Academics & Research / Summer 2017

Pioneer Leadership Program defines Emily Wolverton’s college experience

Emily Wolverton volunteered at Denver-area hospitals throughout her college career. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Emily Wolverton has taken on more responsibilities in her four years at DU than many people do in a lifetime. She graduated in June with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry, leadership and business administration. Throughout her undergraduate career she also volunteered in Denver-area hospitals and worked as a tour guide and orientation leader on campus.

If there’s a common theme in Wolverton’s activities, it’s her involvement in DU’s Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP), a living and learning community that admits 88 incoming undergraduate students each year. From their first days on campus, PLP students form a tight-knit community, living on the same residential floor and taking leadership courses that give them the opportunity to engage in community projects throughout their time at DU.

“The first-year living experience is part of what really gets you connected to your class,” Wolverton explains. “It’s a group of people who are different—a mix of majors and backgrounds—but who are similarly motivated to be involved and make change.”

Wolverton decided to apply for PLP after serving on student council and leading other activities during high school. “When I looked into the program, I really liked all of the community involvement,” she says. “I didn’t want to come to college and be stuck in a bubble on campus—I liked the idea of getting out into the community.”

As part of their volunteer activity, all PLP students work on a community-change project during their sophomore year. Wolverton’s group focused on the issue of body image, developing a curriculum for Englewood Middle School on body positivity. “The six-week program culminated with outdoor affirmation activities, and we hung up posters where kids had written what they learned,” Wolverton explains.

Wolverton is confident her participation in PLP has helped shape her future. She’s planning to attend medical school next year, and after graduation she headed to Guatemala for a combined language-immersion and volunteering program for pre-med students. Through PLP, she has been connected with an alumni mentor who is currently a third-year medical student.

“PLP really defined my college career,” she says. “This community has empowered me and given me confidence in myself to make changes in the world that I wouldn’t have believed I was capable of before.”


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