Using Experience to Teach Character Development

PROVO, Utah – Jul 12, 2021 – As an adjunct professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Beth Wilkins knows her students want to make a difference in the world. Wilkins teaches a leadership class in the human resource management (HRM) program that helps students learn how to make that difference by first understanding themselves better. To this end, Wilkins strives to bring her knowledge and experience as an industry professional, including running her own consulting firm, to the classroom.

Wilkins teaches HRM 413: Managerial Leadership Development, a course designed to help students learn more about themselves. Wilkins explains the class design is based on her years of experience. “As I have worked with leaders, I have seen that those who do the work to figure themselves out and how to uniquely benefit or serve others are more powerful,” she says. Wilkins hopes that as her students better understand who they are, they will be more equipped to become a better version of themselves. “I want my students to learn about their own strengths and personal missions in order to lead authentically,” Wilkins adds.

Under her guidance, Wilkins has her students participate in a variety of learning activities that she bases on her various work experiences. Her career path included being the global director for talent development at both Oracle, a worldwide cloud technology company, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At Oracle, Wilkins says she gained valuable leadership experience as she developed leadership academies and coaching networks.

She also has years of consulting experience at three management consulting companies, culminating with the creation of her own consulting firm, Foresight Collaborative, in February 2020. Wilkins says her company is the result of her personally learning the necessary skills to be an effective leader, which came in handy during a tumultuous time. Beginning a company right before the outbreak of COVID-19 created difficult challenges as Wilkins had to adapt to consulting solely from home.

Despite some initial roadblocks, Wilkins was equipped to succeed because of what she describes as “years of experience focusing on my strengths.” Before starting Foresight Collaborative, Wilkins says she struggled with imposter syndrome, or feelings of inadequacy in a profession despite sufficient qualifications and success. Through that challenge, she relied on her strengths and personal development to take the leap into what is now a successful consulting firm. Wilkins’ shares these experiences with her students in hopes that they can learn how to overcome their own challenges and become their best selves.

One of the main learning activities Wilkins assigns in her class is a project that she designed to focus on individual development through experiential learning. After being put into different teams, students pick a project that focuses on practicing leadership. This includes becoming better leaders at work, planning and executing a service project, or improving relationships within students’ families. At the end of the semester, Wilkins assigns a paper where her students are able to reflect on their experiences being leaders in meaningful and personal ways. The project’s hands-on approach to learning, even among COVID-19 restrictions, allows the students in Wilkins’ class to begin making a difference during school.

One of the reasons why Wilkins believes she can help students understand themselves better is because of BYU’s unique educational mission. Wilkins received a bachelor’s degree in humanities, along with a master’s degree and PhD in instructional psychology and technology from BYU. The reason she says she kept coming back, including eventually as a faculty member, is because BYU allows her and her students to embrace their whole selves, including their spiritual and personal development.

Since much of Wilkins’ class is focused on character development, she is thankful she can focus on that development with a religious aspect, as she believes faith shapes the way people understand themselves. “A BYU education allows faculty and students to focus on character development in a transparent way,” Wilkins says. “We can talk about all of the aspects of learning and growth. Not having to share only part of ourselves can feel liberating.”

In addition to her classroom efforts, Wilkins leads by example in her community. She is a member of the Provo City Inclusion Committee, which focuses on having positive community conversations between diverse groups. Wilkins is grateful these conversations are taking place, especially with recent cultural and political tensions in the United States. “Conversations in the Inclusion Committee are meaningful, as all of us involved see people trying to understand those different from them, learn from each other, and create a better way forward together,” she says.

Helping people make a difference by understanding themselves is Wilkins’ goal with her classes, and she believes her students have been successful in that goal, both at BYU Marriott and entering the workforce upon graduation. Former students reach out to her and share how principles from her class apply to their new jobs, and to ask for further insight on applying those principles. “I am happy my former students use these ideas on the job and reach out for my continued help to do so,” Wilkins says. With the way she has seen those in her classes learn to be meaningful leaders, Wilkins looks forward to inspiring the next wave of students that come her way.

BYU Marriott adjunct professor Beth Wilkins. Photo courtesy of Beth Wilkins.
BYU Marriott adjunct professor Beth Wilkins. Photo courtesy of Beth Wilkins.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller