Leading a class of leaders, Col. Stephen Dinauer takes on directorship of PLC

October 18, 2013

Retired Col. Stephen Dinauer, the former commanding officer of CU-Boulder's Naval ROTC program and now interim director of the Presidents Leadership Class, or PLC, believes that leadership transpires when people understand each other.

“Leadership,” Dinauer said, “is a people business.”

Coming from an extensive military background, Dinauer brings a wealth of experience in both leadership titles and exposure to environments where ethical reasoning is a handy skill set to have. Dinauer has dedicated 27 years to his military career with the U.S. Marine Corps, completed two combat tours, acted as commanding officer and director of public safety at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and he’s been at CU since 2010.

Dinauer is pleased to continue working with young adults who are keenly interested in acquiring these leadership skills. In his words, “There are few things more rewarding than helping young adults grow both intellectually and in their own sense of ‘self.’”

PLC was formed in 1972 to recruit Colorado’s top students and provide the state with a stream of graduates schooled in what it means to be effective leaders. Once accepted into PLC, students are granted scholarships and complete a course curriculum that incorporates values like critical thinking, academic discipline ethics, creative problem solving and thoughtful implementation. PLC courses supplement what students choose as their major.

“PLC is unique because we appeal to high-achieving students… whatever their future professions might be,” explained Dinauer. “We don’t reside in a particular school, so our student population covers the range of academic disciplines, and that’s a real strength.”

Prior to PLC, Dinauer instructed the course “Leadership and Ethics” for the Naval ROTC program. He has presented lectures for the Leeds School of Business, the PLC and several seminars on behalf of CU’s Honor Code. When PLC asked Dinauer to instruct a course for the program, he postponed his plans to retire after three years with ROTC. Subsequently, the program sought a candidate for interim director.

Dinauer says he’s “extremely humbled by the opportunity to join the PLC team and work with some great students who all have the potential to make a real difference in the future of Colorado and the world.”

One vision he has is to make PLC more defined as a four year program, so juniors and seniors are encouraged to stay actively engaged after taking required courses during their freshman and sophomore years. Another goal is to align PLC’s program with CU’s new Minor in Leadership Studies.

Peter Lawson, a PLC junior, an integrative physiology major and class advisor for the freshman lecture that Dinauer instructs, said Dinauer is consistent in being sure to get results out of students and their education. Lawson feels fortunate to be working with him this semester.

“He has a lot of great visions for the program,” said Lawson. “And he really values the students at every year throughout the program.” Lawson spent this past summer studying public healthcare in Brazil, where he discovered a thing or two about cultural immersion and the business of people. He admires Dinauer’s accomplished leadership background and values the tradition of mentorship that the PLC has to offer.

Breanna Williams, a PLC freshman and business major, appreciates the approach that Dinauer takes in his teaching as well. All PLC freshmen take “Individual Leadership and Ethics” as a course requirement.

“Colonel Dinauer tells us that the way people see you is how you will be remembered,” said Williams. “He’s very intelligent, and if he doesn’t understand you, he knows how to ask the right questions to really engage with each student one on one.”

From Dinauer’s point of view, the skill to lead others is one that develops through social and cultural interactions. He calls leadership a people business because, as he describes it, “you have to understand the context.”

“In order to be a leader in the broadest sense, you have to be a critical thinker,” says Dinauer. “That skill, or that approach, will help you regardless of what you do.”

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