February 2020

     Emma Rogers - WLS Award

Emma Rogers, winner of the 2020 Women's Leadership Series Scholarship Award.  

Student Profile

Persistence, Confidence Keys in Rogers' Pursuit of Leadership Excellence

Leadership isn’t just something that derives from a title or position, but is rather a quality one develops through a process. For sophomore Emma Rogers, leadership is also a learning experience.

“I think leadership is just about how much you learn from it because leaders aren’t perfect and they don’t know everything,” says Rogers. “It’s about how they take input and how they learn and adapt that really makes them great leaders”

Rogers serves a residence honors preceptor (RHP), the Honors College and Residences equivalent of a resident assistant. Rogers, who had held leadership positions including captain of her high school’s color guard prior to coming to Purdue, says being a RHP has been different than her previous experiences in leadership. 

“It’s a lot more informal,” says Rogers. “Being captain was more focused on practices, making sure everyone was doing the right thing and making sure they were prepared for our competitions. Being a RHP is more community centered. It’s about being available to your community and being there to make sure they’re safe and happy.”

Participating in Women’s Leadership Series gave Rogers more opportunities to develop her own perspectives in leading her floor. This year’s series featured events and topics specific to women’s leadership, a day of community service and crossover events with Men’s Leadership Series. Rogers says messages given by guest speakers that revolved around connectivity and inclusiveness resonated with her approach.

“One big takeaway I had was just to talk to people and not just sit in my own personal bubble,” says Rogers. “Everyone has had different experiences that are really valuable in leadership and even just in life. The speakers showed the importance of connecting with the people around you and taking their ideas and implementing them within your own ideas, not just being solely focused on what you want and what your plan is.”

The opportunity to network with others on campus also offered Rogers different perspectives on how to lead.

“I really enjoy getting to know different people from different leadership positions among students and faculty,” says Rogers. “I met people from all over campus that I wouldn’t normally interact with. I got to talk to them, see how they lead and see what their qualities are and compare them to my own to improve.”

In recognition of her demonstrated leadership abilities and participation in the series, Rogers was presented with the Women’s Leadership Series Scholarship Award. The award is given to a student who distinguishes herself in the series, participates in all of the events, lives in University Residences, has demonstrated leadership as a Purdue student and is in good academic standing. Since its inception in 2011, the Women’s Leadership Series has provided learning and networking opportunities for more than 1,000 participants.

In addition to serving as a RHP, Rogers serves as president of the Purdue University Geological Society, affectionately known as PUGS. Rogers, who is studying geology and geophysics with a double-major in planetary science, says she hopes to grow participation in the club within a field of study that is quite small at the university. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Rogers plans to pursue a master’s degree and eventually a Ph.D. in planetary geomorphology to learn how to apply the geologic base on Earth to processes on other planets. Her career trajectory in the field could lead to eventual employment with organizations such as NASA or the Lunar Planetary Institute.  

In the meantime, Rogers plans to return to Honors as a RHP next year and would like to serve in that capacity until she completes her undergraduate degree. In her future pursuits, Rogers says she will carry a high level of confidence due in part to her experiences in leadership.

“Confidence is a big thing that I think have grown in as a leader,” says Rogers. “There’s a point where you can’t listen to fear and have to intrinsically say ‘I don’t care what happens, I’m just going to do what I do, do the best I can and that’s all I can do.’ At some point you have to change from being scared of what other people think to wanting to improve yourself. That’s been a big thing.”

If there’s one thing Rogers says she wants communicate to other leaders, it’s the importance of persistence.

“The importance of perseverance is huge,” says Rogers. “If you don’t succeed, don’t give up. If you get told no, go prove them wrong. I might not be ready now, but that doesn’t mean I never will be.”

Learning and adjusting while developing her leadership abilities has already been a part of Rogers’ journey thus far and figures prominently as she finishes her undergraduate degree and pursues further academic and career goals.   

     Austin Lawrence and Michael Hiles

Austin Lawrence (left) and Michael Hiles after Hiles received the Men's Leadership Mentor Award.  

Student Profile

RA Role, Key Connection Help Further Lawrence's Leadership Goals

After serving as president of student council and being heavily involved in sports during high school, it was natural that Austin Lawrence wanted to make an impact at Purdue University – he just wasn’t sure how. 

Lawrence’s initial approach to finding a leadership position was to seek opportunities to impact the most amount of people he could. Lawrence says not knowing exactly what he was looking for led to some dead ends. Developing a friendship with his resident assistant, Matt Watkins, piqued Lawrence’s curiosity about becoming a RA and he discovered the role suited him.   

