The origin of Next Generation Leadership Program


    The Next Generation Leadership Program grew out of an effort to be a unique program that would prepare students to change the world.

    In the mid ’90, Larry Peters, a professor in the Department of Leadership and Entrepreneurial Management, flew to universities across the country to explore what they were doing with leadership, said Dr. Greg Stephens, associate professor of management and leadership and academic director of BNSF. 

    Stephens said that Bob Lusch, the dean of Neeley at the time, asked Peters to start exploring what other universities were doing in terms of fostering leadership for their students and ways in which they were enforcing these skills. 

    The idea was for TCU to have a benchmark for how to do it better, Stephens said. 

    “Most of the universities I visited offered a couple of classes on leadership and called it a ‘program,'” said Stephens. 

    Upon his return, Peters recommended starting a leadership program for undergraduates at TCU. 

    “When the program was still developing at TCU, Peters and I looked at each other and said what are we trying to accomplish with this program, what are we trying to do?” said Stephens.

    I don’t remember who said it first, but our mantra became we want to change the world, said Stephens.

    There was no integration, sequencing or co-curricular classes offered at TCU.

    Peters and Stephens developed the sequenced curriculum, which is now known as the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program.

    “If all they do is move and shape the business world, I will feel like I failed,” said Stephens. 

    “But if they go out and do amazing things with other people, whether that be starting a new business that helps the homeless find work or organizing fundraiser through their work, then I feel like my stories and my influences will have mattered.” 

    Accounting major Lindsey Backlund said, “Dr. Stephens doesn’t just lecture, and that is one of my favorite things about his class. He tells stories that stick with me far beyond any lecture.”

    Stephens said his stories have purpose. 

    “I tell stories because they’re going to be out in the work force one day and something is going to happen and they are going to remember a story I told that is similar to something they are experiencing,” said Stephens. “Remembering that story will help them remember the principles far better than any lecture.” 

    Stephens said he hopes that after this program the students are able to behave differently and act in ways that are more “leader-ful” in the world.