March 27, 2024

On March 2 and 3, college students from across the country gathered in Topeka, Kansas, for the 14th annual Leadership Challenge Event™ (LCE™) hosted by the Washburn University Leadership Institute.

Students standing together holding an H-SC flagAdvised by Wilson Center Director Vinton Bruton IV, Hampden-Sydney’s team comprised Connor Eickelman ’24, Finlay Lee ’24, Carter Spawn ’25, Chase Crowder ’26, and Joe Kreutzer ’26. Up against 15 college teams from 13 colleges, the Tigers knew they had stiff competition for their first appearance at the event. No matter to them, Hampden-Sydney brought home second place overall and won both the Collaboration Award and the Emerging Leader Award.

The Commonwealth was well represented in the top three as H-SC was edged out only by Christopher Newport University, who placed second in 2023 and also won the 2023 Collaboration and Emerging Leader awards. The Tigers topped University of Nebraska, who won five of the last seven challenges.

The event, according to the LCE™ website, “is a unique inter-scholastic as well as inter-collegiate leadership competition which provides high school and undergraduate college students an opportunity to participate in an organized competition that simulates real-life experiences…The LCE™ simulates the real-world process of leadership through the two-day event, consisting of a live, interactive leadership simulation. Student teams of 5 will compete to fulfill the challenges and overcome the obstacles placed before them in a manner that demonstrates exemplary leadership knowledge and execution.”

This year’s simulation scenario was a winter storm in the fictional city of Metropolis. Participants played the roles of sheriff, public health director, schools superintendent, United Way director, and public works director. The simulation lasted about seven hours with 11 distinct graded events.  As the teams came up with solutions to the challenging scenario, they received new information throughout the day as conditions changed in the scenario, interacted with role players, and modified their plans throughout the day before briefing a panel of judges on their plan at the end. Two students, Connor and Carter, were able to put real-life internship experience to use in the scenario.

“I have taken entire classes involving tabletop exercises, and the Washburn Leadership Challenge was more detailed and realistic than any tabletop I had done before,” Connor says. “My experience with the Office of Emergency Management at Virginia Department of Health was definitely helpful in terms of giving me a good foundation for public health's role in an incident such as the one in the simulation. Carter's experience with Amelia County's Emergency Management Office was also really helpful. Ultimately, the biggest factor contributing to the team's success was definitely our ability to collaborate. We acted in unison and were constantly reviewing each other's work, and that led to a good outcome.”

“From start to finish, they represented Hampden-Sydney College in fine fashion,” Bruton says. “My favorite moments may have been two ungraded events though. Some of the Washburn student volunteers were moving a cart of snacks across campus when it tipped over. Our guys not only stopped to help clean up the wreckage but also helped the Washburn students carry the snacks to their destination. On Friday, after the winners were announced, our men spontaneously went over to the CNU table to offer congratulations. Those are small things that I’ve come to expect of Hampden-Sydney men, but it’s great to see our guys live up to our good men and good citizens ethos away from campus.”

Bruton reports that on the way home, the team was already making plans for a first-place finish at next year’s LCE™. This year’s team may have brought home silver, but their actions outside of the challenge prove their hearts are made of gold.

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