President's Leadership Society Gains Recognition Among Community and Technical College Leaders

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Columbia State Community College

Columbia State Community College’s President’s Leadership Society recently garnered attention among community and technical college leaders when the college was selected to present at the COMBASE consortium conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Following the conference, representatives of Albany Technical College paid a visit to Columbia State to gain more in-depth knowledge of PLS, in which they were able to meet with students and faculty. They are currently exploring the option of implementing a similar program at Albany Tech.

Formed in spring 2011, President’s Leadership Society is a free leadership training program focused on developing a student’s unique leadership skills from their first semester through graduation. The program focuses on participation in college-sponsored programs that promote educational attainment, career choices, volunteerism and civic responsibility.

“Research tells us that the more engaged a student is in the classroom and on campus, the greater likelihood that they will be successful in their studies and persist until they earn a degree,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president. “I wanted to develop a program where all students have the opportunity to get involved, grow their leadership skills and be recognized for their efforts at graduation.”

The program is designed to give students the opportunity to explore new concepts and experience different areas outside of their own major. The program also encourages and helps students build and maintain relationships, which are essential to success. 

“The PLS program has created a cultural shift where students are learning to appreciate learning,” said Mandy Carter-Lowe, associate professor of biology at Columbia State. “Students have felt more comfortable approaching faculty members and discussing new ideas. This program is about making connections to help students succeed.”

During the course of the program, students will attend a leadership retreat, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding and give back to the community through volunteerism.

“PLS gets students more involved in the community, develops friendships and support and creates an overall better learning environment for students,” said Roderick Moore, Columbia resident and Columbia State pre-health profession major and PLS member. 

Angelia Reynolds, a Columbia resident and first-generation, non-traditional student admits that she was nervous about attending college as an adult student. However, with the encouragement of her two daughters, both active PLS students at Columbia State, she moved forward toward her dream of earning a degree in sociology.

Reynolds commented that it was another student who convinced her daughter, Katherine, a criminal justice major, to join PLS.

“Her whole college experience changed,” Reynolds explained. “She got involved in other organizations, and it gave her the drive to do better in her classes so she could continue to be involved with all the clubs on campus.”

Reynolds, now in her second year at Columbia State, said she’s glad to have had the opportunity to meet new PLS members that are shy and just beginning their college journey.

“I’m glad to see everyone transform and become confident and grow their leadership skills,” Reynolds said. “My daughters talked me into joining PLS because it’s a great way to get to know others, so to be a part of a multi-generational group has been great. I’ve learned so much from everyone.”

Students are required to apply to the program prior to the completion of 18 credit hours. This allows students the opportunity to get involved early in their college studies and progress slowly through the program.

During the course of their studies, students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and complete a total of 12 approved activities, with no more than five per semester. Activities include self-management and goal setting, campus life, culture, community service and civic understanding. 

Students must also complete all graduation requirements toward their degree and participate in the commencement ceremony in order to complete the program and earn their medallion and notation on their academic transcript.

With nearly 100 PLS graduates since its inception, Smith says she is proud of the program and is honored that another college is considering implementing a similar program.

“I am proud of the students who participate in this program because it shows their ability to lead and succeed,” Smith said. “I think more programs like this will create stronger leaders that will surely benefit workplaces and communities alike.”

To learn more about President’s Leadership Society call Sondra Wilson-Martin at (931) 540-2836, or visit

COMBASE, an abbreviation for Community-Based, was established  in 1974 and is a consortium of many leading community and technical colleges in the nation dedicated to sharing innovative solutions to meet the challenges of the nation’s rapidly changing economy. Visit to learn more.

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, one of the largest higher education systems in the nation. For more information, please visit

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at