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There's a big difference between a "peer" and a "peer leader" - and for a handful of Penn students, a new program is making that distinction clearer.

This fall, various University offices will come together to launch the Student Leadership Development Program, a year-long program designed to help a group of students hone their leadership skills through workshops with faculty and interaction with other student leaders.

The program was developed by a partnership between the Vice Provost for University Life, the Greek system and the Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.

Julie Lyzinski, the director of AOD, said the partnership developed in response to a number of instances last year when peer leaders, particularly in the Greek system, failed to act as leaders by making unhealthy decisions.

Lyzinski said in addition to helping leaders make healthier decisions, the program has two goals. First, the program aims to enhance leadership skills.

"There is a different dynamic when peers become leaders," she said.

The second goal is to create a leadership network among peers and faculty.

Participating students will attend a two-hour course once a week, with each session led by a Penn faculty member.

During the first hour of the session, the faculty member will present the students with theoretical leadership training. In the second hour, the students will engage in experiential learning allows them to put their skills in action.

The faculty members participating in the Student Leadership Development Program have been selected from across the University.

"Faculty members were chosen based on their own personal expertise and not necessarily on what department they represent or what they teach," said Scott Reikofski, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

He also explained that the curriculum will focus on "big issues and not nuts and bolts." Some of these topics include conflict mediation, crisis management and ethics.

Of the 45 students who applied to this program, 30 were selected.

Reikofski said program coordinators were looking for students already in leadership positions and that most of the selected students are sophomores and juniors who will be at Penn long enough to use their newly-acquired expertise.

While the program was developed with help from the Greek system, 11 of the participating students are non-Greek. Groups like the Undergraduate Assembly helped publicize the application process for leaders outside of the Greek system.

"This is just a great example of the Greek community reaching out to the wider community," said Undergraduate Assembly Chairman and College junior Alec Webley.

Reikofski also expressed enthusiasm for the program.

"VPUL is excited, the students are excited, and the program is ready to go," he added.

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