Students are on a steep learning curve as leaders. Their situations evolve rapidly throughout the year as they face new challenges and learn more about themselves, their leadership styles, and new leadership techniques. These all combine to help them improve themselves as students and leaders now and into the future.
So what do you do after the Fall or Spring Retreat to keep the learning curve going up? Here are five ideas you can use right away:
1) Have a monthly leadership series with short seminars either on topics that were not covered in the fall retreat, or to expand on some of those topics that were presented. Try this on a weeknight for maybe one to two hours and offer food! Another option is to have a single three-to-four hour session during the semester for the same purpose. Consider it continuing education for campus leaders and give out certificates for participation. It will also help those students who have stepped up to take over a leadership position because someone else resigned after the initial fall event.
2) Do a drive-by service project and get students organizations to sign up and manage the tables. They’ll get the point about how easy it is to get involved their organization involved in a service project. Drive-by Service Projects are so easy to put together you can do one or several at a time. Your campus organizations can take turns running the tables once you set it up or they can come up with their own project that they can do at the designated space and time. With this activity you’ll be transferring servant leadership skills to the leaders of other student organizations. What you’ll find is that they become more selfless leaders within their organizations.
3) Create a campus organizations presidents’ roundtable. This group would meet to discuss issues, share ideas, work on synergistic opportunities, and more. You may or may not have a specific agenda for this meeting, allowing for free flow of dialogue and sharing among the group. On some campuses, such roundtables meet every other week; others, once a month. Find out what works best for your campus leaders. A variation on this is for the advisors to have their own roundtable group. This approach can greatly benefit your students’ leadership growth because the advisors learn from their colleagues how to better help the students deal with issues, “drama”, and a myriad of other situations certain to come up during the year.
4) Keep your campus leaders focused on their goals. At some point, possibly the fall leadership retreat, the officers of the organizations, as well as each student themselves, should establish a series of goals for their term. What vision do they have? What stepping stones will they need to achieve that vision? At designated points during the year, follow-up with them to make sure they are working towards their goals. This could be through the follow-up seminars, the roundtables, or maybe even by tweeting to all of the students on Twitter.com reminders and tips to help them achieve their goals.
5) End the school year with a celebration of leadership! Have a party, a banquet, a fun day, or something to recognize everyone for making it. This celebration should be announced at the fall event so that the students have something to look forward to. It may be the one thing to get them through the challenging times they may face. Make it an annual tradition and it may become part of the “package” that causes a student to step up to become a leader in their group or even in one of the campus-wide organizations such as student government.
As always I’m open to any other good ideas that help keep your student leaders involved and engaged throughout the year. Activities like these that where students learn ‘outside the classroom’ contribute to them being successful citizens in the long run.
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.