Shaye Ellis, ’14, is a self-confessed “history nerd” who is passionate about leadership and leadership studies.  She spent her senior year channeling that passion into research for her senior honors thesis.

“I was just going to look at leadership studies programs across the country,” she says. “I thought it would be cool because the Jepson School is so interesting.”

Leadership studies professor Joanne Ciulla had other ideas.

“I distinctly remember her saying that she liked my topic—but that I was going to do it the right way and look at the history of the liberal arts and leadership studies to find out why the Jepson School was created,” Ellis says of her mentor. “Then she told me to start with Aristotle.”

It proved to be a good thing that Ellis loves history and philosophy.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be reading Aristotle and Plato so many times,” she says with a laugh.  

She also participated in a workshop on leadership and the classics at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies, met regularly with Ciulla, a founding faculty member of the Jepson School, interviewed Robert S. Jepson, the School’s founder, and spent time “exploring the origins and journey of the liberal arts tradition from antiquity to today” and modern leadership studies programs.   

“I came away from the research with a much greater appreciation for my liberal arts education and my Jepson education, which looks at leadership through the liberal arts,” she says. “I also came away from it knowing what in-depth research looks like and how to better defend my arguments.”

She presented her work at the Jepson Research Symposium in April.

The research gave her a greater appreciation for the practicality of leadership studies as a major. It “helps to translate abstract knowledge into skills that are useful in the real world,” she wrote in her thesis.

Ellis experienced this firsthand during a summer internship.

“I want to go into marketing and landed an internship in New York with LeadDog Marketing Group, whose CEO is a Richmond graduate, the summer before my senior year,” says Ellis. “My skills really helped me stand out.”

“I was the only intern working one of their big accounts,” she recalls. “Jepson teaches you a very unique way of thinking about and approaching problems, how to work as a team and about group dynamic—skills that are important when you are working on marketing campaigns.”

She is putting those skills to work this summer at advertising agency Arnold Worldwide.