College aims to foster leadership
As part of Colby 360--a program that seeks to extend students' educational experience beyond the classroom--the College created the Student Leadership Steering Committee (SLSC) to develop and foster student leaders on the Hill. Beginning in the spring of 2010, committee members have met for two hours each month to discuss the importance of leadership at the College and to work to develop more opportunities for student involvement on campus.
Colby 360 aims to provide meaningful opportunities for students to pursue their interests and develop skills in five areas that will benefit their lives at the College and beyond: development of life skills; appreciation of and engagement with diversity and human difference; understanding democracy and civic responsibility; promoting wellness; and healthy lifestyle choices and leadership education for the twenty-first century.
Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students James Terhune said that students already encounter many of Colby 360's five components through the wide range of extracurricular activities they are involved in, such as athletics or student government. The steering committee simply provides an additional opportunity for students to build valuable skills.
"When we talk about leadership here, I like to take a broad interpretation of what that means. It's not strictly about management and being in charge of something; it's about engagement and having a sense of responsibility and being involved in your community and the organizations that matter to you."
Faculty and staff nominated students, many of whom serve on hall staff, athletic teams or student government, to serve on the leadership steering committee "based on their ability to show outstanding leadership through the clubs and organizations that they're already involved with," David McGraw, SLSC facilitator and assistant director of campus life, said.
Committee member Tracey Tomlinson '12, who is also the Grossman Dorm President and one of the Class of 2012 President-elects for the 2010-11 academic year, said she enjoys collaborating with the diverse group of students on the SLSC. "We have people from every walk of leadership....Tons of factions of campus are represented in the group. It's great that we can get together and talk about the different ways we lead...because we all have such different ways of going about it."
McGraw said he relies on students' views regarding current College policies in order to strengthen the program.
"I observed what was already in place [and] what leadership opportunities students were taking advantage of," he said. "I decided the best way to move forward was to get a group of leaders together and discuss with them the pros and cons of what's already in place and how would they like us to move forward."
McGraw said he wanted students "to steer the direction of leadership at Colby." "Leadership is something that is very unique to the climate of the times," he said. "The reason why you do a steering committee with students is to understand what they're looking for. Before we can provide a group with a product, we have to see what that group wants." Tomlinson said the group is working to organize a training program for students to develop their leadership skills at the College.
"Leadership's important in every aspect of what you do," she said. "There isn't really that [type of] program at Colby [yet]. If you want to be a leader, you have to figure out what you want to do and how to get there yourself."
Developing leadership abilities will enhance students' experience at the College, McGraw said. "This [program] is really setting that foundation and creating an understanding of leadership philosophy that students can take and apply to all of their experiences throughout their years at Colby."
Terhune said that the values taught through the steering committee align with the expectations set for every student leader on campus. If students would like to lead COOT2 trips or serve on hall staff, "we...want [them] to take some time and think about what it means to be leading and how [they] define [their] role of being a leader," he said.
Whether or not students are fully aware of the exact components of the 360 program, "if it's part of [their] experience, that [is] the objective," Terhune said. "Not everyone has to say the five focal points." Rather, the point of the program is that "when they get to the end of four years...every Colby student has had interaction with those [five focal points], and all of those things have impacted their experience here."
The skills students develop as members of the steering committee will benefit their lives both during and after college, next year's SPB President Nikki Jacobson '12 said. "It's really helpful for the business world," she said, as "it shows that you have some sort of leadership ability when you apply for jobs...and other people skills that you might need."