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Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Leadership University program enters its second year

By Duane Emery

demery@lanthorn.com

The Leadership University program at Grand Valley State University offers students the opportunity to grow their leadership skills during their college careers.

There is no leadership 101 course at GVSU, as it is often through experience that leaders grow.

“Everyone has some leadership qualities,” said Maria Beelen, the leadership program assistant.

Leadership University isn't a club, but rather a way of connecting students interested in growing their identities as leaders. All students that participate choose a faculty mentor.

“Mentors are there to guide students through reflection,” said Brendan Gallagher, the program supervisor. "(They) are a guide to help them find opportunities and activities through the whole college experience."

Those interested in joining are provided with a list of available mentors with different skills, interests and backgrounds. The program is flexible and students can choose any mentor regardless of their area of study.

“The whole idea is to network with them (and) become aware of opportunities the mentor has connections to,” Gallagher said.

Members can participate in anything that hones their leadership abilities, from community service and volunteer work, to sitting on student boards and belonging to student run organizations. Leading a group project for a class assignment can also count.

Many students are already involved in these activities. A big part of Leadership University is helping to create a paper trail for students to create an identity as a leader.

“It puts the things you have done in college in one place, organized professionally,” Beelen said.

Members create an online portfolio, which is “huge in distinguishing yourself,” Beelen said. Gallagher agrees and also saw the need to consolidate his leadership identity.

“It was one of the first things graduate schools asked, what leadership activities did I have and why was I involved,” he said. “They just grilled me with questions about it.”

This is why the reflection process of the program is so important. Students sit down with their mentor and discuss not only what they did, but why it matters and how they will apply the experience in the future. They then write a reflection paper for their portfolio.

“It's easy to have buzz answers, but if you can’t answer why then they will know,” Gallagher said. “Grad schools want those who are excited to be involved in activities.”

Leadership University is still a new program, now in its second year. There are about 25 students involved, and they are working on getting more mentors involved, Gallagher said.

For those interested in getting involved, there will be an information night on Sept. 9 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Room 2266 in the Kirkhof Center where students can ask questions and mingle. For more information about Leadership University, go to www.gvsu.edu/leadershipuniversity.



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