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Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders

April 3, 2012

Vince Lombardi, former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said "Leaders are made, they are not born." What might not be known is that at the time Lombardi uttered that sentence he said something else as well. "They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile." Averett knows that as an institution of higher education, there is more to a student's education than what is learned in the classroom. What is learned outside of the classroom, such as leadership skills, is also important. That is why leadership, and training our students to be leaders, is one of the strategic planning goals for the student life committee. The effort began last fall with a Student Leadership Workshop and was followed this spring with a Student Leadership Conference that was organized by student leaders on Saturday, March 24.

"We wanted to provide students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and potential through engagement/interaction with peers, faculty, staff and community leaders," said conference organizer Marsha Foster, assistant dean of students and director of residence life.

"People have always told me that I was different and that I have a positive influence," said junior Brentt Simmons. "I feel that one day I might be in a leadership role, and I felt that attending this conference would be a great help to me, and would teach me how to shape and develop my character in order to become a better leader.

"I really enjoyed just being able to hear the faculty and staff share their experiences, knowledge and wisdom."

Thirty-four students from the traditional program and the Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) Program attended the conference which was open to all students. Student leaders chose the topics to be covered and selected the people they wanted to present. The topics, which were presented by faculty and staff, included Keeping the "fun" in Fundraising, Finding the Balance to Lead Well and The Art of Effective Communication.

"I chose to present at the conference to share some of the leadership skills I have learned as part of the 2011-2012 Leadership Southside cohort," said Jennifer Robinson, technical services librarian and assistant professor. "Part of my mission as a member of the current Leadership Southside cohort is to help grow other leaders. I am also interested in touching base with our students in the hopes of helping them to realize that even though they may not have the title of president or director, they can still lead in their current roles." Robinson's presentation was on Leadership Southside, Making a Difference in our Community.

"The point of my session was to share some leadership characteristics and tips and to help participants put into context their current leadership skills," Robinson said.

Head Women's Soccer Coach Carly Pearce was also a presenter, and she talked about Building Great Teams that Work.

"We discussed the importance of a collective team vision," said Pearce. "Without a team vision it is hard to collaborate and work towards a common goal. My group split off into three teams and worked together on different tasks. We discussed the significance of trust, respect, leadership, 'followship' and communication."

"I learned that great leaders must have a vision," said Feleta Morton, MBA student and associate registrar/VA certifying official for the GPS Program. "These individuals motivate others to work together to achieve a desired goal. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices, but that's a part of the position. Just be sure to support your decisions. Most of all, always do what is right, although it may not be popular."

Morton also enjoyed "engaging in meaningful conversation with traditional students" because "it is important to understand the thoughts of others concerning leadership and what it means to them."

"We are very pleased with the event," said Lesley Villarose, conference organizer and director of student engagement and leadership. "I think it was a very rewarding day for both students and faculty/staff who participated. The students are continuing to send messages and buzz about the experience and things they learned. Faculty and staff involved continue to express how appreciative they are that they had the opportunity to share and learn from the students."