Leaders” (Mike MacKenzie)

Session Overview:

Communications is more than social media and email – it’s also a way of thinking. Do you want to be a leader who makes smart decisions? Who is skilled at navigating conflict and change? Developing a communications strategy (and communications mindset) will help. This session will prepare you to “think like a communicator,” with the skills you’ll need to be a savvy, effective leader. 


10/23 “Forget Everything You Think You Know About Public Relations: A Re-Introduction to a Much-Maligned Profession” (Mike MacKenzie)

Session Overview:

Spinning. Hacking. Deceiving. The field of public relations has a terrible reputation—some of it deserved, but much of it not. Would you believe it if you heard that public relations skills can be used to bring about important social change? At its core, public relations is the art and science of building effective relationships to help a leader meet their goals. This session will show you the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ PR, so you can make smart and responsible public relations decisions. 


11/06 “Accessing Alt-Ac: How Working for Canada’s Top Creative Agency Taught Me the Value of My Skills” (Marie Horgan)

Session Overview:

You’ve heard that your writing and research skills are valuable in the private sector, but how, exactly? Working in advertising can teach us a lot about how to advertise ourselves—for jobs in advertising and in many other job fields. This session will show you how degree programs - especially at the graduate level - are becoming increasingly designed to train students for non-academic jobs, and why it may make sense to explore this development already as an undergraduate student. You will learn about possibilities to combine their university education with “real world” experience and how to best make use of the skills that they learn at a liberal arts institution. 


11/20 “What’s Your Point? Or, Risk-Based Key Messages” (Louise Brennan)

Session Overview:

Have you ever felt like you can’t get your point across? How do you communicate complex information to diverse audiences? How do you craft strong, defensible messages?

This session will walk you through the elements of a real communications plan, briefly covering topics such as stakeholder analysis, risk analysis, key messages, channel selection, and communications scheduling. We will spend most of the session learning how to compose risk-based key messages and practicing this new skill. 


01/15 “Words Matter: Why We Say What We Say” (Katie Edwards)

Session Overview:

How do you decide what parts of a story to tell? What to leave in — and what to leave out? What do we consider when we’re deciding what to say (or not say)? Audience? Intent? Emotion? Risk? 

This session will urge you to carefully consider the details of language — and to reflect upon the process by which you choose what to say (or not say). We will examine a broad range of media (poetry, Instagram, news headlines, graphic novels) to encourage reflection and help you develop your own voice. 


01/29 “Communicating for Change” (Nicole Baden-Clay) 

Session Overview:

Have you ever wondered how to create change in your life? How compassionate are you to yourself and others during times of change? How can we evoke long lasting change and maintain positive relationships? 

Communicating for Change is a participatory session tailored for change makers who want to inspire meaningful conversations with positive outcomes through the use of a counselling tool called Motivational Communication. 


02/12 “Media Relations in a Media-Skeptic Era: What Leaders Need to Know” (Mike MacKenzie)

Session Overview:

Click-bait? Fake News? Biased journalism? We’re in an era when public trust in the news media is at an all-time low, and journalism is changing at a rapid pace. Organizations and leaders who depend on media coverage need to understand these changes to stay on top of them. This session will equip you with the skills and knowledge to unpack this new reality and help you develop positive working relationships with the media. It will also train you to become a “critical consumer” of news. 


02/26 “Is Your Toolbox Half Empty or Half Full? On Transferable (and Invisible) Skills” (Louise Brennan)

Session Overview:

What if you didn’t have to fake it to make it? What if you already have many of the skills you need to succeed? How do you confidently solve problems without being an expert?

Everyone has strengths that they routinely draw upon. The problem is that often these strengths make tasks seem so easy that we don’t think about our skills as strengths. This session will help students build confidence by uncovering their latent skills and learning to apply them to new situations. 


03/11 “Storytelling: There Is No Such Thing As Truth”

Session Overview:

Why is a movie “based on a true story” somehow more compelling than fantasy? Why do we value “truth” over fiction — and how do we know what’s actually true? 

Have you ever heard the expression “my truth” and thought: “Hey, wait! Isn’t truth objective?” Are we living in an era in which truth is malleable? Is a bendable truth any different than fiction?

In this session, we will explore the pervasiveness of self-editing and the inherent subjectivity of “truth” by dissecting media such as autobiography, memoir, diary-keeping, and reality TV. 


03/25 “Leadership and Voicing Dissent: Insights and Tips from the Director of Writing at Yale” (Alfred E. Guy Jr.)

Session Overview:


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