Medical intern assists doctor in hospital.

Franken Leadership Center

As a student at Northwestern, your education in the classroom will be enhanced through the experiential learning opportunities provided by the college’s Franken Leadership Center. The center’s staff and programs are dedicated to helping you:

  • Discover your talents and gifts
  • Realize God's calling for your life
  • Develop your leadership skills
  • Grow professionally


Sandi Altena

Dr. Sandi Altena ’03

Director of the Franken Leadership Center 

As director of the Franken Leadership Center, Dr. Sandi Altena manages the Carlson Internship Program; works with faculty to incorporate meaningful academic service-learning opportunities into courses; develops leadership initiatives; and administers adventure education opportunities, such as first-year experiences for new students.

Altena has a Doctor of Education degree in adult and higher education and a master's degree in leadership from the University of South Dakota. She earned her bachelor's degree from Dordt College.

Franken Center initiatives

Designed as intensive career preparation, Carlson Internships connect highly motivated and intellectually curious students with top internships throughout the country. The paid full-time positions offer competitive wages—and in some cases, housing is provided. Participants must be responsible and conscientious, have a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and possess excellent communication skills. The internships include two to six hours of academic credit through the Carlson Internship: Exploring Vocation Seminar.

Scholarships to cover a portion of the tuition for the seminar are available. To be eligible for an Interstates Exploring Vocation Scholarship, students must be part of the Carlson Internship Program and enrolled in the Carlson Internship: Exploring Vocation Seminar. Applicants must submit an essay reflecting on one of the core values of Jim Franken and the Interstates Companies for which he worked: servant-leadership, dependability, integrity, trust, quality or family.

Additional career preparation is available for students chosen as LEAD Scholars who have an excellent academic performance, are recommended by a professor in their major, and interview successfully with local professionals. LEAD Scholars are invited to participate in seminars taught by top employers on topics such as leadership training, internship preparation and professional development. Participants will benefit from networking opportunities provided by the seminars and will have direct access to Carlson Internships.

Whenever possible, the Franken Leadership Center staff work with NWC professors to incorporate service-learning into their courses. This teaching model enables you to learn by doing—to take material from the classroom and apply it as you serve others. Northwestern currently has more than 30 service-learning partners for majors ranging from business to religion to theatre.

Have fun, get to know others and yourself, and experience learning in an active way through Northwestern’s adventure education programming. Especially for first-year students, these experiences can help ease the transition from high school to college and from dependence and structured accountability to independence and responsibility. Other outcomes include building community, developing leadership and interpersonal skills, and growing academically, spiritually and socially.