On campus and around the world, Bulldogs are leading in their classrooms, communities, and workplaces. Many of them are also students and graduates of Drake University’s Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute (DVALI).

DVALI provides leadership training and facilitates opportunities for intentional learning, skill development, and self-reflection.

“DVALI’s purpose is to help students feel more confident in their leadership skills while also teaching us how those skills can be applied to any situation that we may encounter,” says DVALI student Maegan Valencia, a junior majoring in computer science.

The institute is named for Donald V. Adams, whose leadership and mentorship has impacted Drake students across decades. Adams served as vice president for student life at Drake from 1969 to 2007, and also held the titles of vice president for enrollment management and executive assistant to the President. He retired in 2007 and remains involved with the Drake community and regularly attends DVALI events and programs. The 2019-2020 academic year marks Adams’s 50th year at Drake.

Founded in 2000, DVALI teaches tangible leadership practices that allow students to form an intentional community of leaders and create change on campus and throughout the community.

“DVALI focuses a lot on each student’s unique leadership strengths and teaches us how to take our strengths to the next step in order to become effective leaders both on and off Drake’s campus,” says Valencia.

“[DVALI is] really important because, at Drake, everybody has the option to become a leader in one way or the other,” says DVALI member Anush Jain, a sophomore majoring in International Business and Finance with a LEAD concentration.

“Every person is a leader and is already a leader in their life without even knowing it,” says Jain. “But if you want to turn those raw skills into something tangible that will influence and affect your life in a positive way, DVALI is definitely the place to go.”

For alumna Emily Raecker, BN‘15, GR’18, DVALI allowed her to explore leadership in new ways.

“I wanted to know what the practical applications for leadership were that I would need to be able to use in any type of career I would have after Drake,” says Raecker.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Raecker started at Principal as a leadership development program associate. She currently serves as a senior marketing consultant at the company. According to Raecker, the skills she learned in DVALI have translated seamlessly into her life now.

“My job is very heavy in collaboration and understanding other people’s points of view to figure out a way to meet them where they are and to get them to come along on a path,” says Raecker. “Getting people comfortable with the uncomfortable and building that empathy with them early on has been really critical to be able to make progress in what we’re doing.”

The principles of DVALI are based on Adams’s six personal values: Take Responsibility, Be Honest and Dependable, Be Persistent, Preserve Your Options, Never Stop Learning, and Love Unconditionally.

With this strong foundation in place, the program has been able to adapt and evolve its structure to meet current student needs. This year, the program shifted to a three-part series, Adams 1, 2, and 3, to streamline the process and make it more meaningful for students.

“We’ve had about 100 students who’ve been admitted to and started in Adams 1,” said Kristin Economos, director of Student Leadership Programs. “Then because of the transition, we grandfathered in any students that were part of the old format to start in Adams 2 or 3, which is a little bit of a unique circumstance this year.”

But the transition has been well received. According to Economos, 99% of students who’ve taken Adams 1 and 2 say that they’d recommend it to a friend and 100% of them said they thought it was worth their time even though they didn’t get paid or get credit for it.

“I feel so motivated and excited to take what I’ve learned in DVALI and share that information with other people and use the techniques we’ve learned in real-life situations,” says Valencia.

Beyond learning, being part of DVALI builds a community that allows students to collaborate and share in their experiences as student leaders.

“I think everybody who went through [DVALI] would definitely say that going through the ceremony and getting your blue jacket is something that definitely stands out to you,” says Raecker. “Being able to wear those jackets around campus as a point of pride and seeing other people that had gone through that similar experience was a really strong way to build community throughout Drake.”