When it comes to student leadership training, the first – and often only – group colleges think about training is the Student Government Association (SGA). But since my student leadership philosophy is that leadership is for everybody there are a number of other campus organizations and groups of students that I think it’s critical to train up in the way of student leadership.
1. Orientation Leaders
Orientation leaders have varying degrees of responsibility across the country’s campuses. Some are just expected to make incoming students aware of school/campus policies, help them find their way around campus and ensure they get moved into their dorm rooms. In other cases the orientation leaders are much more involved and are expected to have an ongoing relationship with new students. Well trained orientation leaders get a new student’s college life off to a great start.
But in addition to just training them to conduct a great orientation, those that receive much more leadership training are more well equipped to prepare new students for success. A great leadership course will teach them things like how to resolve conflicts and how to get and keep new students involved in the activities of the campus.
In almost any living situation conflict is inevitably going to happen. When it happened at home, students most often went to their parents for resolution and therefore learned very few conflict resolution skills themselves. Now that there are no parents around to help them with conflicts with the roommates and neighbors they’re going to need help from somewhere. If orientation leaders are trained to be an ongoing resource and trained in conflict resolution they can pass these skills on to new students. In addition, the training will give the the confidence they’ll need to handle these situation as well as the tools to help integrate the new student into campus life. Without this kind of peer support, many new students won’t make it to graduation.
2. Res Life advisors and directors
At schools that have residence halls, the res life advisors and directors are on the firing line every day. Leadership training will equip them with the confidence to guide students, mediate conflict, and look out for conflict. When I was in college I lived in the dorm for one year and talked to my residence hall advisor twice – and one of those was when I was leaving. He waved goodbye from under the covers! He never integrated me into the community – a key function in ensuring student satisfaction. I had roommate problems but didn’t feel confident that I could go to him for assistance. Your leadership training for residence life advisors should let them know that there’s more to the job than “Here’s the keys to gameroom,” or “We’re having a party Friday night.”
3. All of the campus clubs
And I do mean ALL of the clubs – the gamers, the dance team, the juggling club, the anime club, the art club, the theater club and all of the departmental or major-based professions clubs – like the math and science clubs. Why? Because no one’s ever taught them how to run an effective meeting, the roles of the officers or how to make sure everyone is engaged in the club’s activities. True be told, their club advisors aren’t concerned with those things and often not even trained in those things themselves. They’re more concerned with the subject at hand (anime, math, etc.).
Not every college requires these types of clubs to register so they can be hard to find to get them to come to leadership training, but it’s worth the effort because it also connects them to the campus as a whole. If they and their members are allowed to retreat into the department or club and remain separate from overall life on campus you’re likely to lose them becasue they won’t be satisfied with the college environment. They’ll also miss out on some great opportunities to possibly get involved with other organizations where they might develop an interest and can grow and develop their leadershuip skills.
4. International students
Whether they are formally organized or not there are huge advantages to including your international students in your student leadership training. In Atlanta, Ga where I live there are 15 colleges with a combined large international student population. Studies show that 75 percent of those students will never set foot in an American home! To counter that the universities participate in the Amigo Program that connects these students with host families to establish relationships that expose them to America culture. The host families taking them out to sporting and cultural events and must also invite the student into their home at least once for dinner. Why? Otherwise they just won’t get connected.
It’s a natural human tendency for international students to group with people from their own country, region or faith. When they do so they don’t connect with other students or campus organizations and they miss out on the real experience of an American university. Including them in your leadership training helps them build the confidence skills they need to venture outside of that safe haven. They get involved and connected. They learn to deal with conflicts and issues and how to play well with other students – especially those from different backgrounds. And once again, they’ll be exposed to new experiences, people and leadership opportunities they might not otherwise have had. When you put together your next student leadership conference seek them out and bring them in. The world – even that small world that exists on your campus – will be a better place because of it.
Dave Kelly is the leading authority on Student Leadership and Community Service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from Student Government Associations, Campus Activities Boards and campus clubs of every kind on Campus Organization Leadership and Community Service Projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 140 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.