Don’t Step in the Leadership

Over 130 of Colgate’s students gathered together to test and strengthen their leadership skills at the Fall Leadership Conference on Sunday, September 11.

Vice President for Advancement at Trinity College and Colgate alumnus Ronald Joyce welcomed participants, at which point they spent the subsequent four hours participating in any of twenty-seven workshops. The event concluded with a dinner hosted by University President Rebecca Chopp.

The conference was sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement (CLSI) and organized by Assistant Director of CLSI Catherine Regan. It was also backed by various other offices on campus, including the ALANA Cultural Center, the Center for Career Services and the Office of Residential Education.

Planning for the event began last January and included several changes from conferences held previously For example, the date of the event was moved to September to increase student attendance.

Each attendant evaluated the conference afterwards and Regan noted that the reactions were positive.

“One of the things that I’m reading in all the feedback that was very helpful was having students facilitate or co-facilitate sessions because other students liked hearing first-hand what worked for them or didn’t work for them,” she said.

aving students lead the workshops was another of the conference’s improvements. Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board member Dan Prial was one of those students.

“From my view, the Leadership Conference went really well,” he said. “At 4:00 I got started presenting the portal with Ray Nardelli and the questions from students were really sharp and cut right to many of the issues that the portal planning committee has been looking into for months.”

SGA President Amy Dudley, who co-facilitated the workshop “Running Effective Meetings” with Assistant Dean of the College Jennifer Adams, was also satisfied with the conference.

“We discussed effective meeting styles in terms of the importance of agenda setting and various ways to present agendas, room formation for meetings, understanding the difference between informal and formal meetings as well as how to approach and direct them and a bit of a ‘how-to’ on parliamentary procedure both formally and informally for more effective conversation and discussion,” she said.

The workshops covered various aspects of leadership, from event planning to creating effective marketing strategies. The directors of the conference found that while the campus’s leaders are doing great work, many find it difficult to fully develop their skills in an often frantic college environment.

“From my perspective, I think what challenges students today is what seems to be the lack of time to really slow down and reflect, and to really think through decisions that one has made,” Director of CLSI Corey Landstrom said. “People come in with great experiences and have great talents that either are in a good place or can be further enhanced and developed. But I think without taking any time to reflect and sit back and debrief what might have been a contentious situation – or what was a successful endeavor – that the opportunity for learning is lost.”

Being an officer for a student organization is also helpful for future career prospects, although Associate Director for Career Services Ann Landstrom cautioned that taking on too much responsibility isn’t advisable.

“We always emphasize that employers and graduate schools are looking for the quality of your experiences versus the quantity of your experiences,” Landstrom said. “It is much better to be an active member or leader for two to five organizations versus a member of ten plus student organizations, and you have no time to make significant contributions.”

The conference offered students the chance to acquaint themselves with the resources available at Colgate.

“I believe it is very important for Colgate leaders to receive this kind of ‘on the job training,’ to orient, or re-orient themselves with the process of getting things accomplished at Colgate and the relative outlets to go through,” Dudley said. “Many Colgate leaders often learn these skills as they go along, but the process of that can be somewhat tedious. The opportunity to have Colgate administrators and faculty reach out in this way and hand these important tools to you at the start of the year is incredible.”

Future leadership conferences are in the planning stages and will be changed based on feedback from this past conference.