“I was looking more to impact 40,000 students here and that really wasn’t what I needed,” says Lawrence. “I needed something like being a resident assistant where I can deal with a floor of about 50 residents or a hall that has 800 students and is more of a small-scale community. I feel like I’ve been able to be a lot more impactful and that it was definitely what I was looking for. I just didn’t know it at the time.” 

Lawrence is now in his second year as a resident assistant in Harrison Hall, where he leads a floor of 47 students. He says that empowering his residents to have a say in their community has led to a variety of community-building events, ranging from watching Thursday night football and Purdue games to trips to the CoRec, Smash Brothers video game nights and community dinners. Lawrence also helps connects residents to opportunities through hall-wide events such as Acts of Service, which gave Harrison residents the chance to speak with organizations they can volunteer with. 

Austin Lawrence and Harrison Resident Assistants

Austin Lawrence (back row, center) with Harrison resident assistants after a training event. 

Some of the residents on Lawrence’s floor participate in the Larsen Leaders Academy Residential Program, part of a partnership between University Residences and Krannert School of Management. As an accounting major who has served as a teaching assistant in Krannert, Lawrence is able to provide additional mentorship to his residents by relating his previous experiences with classes and other programs to students in the learning community.  

“I obviously want to be a model for them and there’s about 20 kids who are doing exactly what I did two years ago,” says Lawrence. “I’m able to help all of those guys in concepts they don’t know. It’s been really cool being able to help them along their path. All the things I didn’t know before, I’m hoping to pass on to them.”

Lawrence was invited to participate in the Men’s Leadership Series to further develop his leadership abilities, which he accepted with enthusiasm. It was there he met Michael Hiles, who served as the mentor for the group of students Lawrence was partnered with for discussion. That relationship became a key part of Lawrence’s experience in the series.   

“From the very beginning, he made an effort to get to know us personally,” says Lawrence. “I think that’s what set the tone for the series for us. We were able to get coffee during the series and talk about some of the concepts outside of the two hours we’re allotted in the series events. We had a lot of great mentors, but I really think being able to connect with Michael on a personal level was really important.”

Hiles is no stranger to University Residences leadership, having served as a residence hall counselor and staff resident in Residence Hall Apartments North (now known as Hilltop Apartments). Hiles, who now works in the medical business industry, says he saw the series as an opportunity to create meaningful connections.

“I just felt like this was my opportunity to be the best mentor that I can be,” says Hiles. “One of the things I remember in college was how important having somebody to be able to bounce ideas off of or be a good listener was, so I wanted to be that kind of person for these students.” 

Lawrence says the lessons imparted by Hiles were helpful in framing his ways of thinking, particularly with regards to how to deal with failure.  

“One of the things I really enjoyed that Michael would talk about is that failure is a kind of mindset,” says Lawrence. “There are going to be times where you’re going to fail on Monday, but it’s only a failure if you don’t chase it again on Tuesday. I think that as a leader you only fail someone if you stop trying to work with them. You only fail at an activity if you fail to continue to try to achieve what you were aiming for in the first place.”

Hiles’ impact in sharing career advice and perspectives on leadership with Lawrence and other students was recognized as he was named the recipient of the Men’s Leadership Series Mentor Award. He was nominated by Lawrence, who he remains in contact with along with two others from his group of four students.

Lawrence will finish his undergraduate degree this spring and has a summer internship lined up with an accounting firm in Indianapolis. Following the internship, he will pursue a Master of Science in Accounting at Purdue and prepare to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. He sees the lessons he’s learned in the series and as a resident assistant as an advantage as he pursues his goals. The principles of model, connect and involve communicated in Lead Simply by Sam Parker, the book read by participants in the series, figure heavily into Lawrence’s ideas of how to be successful moving forward.

“I think if I can model, connect and involve with that firm and then bring that back to my class group, it sets me up to be really successful in the master’s program,” says Lawrence. “I think it also sets me up to be really successful with the CPA exam and hopefully when I go back to that firm in the future.”

It’s clear that Lawrence has found his leadership niche on campus through these experiences and feels prepared as he pursues his next endeavors.Stay tuned for more information on social media challenges and opportunities to "Meet the Challenge" by ensuring a great University Residences experience for future Boilermakers. 

Writer: Matt Vader | Editors: Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic, Danielle Fawbush

Editorial Board: Barb Frazee, Tammy Loew, Renee Kashawlic | Inquiries Contact:

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