Student Leadership At The University

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Ann T. Hilliard


Student leadership, stakeholders, university reform


The focus of this article is about the utilization of student leadership at the University.  Based on research, student leadership opportunities at the university have been frequently at a low percentage (Zimmerman, Burkhart, 2002).  The researcher identifies practical ways to involve students in various leadership activities. Emphases are placed on the definition of leadership, characteristics of strong leadership, importance of stakeholders, early involvement, expectations of today’s leaders, and benefits of student leadership at the university.  The three ways to look at leadership includes a respond to an idea that the future is unknown and there is not any one model for leadership, prepare for the future by embracing and creating the capacity for change, participate in organized learning and look at collective leadership that helps in the capacity to change.  There are many characteristics of strong leadership based on the needs of the organization.  A strong sense of moral purpose, a clear understanding of the dynamics of change, having academic and emotional intelligence and being able to connect with people, demonstrating a commitment to developing and sharing new ideas and knowledge and being able to be coherent in the middle of chaos are some common characteristics of strong leadership.  Leadership today is not the position of one individual.  Stakeholders play a key role in the aim toward effective leadership at the university.  Leadership is motivated by the increase complexity of university reform efforts for organizational improvement.  There is a need for more individuals to participate in the reform effort to ensure greater university success.  The role of university leaders and partnerships is to identify, promote and develop student leadership skills.  Stakeholders are key individuals within the university’s leadership system.  These stakeholders are frequently identified as alumni, community leaders/supporters, faculty, staff, students and parents.  Students’ early involvement in leadership activities provide opportunities for volunteer services,  internships in experiential activities, collaborative activities as group projects, engagement in services related to civic activities, assisting faculty in conducting workshops and university assessment and working with other students to create a community of inclusive learners on various tasks.  Today, students are expected to demonstrate effective time management, show ability to set goals, build positive relationships, use effective conflict resolution skills, show an interest in helping others to build their leadership skills, become involved in community action programs and promote understanding and respect across racial and ethnic groups.  Over fifty-five students participated summer 2009 in leadership workshop opportunities at a large land grant university in the mid-west of the United States of America. Students stated that the workshops were beneficial, because the workshops helped students to improve ability to set goals, show more interest in developing leadership skills in others, gain a sense of personal clarity and their own values, gain improved conflict resolution/ better decision making skills, deal better with complex and uncertainties, willing to take on more risk and are able to use leadership theories and practices in an meaningful manner.  


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