School of Service & Leadership: A Culture of Compassion

IWU’s School of Service and Leadership (SSL) is a school that honors its name.

By: Carly Tino & Jake Hreha

IWU’s School of Service and Leadership (SSL) is a school that honors its name. From Christian Ministry Leadership to Criminal Justice to Public Administration, SSL helps you pursue your calling to lead and serve others. Their secret: From the foundation up, they care.

The Value of Servant Leadership

The School of Service and Leadership teaches the value of servant leadership in all areas of life. Being a servant leader means lifting others up through service and putting others needs above your own. Servant leaders focus on those around them instead of themselves. Through this leadership style, they help build future leaders that can use the servant leadership approach.

While traditional leadership tends to follow a formal authority approach, servant leaders encourage taking a step down and putting someone else above you. A servant leader focuses on finding ways to serve those around them in order to make everyone successful. For example, servant leaders create a culture that encourages supporting a new team member in order to boost the entire team morale.

Dr. Mark Rennaker is the chair of the Department of Leadership Studies in SSL. Rennaker says the best thing about the school is the people he works with. “It seems crucial to us to serve each other well if we are going to lead a school of service and leadership.”

Service and leadership are important traits in someone practicing servant leadership. A few more characteristics of servant leadership are generosity, hospitality, and a genuine desire to see others find success. You can employ servant leadership in any area of your life. The servant leadership style of leadership will be an effective way to show others you truly care and provide authentic leadership that impacts those around you.

Collectively, the school works to create an environment among administrators, faculty, and students with three crucial value statements:

  • You matter more than just what you do for us.
  • You are integral to accomplishing our mission.
  • You are an important part of our conversations.

“Our school vision can be captured as, ‘The school of service and leadership seeks to empower graduates to do what Christ calls all His followers to do: serve others with humility, grace, and compassion,’” Rennaker says.

Leaders Serve in All Areas

Certainly, students join an academic program because they want to become qualified for a job or move up within their career. However, Rennaker says the common threads across SSL – helping, serving, and leading – suggest that students think not just about career, but their calling. “Our programs invest in students and give them the opportunity to explore their calling, gifting, and passions so they are better able to put those into practice.”

According to Dr. Rennaker, IWU SSL stands out from other universities’ programs in two distinct ways:

  1. Christian Identity & Perspective
    Although not every student who joins a program in SSL is a Christian, the school has built its programs from a Christian worldview, while maintaining the academic excellence to stand alongside any competing institutions. “One of the things we like to talk about, especially in the doctoral program – PhD in organizational leadership – is that we want to prepare you to have a ‘seat at the table.’” Rennaker says. “In other words, whatever your profession or organization, we want our academic programs to prepare you with knowledge and skills that allow you to engage and excel with colleagues from any other university. However, we also want to prepare students to consider the assumptions and implications of ideas through a Christian lens, or to consider those critical elements through whatever worldview lens the student may hold.”
  2. Personal Service
    SSL continues to build enhancements into its instructional practices and expectations to make sure students are not just a number. “Some universities like to publicize how big they are – as if the number of students they have is all that matters," Rennaker says. "But for students, the only number that really matters is ‘1’– the student. We try to build a culture of care and permeate it through administration and faculty, and we want it to extend to the students in our school. Each student has a name. Each student matters. Those ideas of attention, engagement, and service to students are fundamental distinctives that can separate us from other institutions.”

Will You Be a Servant Leader?

Today, SSL alumni thrive in their communities as social workers, administrators, pastors, teachers, presidents, CEOs, partners, professors, chairs, and more. Although their roles are diverse, they have one thing in common: They want to live a life of meaning and significance by investing themselves in the good of others.

Are you passionate about living a life of service? If the SSL mission resonates with you, consider advancing your education through one of our programs.

Carly Tino

Social Media Manager, IWU-National and Global

Carly Tino grew up in Northeast Indiana and graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2020, where she studied Strategic Communication and Media Communication. Carly’s favorite pleasures of life are morning pour-overs, traveling in her soon-to-be-finished camper and going to the lake with her family. She lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband, two cats, and dog.

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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