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Students develop leadership skills through program
January 15, 2015Tweet
During Orientation 2014, more than 200 students applied for fewer than 80 spots in the University’s 5th annual Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), which kicked off on move-in day and wrapped up just prior to finals week.
“We are looking for freshmen and transfer students with a willingness to learn,” said Debora Clinton Callaghan, senior associate director of the program. “Our hope is that by the end of the semester they’ll have made a connection with a person — be that a peer, an advisor, or a University or business leader — as well as with the Binghamton community as a whole.”
That willingness is a key to success in the certificate-based program, as students dive into a full semester of activities and team projects. The outcomes, though invaluable, are mostly intangible — they receive no credit for their time and effort.
ELP students are placed into one of six knowledge communities (KCs): arts and humanities; business and entrepreneurship; environment and ecology; global awareness and citizenship; public service; and sports, recreation and wellness.
During the semester, they attend workshops that cover topics including group dynamics, professional etiquette, public speaking, goal setting and ethics. They also participate in a networking program with campus and community leaders; Binghamton Mayor Richard David, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo. Local non-profit and business owners were among the 30 professional attendees this year.
In addition, a major component of the ELP is completion of a service-learning project in the community. Students share their experiences at a poster symposium and formal presentation at the end of the program.
The service-learning projects are a cause for pride:
• The public service group raised money for RISE to purchase cleaning and household supplies for victims of domestic abuse and participated in a clean-up project at RISE facilities.
• The environment and ecology group built a raised-bed garden for a local church that will provide food for the neighboring food bank.
• The business and entrepreneurship KC helped a group of girl scouts earn three troop badges and raise $400 through the creation and sale of bracelets on campus.
• The sports, recreation and wellness group offered an art workshop and nail painting to residents at Good Shepherd Village in Endwell while raising funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association.
• The global awareness KC held a food sustainability event on campus with proceeds given to the Hunger Project.
• And the arts and humanities group held a student music and arts showcase to raise funds for the local Magic Paintbrush Project, in addition to volunteering at the Project.
All without a cent to begin with.
“It requires them to take initiative to find a community organization, plan how to get everyone in their group involved, raise funds and budget, and be flexible,” Callaghan said.
A cadre of faculty, staff and peers support the groups. Each KC has a volunteer faculty advisor, a volunteer staff advisor and two student mentors. The advisors lay the framework, act as content experts and provide community connections, while the student mentors facilitate and guide the process. And everyone is a cheerleader. Confidence, they know, is important to the students’ success. Every student must play a role in the project, and every student must present on the final day. For some this comes natural; for others, it’s yet another growth opportunity.
Sarah Thompson, a lecturer for health and wellness studies, has been an advisor for the sports, recreation and wellness KC from day one.
“The students are experiencing a process where they learn to be proactive in their own learning and leadership skills,” Thompson said. “This is challenging. They have been told what to do their whole lives — by counselors, teachers, parents — and are now thrown into an ambiguous situation. Some students struggle. Some don’t. But, they all come out on top having learned a great deal about partnership, leadership and self-awareness.”