A Young Leader Emerges

Concepts of leadership, including the many theories and practices, are subjects of considerable discussion. While there has yet to be a single definition that encompasses the totality of leadership, we do know that the majority of leaders share certain characteristics. Leaders are responsible for effectiveness. Leaders must be charismatic. Leaders are obligated to provide and maintain momentum. Leaders must offer perspective and are key in developing, expressing and defending values.

A unique staple of the Full-time UST MBA Program is the Leadership Development Lab, a course aimed at preparing students to excel in leadership positions post-graduation. Monthly sessions challenge them to offer effective solutions and defend viewpoints during case studies and hypotheticals. In many instances, these students are already making an impression as leaders in the community.

Jessica Tjornehoj ’10 is in the final year of the JD/MBA dual-degree program at the University of St. Thomas, a hybrid that combines five years of graduate-level education into four. Early in her law school career, Tjornehoj took on leadership positions in several clubs. As she became more involved, classmates saw her ability to make a difference.

Fellow students often praise Jessica for her organization, efficiency, dedication and thoroughness. These characteristics have led her to gain the respect and support of her peers. Currently, she is president of the Law School’s Yoga Club, membership chair of the Women’s Law School Association, secretary of the Business and Corporate Law Society, and graduate assistant in Dr. Rothausen-Vange’s Organizational Behavior course.

Tjornehoj’s influence extends outside the academic setting, where she serves as chair of two local boards: Everybody Wins Minnesota -- a literacy mentor program offering one-on-one, read aloud sessions to ignite children’s passion for reading -- and the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota -- an organization dedicated to providing free resources and support to families affected by food allergies. In addition to her board positions, Tjornehoj is a law clerk in the legal division of Lifetime Fitness.

Her decision to pursue two degrees has provided infinite value. While being exposed to two very distinct – and very unique – schools of thought, Tjornehoj has developed an appreciation for different perspectives through her studies. "Thinking ‘like a lawyer’ is one thing," says Tjornehoj. "Thinking like a businessperson requires certain skills not learned in law school. Having an understanding of both has given me insight very applicable to my work experience."

What’s certain is that Tjornehoj’s leadership savvy is the result of the support and influence of many in her learning community. Tjornehoj credits the professors and mentors she’s encountered over her seven years at St. Thomas with helping her build such a valuable skillset. Tjornehoj will graduate this spring. Looking ahead, she would like to find an in-house counsel position and explore her entrepreneurial options. Whichever path she ends up choosing, it is evident that Tjornehoj will continue to make an impact in the Twin Cities for years to come.