Marketing Professor Bettencourt will collaborate with BNSF Neeley Leadership faculty and staff to prepare students to lead in an ever-changing, complex world.
July 22, 2022
By Rachel Stowe Master
In June, Lance Bettencourt, an associate professor of professional practice in marketing at the TCU Neeley School of Business, took the reins as academic director of the BNSF Neeley Leadership Program (NLP), a selective three-year leadership development program for undergraduates that combines coursework and real-world experiences. For Bettencourt, the role represents the heart of his return to teaching.
“NLP is intentionally focused on developing students in the leadership realm through in-class content and a very organized, intentional extracurricular focus. To be involved in the program is really an opportunity to fulfill the purpose I had in coming back to teaching — to make a difference in students’ lives in and out of the classroom,” he said.
Bettencourt joined TCU Neeley in 2017, returning to academia after a successful career as a consultant and executive trainer, helping companies think innovatively and build strategic leadership for almost 20 years. He became an active NLP faculty member last year and taught Interpersonal Leadership Skills — a second-semester sophomore course — in the spring.
Bettencourt’s incredible commitment to students and his unique expertise make him an ideal fit for the academic director role, noted Hettie Richardson, associate dean of undergraduate programs at TCU Neeley.
“His willingness to go above and beyond for students’ development was so apparent when he started teaching in the program, and now that he has taken on the academic director role, it seems like that commitment has even doubled,” she said. “We are also really excited that he brings a different perspective. Historically, all of us who have taught in the program have been management faculty, but he comes from marketing and has a background that is both practical and academic.”
In addition to overall core curriculum development, Bettencourt’s responsibilities as academic director include working with NLP Director Annie Cowden on student recruitment and selection, student coaching and training, and strategic planning and development.
“We have fabulous faculty and program staff. I very much view myself in a collaborative, facilitation role in making sure we are on track to achieve our objectives throwing in my own ideas along the way. Ultimately, I am drawing on the amazing knowledge and skill set that we have with the program faculty and staff to achieve our mutual goals on behalf of students, the Neeley School of Business and external stakeholders, like the companies that will be hiring our students,” Bettencourt said.
In late May, NLP faculty and staff met to discuss potential curriculum, content and experience opportunities to better prepare students for leadership roles of the future.
“Through that process of meeting together, we came up with some shifts in our curriculum, some new capabilities to focus on and a new purpose statement: ‘We prepare leaders who enable people and organizations to meet the needs of an ever-changing, complex world.’ That gives us a very future-forward looking focus,” Bettencourt said.
“The way you led in 1950 — or even 1990 — is not necessarily the kind of approach that’s going to work in today’s environment. This new approach is really focusing on the co-creation of leadership, which means you are a leader and positively impacting those around you before you are ever in a formal leadership position,” Richardson said.
Among the changes in motion, NLP is expanding the core leadership competencies the program instills in students to include experimentation, design thinking, negotiation and better understanding the needs of others. In addition, the junior impact project will become a team-based challenge project with students applying their new skills to a situation that requires systems changes based on the trends and complexities of today’s world.
“Lance is just so creative, innovative, open, flexible and collaborative. The NLP faculty and staff are excited about these changes and — come fall — the students will be too. I really think Lance is the person who’s going to take NLP to the next level. It’s in a great place already, but it’s going to be in an even greater place,” Richardson said.
For Bettencourt, the value of the program is rooted in the personal and professional impact on the lives of students, their families and companies hiring NLP graduates.
“My ultimate personal goal is to graduate students who are better leaders than when they entered the program and whose impact in both their professional and their personal lives is made better through the skills and experiences they gain in the program,” Bettencourt said.