Saint Xavier University Chicago Campus

Career Services

Cougars Lead: leadership, empowerment and development


Cougars LEAD is a customizable leadership certificate designed to encourage students to get involved on campus and develop the skills and competencies needed to prepare them for lifelong learning. The program helps students connect their out-of-class leadership experiences with their academic work and career goals, allowing them to gain pre-professional experience that can be applied  in the workforce.

What is Cougars LEAD?

Cougars LEAD serves as a self-designed co-curricular model to allow students to structure their leadership experience around personal interests and career ambitions. As a participant of the Cougars LEAD program, students will:

How to Join

All currently enrolled SXU undergraduate students in good academic standing are encouraged to join the Cougars LEAD Certificate Program if they are interested in growing and challenging themselves with leadership training and experiences.

Registration and Orientation

Interested students will be required to attend an orientation session for Cougars LEAD where Student Affairs staff will explain the tracking procedures and the requirements to complete each level of the certificate. These sessions will be offered several times during the first month of each semester and will be posted throughout campus.

Students also must register or update their Den account (formerly OrgSync) and submit a Cougars LEAD application via The Den.

Tracking your Involvement

Students are ultimately responsible for tracking their own involvement. This will be done by keeping updated records in The Den.

Program Curriculum

Students will be awarded credit hours for involvement outside the classroom. Earning more credit hours allows students to promote their certificate level from bronze to silver to gold. Throughout each semester, students are offered a variety of ways to earn credit hours through the program curriculum.

Each piece of the curriculum will be categorized as fulfilling at least one of the following foundational competencies. Programs, workshops and other activities will all fulfill skill development in at least one of the foundational areas.

Foundational Competencies

  • Communication
  • Diversity and Multicultural Awareness
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Service and Volunteerism
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Applied Leadership Experience (Silver and Gold Levels)

Registered Student Organizations

  • Member (1 credit hour)
  • Start one (4 credit hours)
  • Board member (3 credit hours)

Leadership Seminars and Workshops

Seminars and workshops give students valuable practice and tips in preparation for their leadership roles at home, in the classroom, or in a workplace. These seminars and workshops may earn students one to six credit hours depending on the activity. This could include:

  • Emerging Leader Training (suggested for first year students) (1 credit hour)
  • RSO CLIMB Leadership Meetings (1 credit hour each)
  • SYNERGY Conference (6 credit hours)
  • Leadership Skills Seminars (1 credit hour)
  • Leadership and Mercy (1 credit hour)
  • Career development workshops and activities (1 credit hour for each event/workshop attended)
    • Pre-Professional Experiences
    • Cougars Connect Networking Nights
    • Preparing for Graduate School
    • Choosing a Major/Career Planning Activities
    • Chicago Network Future Leaders Program

Applied Leadership Experiences

Once students have been promoted to Silver or Gold level, they will be able to earn credit hours by applying their leadership expertise to various campus positions and activities. These would include:

  • X-Factor Leadership Position (one academic year in duration), for example, Resident Assistant, Cougar Peer Educator, Peer Minister, Resident Peer Ministers (5 credit hours)
  • Student Employment (2 credit hours per semester worked)
  • Student Supervisor/Manager (3 or 4 credit hours per semester worked)
  • Non-collegiate sports/intramurals (2 credit hours for each sport participated in)
  • Campus Ministry - other involvement (2 credit hours per semester)
  • Campus Ministry Retreats (4 credit hours per retreat)
  • Internships (4 credit hours per semester maximum)
  • SXU Service Scholars Program (4 credit hours per semester, maximum)
  • Volunteer activities - community, parish, etc. (4 credit hours per semester, maximum, depending on experience)
  • Service on an SXU Committee or Board (2 credit hours per semester)

Academic Department Offerings

Students are also encouraged to achieve credit hours by attending or contributing to events and activities found within their academic department (credit hours awarded to be determined). Some of these may include:

  • Committee Work
  • Research with a faculty member
  • Panel/lecture coordination
  • Special programs
  • Academic Event

Leadership Practicum

Through the practicum, students will gain advanced-level applied leadership experience by designing a service or leadership project on campus and creating a report/video/reflection summary of the project. The leadership practicum is required to reach the Gold-level designation and rewards students with 10 credit hours.

Note: The number of involvement credit hours awarded for a particular activity do not always match the actual time spent on the activity.

Three Certificate Achievement Levels

The certificate program is composed of three progressive parts: Bronze, Silver and Gold. At the end of each level, students will be required to partake in a completion interview.

For the Completion Interview, students should prepare to discuss their experiences in the program thus far, what they have gained and learned through campus involvement and their goals for the future. An appointment should be made with a leadership advisor prior to the end of the semester for consideration for each level. To achieve Gold-level status, students must be committed to the program for at least three academic years. 


  • Completion of 20 credit hours
  • Completion of at least 4 credit hours of activity in each competency
  • Completion interview and reflection


  • Completion of 40 credit hours
  • At least 15 of those credit hours must be completed in any competency
  • Applied leadership experience - worth 5 credit hours
  • Completion interview and reflection


  • Completion of 60 credit hours
  • At least 10 credit hours of those credit hours must be completed in any competency
  • Leadership practicum and project summary/reflection - worth 10 credit hours
  • Completion interview


Students can customize their experience in the program by choosing one or more of these areas in which to concentrate. Once students receive 10 involvement credit hours in one of these categories, they are eligible to receive special “badges” that will mark advanced competency in an area. Badges are awarded in the me@sxu online portfolio account found in Canvas and can also be awarded for participation in special events such as the SYNERGY conference.

Learn More!

For more information, contact Jean Riordan, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of Career Services; or Ali Zaharris, associate director of Student Activities at