The University of South Dakota prepares students for their futures in a number of ways both in and beyond the classroom. One signature program connecting students to opportunities for growth is the President's Senior Leadership Institute (PSLI).

An initiative promoted by USD's Opportunity Center, PSLI is a leadership development program designed to help prepare senior-level students for leadership roles after graduation. Through meaningful networking, alumni engagement, travel experiences and skill-development opportunities, participating students can expect to grow their network and professional confidence alongside peers from all majors, schools and programs.

"PSLI really tries to break down students' assumptions about who can be a leaders and help them see that no matter what role they're in, no matter what their hopes and dreams are, they can be a leader," said Jordan Bonstrom, Opportunity Center director. "The purposed of this program is to help students find themselves in leadership."

PSLI uses four distinct pillars of leadership to guide it's programming.

  • Responsible Citizenship: Exposure to professionals who have made lasting impacts in their communities, resulting in the development of health care professionals, business executives, educators, thought leaders, lawyers, scientists and artists who aim to do the same across South Dakota and beyond.
  • Financial Literacy: Programming to support understanding of the impacts of long-term budgeting and financial planning via discussions on budgeting, investing, daily expenses, and major purchases, among other topics.
  • Self-Discovery: Introduction to vital industry knowledge and vocabulary for adequate self-presentation - appropriate conversation topics that lead to the development of confidence and heightened self-awareness.
  • Alumni Networking: using the expertise and community knowledge of USD alumni to build intentional relationships between students and state leaders.

PSLI has grown exponentially since its launch in the 2019-202 academic year, both in participation and experiential learning, thanks to support from another USD cohort, Women in Philanthropy (WIP).

WIP is a union of like-minded women who use their diverse talents, backgrounds and experiences to enhance USD and positively impact its students. By providing a platform for engagement and philanthropic insight, WIP has been able to support, uplift and ignite USD programs.

"Women in Philanthropy consists of leaders who generate opportunities for students to develop skills by sharing their time, talents and gifts," said Kacie Weatherly, WIP director of development. "PSLI aligns with WIP because we are building our future leaders to be ready with skills like financial literacy, networking, service and so much more."

After receiving the WIP Firestarter Grant - funding reserved for new-to-campus programs and initiatives duly chosen by WIP members - PSLI began its journey to facilitating an integrated approach to leadership with the help of statewide opportunities, resources and alumni.

"Our alumni play a significant role in championing PSLI. They provide gifts to enhance our program, provide knowledge in their industries to educate our students, and provides their presence at events," said Weatherly. "Alumni relationships and engagement are integral to the success of our students."

"PSLI provides an opportunity for our students to gain a great appreciation for the cultural and social dynamics that make South Dakota unique and places them on the fast track to success at they prepare to join the workforce." Sheila K. Gestring, USD President

Community visits and panels, financial planning discussions, alumni-led presentations and university-hosted etiquette dinners are just a few of the invaluable opportunities students involved in PSLI can expect during the yearlong program.

As the state's flagship university and designated liberal arts institution, USD is committed to developing lifelong learners, and preparing students for their futures. PSLI, with support from WIP, embraces that mission through its work connecting students with these opportunities.

"There is so much more that goes into being a successful human being than just what's taught in the classroom," said Bonstrom. "We know these students have what it takes to be leaders, and we're ready to help them get there."

Learn more about these empowering programs: President's Senior Leadership Institute and Women in Philanthropy.