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Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute undergoes new changes


“We will build lives worth following.”

This is the motto of the Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute (DVALI) at Drake University, a unique program open to all students with the goal of building strong skills in leadership, self-awareness, and communication. 

“The institute sets Drake apart,” says Kristin Economos, the Director of Student Leadership Programs at Drake. “Other institutions provide students with leadership experiences, but you can be the president of a club on any college campus. The institute helps Drake students to develop the skills they need to really be successful in those roles as opposed to just trial by fire.”

The Adams Institute is available to students across all academic disciplines without any additional cost. The program requires an application, and those who are admitted gain access to a three-part leadership training series, a community of engaged leaders and peer mentors on campus, and preparation for developing meaningful relationships and networks in their professional careers. 

“We want students to be able to say ‘Who am I? How do I want to be seen in the world? And is the way people perceive me now the way I intend to come across’?” Economos adds. “When students go into an interview, we want them to be able to tell [the employer] why they should be hired instead of the fourteen others already interviewed.” 

The three-part training series is new to the Adams Institute, added in order to establish more structure and continuity within the leadership program. The current series includes three workshops that all students in the Institute go through – Adams 1, 2, and 3. With the introduction of these courses, DVALI has transitioned from an “umbrella term” describing leadership at Drake to a great community of leaders and students connected by the Institute. The new workshops, as well, allow students to build upon the skills they’ve learned each year, which Economos notes is when “students do their best.” 

“The new program is structured to be a three semester process where students apply once and are accepted for all three sessions,” explains junior DWALI peer mentor Emily Wilcox. “These sessions are not a class. They’re workshops to help develop and, eventually, fine tune your skills as a leader. Adams 1 focuses on who you are as a leader and an individual. Adams 2 looks at how you can be a leader in the groups and organizations. Adams 3 takes a look back at all you have learned in the workshops and how you can put it to use in the real world.”

In addition to the training workshops, DVALI students have the opportunity to participate in several leadership events, including the Sussman Leadership Conference, Florence Meyer Wallis Luncheon, and the Adams Leadership Convocation, all of which encourage students to have their voices heard on campus and in the local Des Moines community. 

“I feel like DVALI has been so beneficial for me,” claims Wilcox. “I have more confidence now to talk with business professionals in my dream job. I know I am much more prepared and equipped with the skills to sound intelligent, while remaining my true self. I gained tangible skills that I can actually use in my everyday conversations as well.”

The application deadline to be admitted to the Institute in the fall has already passed, but any students may apply in the spring by February 15, 2020.  

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