Leader/Follower Relationships within the Schuler Scholar Program

The Schuler foundation is a small non-profit organization that operates out of a central office in Lake Forest, Illinois. Every executive member of the organization works from within the office, but there is also the staff in each of the high schools that the Schuler organization partners with because it is a program focused on the development of its students. It actually has a very interesting leader/follower dynamic that I did not realize as a student in the program, but was able to see and understand as an intern. All of the normal positions needed to run any business work out of the main office (human resources, personal relations, CEO, COO, payroll, etc.) These specific departments rarely have much interaction with those working in high schools simply because it is beyond the scope of their job. For the most part, everyone answers to the COO, Jason Patenaude who has been my supervisor over the course of the summer. However, all employees working in the central office have a lot of autonomy and the expectation is that they know what they need to get done each day so they are given the space and freedom to do so. 

The only department that is a little different that works out of the central office is the College and Alumni Programs (CAPS) team. This team is the only one from the central office that has frequent interactions with students in the high schools, but their main focus is college and alumni scholars which is why they work out of the central office. This team has a director named Gayle Myers who the other members of the team talk with daily and everyone on this discusses and works with her daily to make sure they are fulfilling their duties and the needs of their department. 

There are two CEOs of the organization, Jack Schuler (the founder) and his daughter Tanya Sharman Schuler. Jack comes into the office often, however, does not work in the central office and instead makes herself available when she is needed. There are weekly meetings with the executive staff members (those who oversee a certain team/department) in which they discuss the program’s goals and objectives and look at where they are in terms of meeting them.

 I previously mentioned that this summer was not my first time working as an intern for the Schuler program, so it was interesting to see them adjust their summer to the COVID-19 situation. When I worked in the Schuler office in the summer of 2018, interns were under the direction of the CAPS team, so we were given weekly tasks to work on and we had to check in once a week with the CAPS director at the time. This summer, Schuler created several micro-internships that were each under the direction of different departments. There was a marketing internship that was under the PR department, there was an event planning internship that fell under the events team, and for internships like mine that focused on research, they fell under the watch of the C.O.O. We were given a lot of freedom in our project in terms of what direction we wanted it to take as long as we were working towards the overall goal that the program had set out to understand at the beginning of the summer. Personally, my partner and I only met with Jason once a week and we sent a draft of our final presentation that he gave us feedback on and that was it. 

Schuler has a very unique work environment in the sense that everyone essentially feels like their own boss, even though there are obviously people who oversee the larger operations. It is a workspace that trusts its employees to do what is best for the organization and the students that it strives to assist and therefore leaves employees – even interns – feeling as if they are a part of a team and working with management as opposed to for management.