Pioneering Courageous Leadership at Mizzou  

Patty Menown Wolfe, Mizzou alumna, reflects on her personal and professional experiences and how they inspired her to give back to future Mizzou alumni. 

At the heart of every institution of higher education lie its alumni who, driven by their experiences and passions, strive to enrich the lives of current students. Such is the story of one remarkable University of Missouri alumna, Patty Menown Wolfe, whose vision and dedication have led to a program that is sure to have a lasting impact on students.  

Wolfe’s illustrious 35-year career at Shell Oil provided her with insights into the transformative power of diverse and inclusive environments. Recalling her own growth through initiatives aimed at fostering diversity, she pondered the impact such programs could have had on her earlier in life.   

“Over three years, I had discussions with Bryce Osman, the University of Missouri’s senior director of advancement and Titus Blackmon, former Senior Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, about how we could generate programming for students, where they would be exposed to diversity concepts and learn communication tools to use in building relationships with people across campus who they may not have ordinarily connected with,” Wolfe said.   

From the initial conversations emerged a collaborative effort, culminating in the creation of the Courageous Leadership Series (CLS) — a leadership development program designed to help students develop skills essential to influential leadership.    

“We had a couple of meetings with Maurice Gipson, vice chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity and Erika Aaron, assistant vice chancellor of Inclusive Engagement and Constituent Relations. The biggest thing was them listening, digesting and being supportive by determining how to make this happen,” Wolfe said.  

Vision turned reality   

Wolfe emphasized the pivotal role the university played in shaping her trajectory. From academic exploration to personal growth, Mizzou was fertile ground for discovery—a sentiment she hopes to instill in future generations of Tigers.  

“I am blessed by what Mizzou did for me,” she said. “In turn, I hope others have more than just similar experiences. I hope they have a substantially more impactful experiences whatever path they choose.”    

Wolfe envisioned a program that would enrich the Mizzou student experience by preparing them for success in an increasingly diverse world and marketplace. CLS has provided students opportunities to foster meaningful connections and gain leadership skills.  

“If one of our students interviewing for a job can talk about what they’ve done during their cohort – that’s powerful,” she said. “I hope that CLS will make them a stronger employee wherever they end up next, or a stronger graduate student, if that’s their choice for the next step.”  

Aaron, who also played a pivotal role in the program’s development, seconds Wolfe’s sentiments. 

“Leadership development programs on a university campus provide students with the platform to discover, enhance and utilize skills they possess that are representative of top leaders in our society,” Aaron said.   

Beyond the program  

Wolfe encourages CLS participants to embrace the lessons learned and apply them in their personal and professional lives.   

Elizabeth Trower, CLS cohort participant, said she has learned valuable lessons about leading across differences.  

“Everyone has a unique story to share and being able to learn how to lead in a way that fosters a sense of community and belonging has been such a memorable experience,” she said.  

Members of the CLS cohort will carry with them the torch of leadership, but most importantly they will carry with them the skills needed to have constructive dialogue, equipping them to serve as invaluable thought partners in any room they enter.   


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