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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


Inspiring Leadership

Dates: June 24-July 15, 2017 (3 weeks)
Credits: 3 credits
Eligibility: current sophomores, juniors, seniors
(see eligibility requirements)
Status: This program is not being offered in 2018


What makes someone a good leader—and do you have what it takes to be one? How does your personality affect your ability to lead, and how can you use aspects of your personality to your advantage? How can you connect with people in order to inspire and lead them?

This dynamic program, led by retired Marine aviator Mark Deets, will expose you to the habits, practices, skills, and mindset common to extraordinary leaders.

Through discussions, readings, exercises, films, and guest speakers, you'll analyze how leaders achieve great things through other people and how you can become a more powerful leader in clubs, teams, organizations, and society.

While this program is based on empirical research, it is not strictly a theory course. You will engage in personal development exercises and reflective analysis to arrive at a clearer understanding of your unique leadership strengths and objectives.

Activities will include:

  • completing values, strengths, and personality inventories,
  • crafting a purpose statement,
  • honing your communication skills,
  • developing tools to help overcome challenges,
  • examining topics including bases of power, followership, innovation, and appreciation.

A highlight of the program will be a day-long experiential leadership training with Cornell Outdoor Education, home to the largest university-based challenge course in the United States.

Course expectations

  • Much of the class will be either discussion-based or experiential in nature. Students should be comfortable participating in large- and small-group discussions.
  • Students should be prepared to work in a variety of team settings, to offer earnest feedback to one another within those settings, and to incorporate that feedback into thoughtful introspection.
  • There will be pre-reading each day (50 pages) to prepare for the next day's class. In addition, students should be comfortable sharing their own personal experiences outside Cornell when contributing to class discussions.
  • Students will write weekly essays (of no more than 1500 words) in response to assigned course material, class discussions, and practical application exercises.
  • What you get out of this course will be a direct reflection of how much of yourself you are willing to invest in it.


You'll be enrolled in the three-credit course Teams and Leaders in Action (ALS 2100).

This course meets Mondays through Fridays, 9:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Maximum enrollment: 36

Note: You may combine this program with a three-week 2 program to create a six-week Dual Program.

Required textbooks

Title Author Cost
Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson—A Tale of Mutiny and Murder in the Arctic* Peter C. Mancall $16.95
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box The Arbinger Institute $17.00
The Last Place on Earth Roland Huntford $17.00
The Student Leadership Challenge: Five Practices for Exemplary Leaders James M.Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner $36.00

These titles will be available at The Cornell Store.

*Fatal Journey is available electronically on the Cornell University Library website.

Special scheduling


  • Tuesday, July 4: In observance of Independence Day, we will not have classes.
  • Monday, July 10: College Admissions Workshop, 2:30–3:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 15: Graduation ceremony: 11:00 a.m.–noon


Students and their families are cordially invited to an informal graduation on Saturday, July 15 from 11:00 a.m. to noon. Students will each receive a Cornell University Summer College certificate and be able to take farewell photos with their friends and faculty. Note that attendance is not required, but is highly recommended and is a nice way to conclude the program. Dress is smart casual.

Checkout dates and times

Before making travel plans, review the checkout dates and times for your program. We strictly adhere to these deadlines.

Program director

Mark W. Deets

Mark W. Deets is a retired Marine aviator and a PhD candidate in African history at Cornell University. He began his doctoral studies after retiring from the Marine Corps in 2010.

Before his military retirement, Deets taught history at the U.S. Naval Academy. Previous assignments include postings as the U.S. Defense and Marine attaché to Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde (2005–2007); as a White House helicopter aircraft commander (HAC) and UH-1N “Huey” operational test director with Marine Helicopter Squadron One (1999–2002); and as assistant operations officer and UH-1N weapons and tactics instructor with the “Stingers” of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 (1993–1998).

Deets has earned two MA degrees, one from Cornell in African history and one in national security affairs from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He earned his BS in history from the Naval Academy.

At Cornell, Deets investigates how nationalists thought about space and place to represent the nation to themselves and others in the Casamance region of Senegal. Thus, his interests focus on spatial history, historical geography, and socio-cultural histories of nationalism in all parts of Africa and the postcolonial world.

A native of Beloit, Kansas, Deets is married to Taryn (Rediker) Deets from Kerrville, Texas, and has six children, three of whom he and Taryn adopted from Ethiopia in 2007.

"Watching the proverbial light bulb illuminate above the heads of bright young men and women has become my professional raison d’être following twenty years as a U.S. Marine officer. I enjoy teaching leadership because it transcends academic disciplines. Knowing more about leadership will benefit you no matter what professional path you take. If you make it into this course, you probably already are a leader. The question is how you will use your gifts to influence your community in a positive manner. This course prepares you to do that. It is more about listening than assertion, more about action than talking, and more about ‘we’ than ‘I.’ What a privilege to help young men and women build and lead better teams, organizations, businesses, and communities." – Mark Deets

Student experiences

"Our professor, Mark, was very professional and kind. He was open to our questions and encouraged every student to express his/her opinion. My TA, Natalie, respected every student's views and gave me a lot of helpful advice." — Jiajing Liu, 2016

"The professor and TAs helped us understand what it takes to inspire a group of people to accomplish a task or goal. " — Eugene Kang, 2015

"Professor Mark Deets and my TA, Evan Bruno, were both very helpful and full of energy! They were both available to help whenever students needed them." — ReyJeanne Antoine, 2015

Student blogs