After 18 years, university’s unique LEAD program still benefitting, captivating William Woods students

The period of time following the end of another academic year at William Woods is filled with assessment. Students receive their final grades for the semester and year. Faculty and staff receive performance reviews from supervisors. Programs and policies are examined to determine how effective they are. It is what effective organizations and people do on a regular basis – assess performance in a continuous effort to get better.

At William Woods, such a process of continuous improvement is integral to the university’s mission and impacts every aspect of life at The Woods. No program, no matter how successful, is spared from ongoing, regular analysis.

It was in this spirit that the university recently conducted its year-end survey of one its most unique and successful programs, the LEAD program. Established in 2000 by President Jahnae Barnett, LEAD (Leading, Educating, Achieving and Developing) has assisted generations of William Woods students in helping pay their tuition in exchange for encouraging active participation and involvement in university life beyond the classroom. Through the program, which is unique in higher education, full-time students can earn assistance of $5,000 for residential students or $2,500 for commuter students per year by attending LEAD events on campus, which can range from plays, concerts, campus speakers, screenings, symposiums, athletic events and many more. For each event attended, students receive points toward the total needed to receive their financial assistance.

Created with the goal of enriching a student’s educational experience to include growth outside of academics, LEAD has provided more than $30 million in financial assistance to William Woods since its inception. Such numbers over the past 18 years would seem to confirm that LEAD has been nothing less than a wildly successful program at WWU, one that has been featured on some of the biggest media outlets (British Broadcasting Company, Associated Press, National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” Los Angeles Times, etc.) in the world.

But is this cutting-edge program still delivering on its promise to William Woods students as it nears its 20th anniversary in 2020? Based on the annual year-end survey of WWU students conducted recently, the answer would be a resounding “yes!”

Out of 203 respondents to the survey, 179 students (88 percent) expressed an excellent, very positive or positive response when describing their LEAD experience at William Woods. Examples included:

  • “I am thankful how it forced me to get out of my dorm and socialize with other students. I have built a great support system from it. It has also informed me on numerous topics ranging from horse to human trafficking, to maintaining health and handling my money”
  • “This program really sets William Woods apart from other universities”
  • “Overall, the LEAD program was what really shaped my experience here at William Woods. As a club leader, I worked to actively engage my peers through LEAD events by discussing issues important to me. This helped shape me into a leader that can better utilize public speaking skills. Additionally, the program did help expand my knowledge and my perspective on life and society”
  • “I believe that this program is a great tool to make our campus more united!”
  • “It forces individuals to step out of their comfort zone at the same time allowing them to speak on something that they are passionate about. You are constantly learning throughout LEAD events which I think brings the students, faculty, and community together”
  • “I believe LEAD is a great asset that this university offers. LEAD provides an opportunity to get out and meet new people and expand your horizons while getting valuable tuition assistance in return. Meeting new people finding new hobbies is a great way to enjoy your college career”
  • “The LEAD program to me is one of the most exciting and important parts of William Woods University. In the past, I attended another university that did not have a program like this. As a transfer and commuter student here, the LEAD program has helped me make many connections with classmates and other students. Furthermore, the various LEAD events offered provide unique perspectives and information that I would not have access to in my everyday life. By participating in the LEAD program I believe I have become a more socially involved and well-rounded student”

LEAD’s influence on the William Woods campus community was recently highlighted by one current student, senior-to-be Nina McKee of Fulton, who set the record for most LEAD points in a single year during this past year, earning her the distinction of being considered the “most involved William Woods student” (

Overall, the LEAD program continues to be one of the most unique features of being a student at William Woods University, and one more way that attending The Woods is an experience unlike other universities. For more information on the LEAD program, please visit