Today’s guest post is by Christine Girouard, Assistant Director of Student Activities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA). She earned a BS in Business Administration from Salve Regina University (RI) and an MS in Student Development in Higher Education from Central Connecticut State University (CT). She is responsible for leadership programs, the programming board, and senior class among other areas. Christine has written for National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) Programming Magazine and AFA Essentials, and is also involved regionally and nationally in both the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) and NACA.
As a Student Affairs professional, one is always focused on challenging and supporting students. It is the essence of our work. Many know the benefits of service and involvement, whether it is through observing students develop over time or studying the findings of various theorists such as Arthur Chickering, Alexander Astin, or William Perry. The message is clear. Being engaged in a campus community can be a meaningful and transformative experience for every student, but the question is, what can we do even better to assist students in becoming civic minded leaders and well-rounded individuals? For Student Affairs practioners responsible for leadership development programs, the questions are no different, but the challenge always is the ability to reach more students and leave the same impact, with fixed staffing and financial resources.
The limitations of staffing and budget resources can challenge us to be better educators and more creative in the way that services, programs, and leadership opportunities are available to students. How do you engage students in your leadership programs? Could you imagine a leadership program developed and facilitated by students themselves?
At Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA), students are currently being trained to develop learning outcomes, create presentations, and facilitate workshops to other students on campus. On a weekly basis they meet to discuss the needs of their peers and ways that they can assist in using their leadership skills to give back to their community. This not only removes administrative time necessary to do various workshops such as time management on residence hall floors or at club meetings, but also provides an environment where peers are learning from one another. Is there anything more powerful than that?
Assessment is a key component of any program and with resources such as the Council for Assessment Standards (CAS), any practioner can see what areas in their programs are great strengths and perhaps others that may need more attention. I would even suggest taking the time to create or review learning outcomes and comparing them to the CAS results. One may find that the learning outcomes desired are not supported by the programs being offered. Leadership opportunities should constantly change to meet the student need, which can be challenging when the same programs are being provided annually because of the time and resources it takes to develop new resources.
Could you engage students and staff in your planning process? Do you have a set of peers or colleagues interested in leadership development? Is there a way that you could create a committee or enlist their support and time in creating or brainstorming programs and resources for students? Could doing this extend the outreach that you currently have just in educating students on the resources that are available on campus? All of these questions have to do with resources that are free, but potentially not utilized throughout the given academic year. Identifying staff members and experienced student leaders could be the best way to not only engage students, but other departments in the work that you do.
Most Student Affairs professionals live in a world of “Yes and…”, for we always try to support students and better their program, experience, or vision and enhance our campus community. At times, this means additional work on the administrative end, but it is done because of the individual passion that professionals have for assisting students. How can you engage your campus community to assist you? Most often we say we need to do more with less, I challenge you do more with diverse resources. Remember, Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
What is leadership development on your campus like? What have been some of your challenges and successes?
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