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CSUSM center shares passion for leadership beyond its student body

In 2004, California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) opened its Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB) with a goal of being a catalyst for leadership in San Diego County. Serving students, staff and faculty, alongside external stakeholders such as community members and business, CLIMB has developed three core programs, which have grown the center into the go-to resource on leadership in the region.

In the Executive's Chair is a semester-long course open to students and the public. Weekly guest speakers share about their careers, organizations and critical business challenges and decisions they face to expose students to the wide breadth of what a successful executive looks like. A culminating report on common themes and distinct differences encourages students to examine how these varying perspectives have helped shaped their own view of the business world. An exercise Dr. Rajnandini Pillai, Executive Director of CLIMB, says is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. “This course facilitates them pursuing their dreams and their careers and it often changes in that class,” she says. “Students tell us ‘I realized that I could be anyone that I want to be.’ It changes lives.”

In addition to exposing students to great leaders, CLIMB also takes on the role of fostering and recruiting student leaders. Each year, the James R. Meindl Student Leadership Award honors one graduating senior from the College of Business Administration who has demonstrated a passion for leadership. According to Pillai, despite a very rigorous selection process, so many outstanding student leaders make choosing just one a challenge — a sign that the mission of CLIMB is being fulfilled.

Each semester, one signature event offers an in-depth discussion of varying leadership topics and how they impact organizations. Anchored by powerhouse speakers — which have included UGG founder Brian Smith and Captain Mark Cedrun, commander  of the USS Boxer during the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips — CLIMB’s speaker seminars draw a crowd from the university and surrounding community. The next speaker seminar, happening October 28, will explore mindfulness in the workplace with leaders from the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. As with all of CLIMB’s speaker seminars, this event is free and open to the public.