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The Journal Gazette

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Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:00 am

Researcher encourages student leadership

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

You could say Laura Slane has excelled in the STEM arena.

The Fort Wayne resident, a native of upstate New York, earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University in 2009.

Five years later, she had a master's and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Wisconsin.

Beyond hitting the books, Slane has led a Girl Scout troop, been an alumni adviser for a chapter of the Chi Omega sorority, and founded and served as president of the Bucknell Alumni Club of Madison.

Her academic achievements and leadership haven't gone unnoticed. Slane, 29, was one of five recipients of a 2017 Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Alumni Achievement Award in late May. Recipients were honored at a gala in New York City. As a high school student, Slane was selected to attend a HOBY training program. The development organization is named after the popular actor who died last year.

Slane has a passion for research, some of it involving soft tissue knee balance and tendon mechanics.

“My goal with engineering has always been to work on projects that make a difference,” Slane said in an interview last week.

Last year, she began a three-year research fellowship with the National Institutes of Health. Slane has also been an instructor and assistant researcher with the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning. While on a fellowship project for two years in Belgium, she organized a research conference that attracted people from around the world.

Working in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM – area, Slane said she's used to being a minority.

“I think that's something that's really been clear throughout my career, being the only woman in the room,” she said.

Despite the demands of research, Slane finds time to invest in other areas, including Kiva.org, an international microlending institution that on Thursday hit $1 billion in loans. She also still has an interest in helping students.

“I think encouraging student leadership is really important … and being a role model for women in engineering,” Slane said. “It's no different than following any other career path. Sometimes I worry that all the focus on STEM makes it seem like it's something more different than just something that is of interest to some people.”

Engagement is crucial

This year's podcast series “Crack the Leadership Code” again contained a wealth of information from the authors, executive coaches and business executives that Michelle Pizer of Melbourne, Australia, interviewed. The 17-day series via email started in late May and ran through the second week of June.

Here are some additional insights, beyond what I've already shared this month, from author Gordon Tredgold, who addresses why motivation is overrated.

“If it takes a cheerleader to get you going, it will take a cheerleader to keep you going,” said Tredgold, author of “Leadership: It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint” and other books. “What is actually much better is to wind (people) up … and just let them go.”

Tredgold calls that approach engagement, but says it's hardly prevalent. In the U.S., he said, only 30 percent of staffs are engaged.

Leaders should align their goals with the desires of those they're leading. It's important to give people a sense of purpose, by tapping into their aspiration, Tredgold said. You can provide inspiration by showing people how they're going to be successful. If you don't have aspiration and inspiration, he said, it's like “trying to chase an elephant uphill.”

Motivation “is the last piece,” Tredgold said. You just keep applauding when those you're leading make progress.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears online as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on/