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Varsity is a short period of your life to learn and grow – both in and out of the lecture hall. For most students, studies are their top learning priority – rightfully so. However, another worthy learning priority is student leadership or running for student governance.
Fortunately for you, university and college offer myriad opportunities to make your voices heard, represent marginalized groups or lead concerted efforts to better your varsity experience. Taking on a leadership role can be plain and simple, and be one of the best ways to challenge yourself and learn valuable skills that can be utilized both during and after your varsity years.
What is Leadership experience?
It is a general term used that refers to your exposure to leading people in various settings. In this context, leadership experience comes from serving at one’s college or university. These kinds of roles provide the student with firsthand valuable professional experience. For some of you, this might be an extension of your high school leadership experience. Maybe you were a prefect, class monitor, student rep, head girl, or head boy. As a result, it is encouraged that you extend that experience to a higher level.
Who runs for student Leadership?
- The myth that we need to demystify is that the student office is reserved for those who have political credentials or for those with ambitions to pursue a career in politics. The student office is for anyone. For instance, it’s okay to be an engineering student who wants to run for student council.
- Any student with a passion for serving. All you need to be is a registered student with a will and passion for making a difference to those around you.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of leadership opportunities at varsity. Whether considered “big” or “small”. Here are a few examples:
- House Comm
- Dining Hall Monitor
- Society/Club Leader
- Orientation Leader
- TA (Tutor Assistance)
- Faculty Student Council
- SRC (Student Representative Council)
Where to begin the journey of student leadership?
- Begin to do your research on student leadership experiences in the first year already.
- Assess the available platforms and organizations that might be suitable for your needs and capacity. i.e. house comm vs faculty-student council vs SRC (Student Representative Council). The bigger the platform and number of students you represent, the bigger the responsibility. This means you have to assess and ask yourself questions about whether you have the time and capacity to take on these responsibilities based on your schedule.
- If you’re interested in student leadership but not wide-campus student governance, perhaps smaller-scale opportunities like being a tutor or society leader might work best for you.
Benefits of student leadership
- It increases your exposure to university affiliates in your field of study
- In addition to the above, you have access to professionals affiliated with the university and university leadership. This access places student leaders in high-profile positions with exposure to even more networking and career-building opportunities. (Remember when we discussed networking, that your network circle will constitute a portion of your university affiliates/ alumni).
- At a minimum, leadership roles provide students with valuable opportunities to hone skills that then facilitate their transition into the workplace.
- It is important to note that leadership skills might not be a requirement from an employer but they might be an appealing attribute, especially once you add it to your cv.
- You learn to work with a team, mediate conflicts and build community.
- Build Confidence – standing up for yourself, speaking in front of large crowds, and demanding solutions and change.
Challenges of Leadership Experience: Balancing Student office with academics.
- One of the main challenges of the leadership experience is time management. It takes planning and discipline to manage schoolwork and a (typically unpaid) role as a student leader.
- Another solution is to choose a leadership role that affords more flexibility in one’s time commitment.
- A good support system will be extremely crucial especially when you’re campaigning for votes (depending on whether you chose the student governance route). The reality of the situation is that you might have to miss classes, even tests because of campaigning for students. Eating late dinners and being generally exhausted. You will need friends and fellow students who can take notes for you, and assist in helping you catch up with missed content.
- Lastly but certainly not least – backlash from fellow students. This might happen quite often. Remember that those you’re representing will be frustrated and you might be the easiest and quickest form of contact, therefore making it easier to put their frustrations on you. Don’t take it personally. After all, Rome wasn’t built in one day.