Williamson College of the Trades came in first place in the “Ethical Leadership” category  at Reimagine Education 2016, a global competition designed to recognize higher education teaching methods that enhance learning and employability throughout the world.

The competition, hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, included 15 categories and such prestigious competitors as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, and hundreds of other schools from six continents.

President Michael Rounds, who accepted the award at the awards ceremony at Philadelphia’s Constitution Center, said “I am thrilled that Williamson’s successful and time-tested approach to education has been recognized in this meaningful way. We were selected out of a pool of 500 applicants of prestigious colleges and universities from around the world to receive a first-place award. It is especially gratifying that we won the top award in a category that stresses ethics and leadership, two character traits we emphasize in all that we do at Williamson.”

Thomas Wisneski, vice president of research and assessment, said “We received $5,000 as a first-place winner, but more importantly, this award further validates our approach to education in a meaningful way.”

In the first step of the competition, Wisneski submitted a lengthy application describing Williamson’s approach to education entitled “Synchronizing Vocational Education and Character Development to Impact Employability.” It was one of 500 applications submitted from colleges and universities around the globe and was selected to be on the shortlist for a presentation in the competition.

Wisneski, who made Williamson’s presentation, entitled “Williamson: Success Through Traditional Innovation,” said most of the categories focused on technological innovation, but pointed out that sometimes approaches that have worked in the past or possibly in the margins can be adapted for current application.

“Because we are not well known our approach to education can be seen as innovative. We provide a model that should find wide application to nurture employability and promote ethical leadership. Since 1891, Williamson has pursued an innovative approach to vocational training through an immersive educational environment focused on character development.

“The success of our approach to education has been validated in several ways: We have a remarkable yield rate, with 94 percent of our applicants accepting enrollment; we have a graduation rate of 74 percent, which is more than double the 29 percent national average; and our job placement rate has been 98.8 percent over the last five years.”

Additionally, he said, Williamson’s model has been independently corroborated by a 3-year, $2.5 million study funded by the John Templeton Foundation and conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University that demonstrated that Williamson provides a model of how a trade education can be an invaluable tool in enriching the lives of diverse Americans, a model that should be followed by other schools.

Wisneski’s presentation was limited to a 2-minute video (above) and 5-minute talk in which he focused on two aspects of Williamson’s approach to education: our apprenticeship model, in which students begin as an apprentice their freshman year, become independent workers as juniors, and become supervisors as seniors, and our highly structured immersive program designed to develop character-driven leadership.

Williamson’s award, which was presented for the first time at this year’s conference, was sponsored by the World Economic Forum, which wanted to acknowledge success in encouraging students to adopt leadership roles; interrogate the question of leadership, examining and critiquing current leaders and models of leadership; examine the ethical implications and consequences of leadership and the decisions with which leaders are faced; and initiate projects in which they direct leadership qualities towards pursuits with positive ethical outcomes.

They further stated that it is not enough to equip students with the skills necessary to become leaders. It is also necessary that tomorrow’s leaders be conscientious, responsible, and morally conscious.

Through a contact of Trustee Ed Mahoney, President Michael Rounds and Arlene Snyder, vice president for institutional advancement, were made aware of the Reimagine Education 2016 competition. Michele Minicozzi, director of grants and research, coordinated the submission of the school’s application, and Ross Deitrich, creative director, built the PowerPoint presentation and directed the video.