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Summit Sharpens Student Leadership

SA - Leadership Development Summit 2012

While many students enjoy summer at home, AU’s student leaders are on campus. With the help of the university and its Leadership Development Summit, these students are honing their leadership skills in order to head more focused and effective student organizations in the coming year.

Coordinator of academic and intercultural programs Nicole Mehta and her colleagues in Student Activities organized the day-long Summit, which hosted 16 student leaders last week for workshops on five core components of strong leadership at AU. Under a social change model, leadership components ranged from ethical leadership and inclusivity to communication and conflict resolution.

“The social change model of leadership really fits AU because it talks about individual, group, and societal values. In the society and community values, it talks about citizenship,” Mehta explains. “AU is so connected to service and global citizenship that it’s something that really resonates with our students.”

Campus Life staff members from Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution Services and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion led workshop sessions under the new model. Previously, Student Activities had offered a day similar to the Summit but specifically for Student Government. This year, members from groups including AU Student Media, the Black Student Association, and Students for Justice in Palestine took part in the open event alongside Student Government leaders.

With the important roles that AU’s 240 student organizations play on campus, Mehta sees the value in fostering leadership development and helping students reexamine the meaning of their groups.

To these organizations, she says, “You have a huge contribution to student retention on campus. You create a sense of community. You create a home away from home for students. You create a sense of belonging for students. The programming is a means to an end; it’s not the sole purpose of the organizations.”

Rachel Mariman, a junior with majors in both the School of Public Affairs and School of International Service, attended the Summit. As vice president of AU College Democrats, she enjoyed the event not only for the workshops but also for the chance it provided for networking and collaborating.

“You don’t often, as a student leader, get the opportunity to talk to other student leaders on campus about similar challenges and good ideas that we could all benefit from, but we did that a lot,” she says. “I definitely think [the Summit] gives you a different perspective, and I really like that.”

To continue supporting leadership development and the student collaboration component, Student Activities has a number of single-topic workshops planned for the upcoming year.

With the social responsibility element that both the university calls for and the Summit emphasized, Mehta hopes students take away “a sense of investment in being a leader. It means different things to different students and different organizations, but having some common concept or definition of what it means to be at AU.”

For Mariman, the event has been nothing but helpful, giving her ideas and strategies to improve her organization. In her mind, the university should offer even more events like this one – and it will. Thirty student leaders have already signed up for the Summit’s second date on August 26th.

“There’s a lot to be said for letting students have a certain degree of autonomy and run their own organizations, but at the same time, there’s a lot of knowledge and practical advice that the university could offer,” she says. “The more training and the more they can equip students with the skills to be effective leaders and to create effective clubs, I don’t think we can do too much of that.”

With so much positive feedback from students like Mariman, the Leadership Development Summit is sure to keep growing. It’s just another way AU educates its dedicated wonks both in and outside of the classroom, honing strengths and skills that these students can take beyond graduation and into the world.

For more information on Student Activities and leader-learning opportunities, click here.