Developing Student Leaders: How and Why We Do What We Do


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Author
Lorrie Budd and Lesley Low - The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC)

Published
March 29, 2017


We consider ourselves lucky: Lucky to have jobs we love; lucky to work at a community college; lucky to work with students from all around the world; lucky to work with students who are excited about leadership. Oh, and we are lucky to have awesome colleagues who work together to train, support, and develop our student leaders!

Student leaders gathered in gymWithin our Student Life Office at CCBC, we represent two of the three student programs within our leadership cohort: the First-Year Experience Mentors and the Student Life Ambassadors. Our First-Year Experience Mentors welcome our first-year students to the college and help them in their transition. Our Student Life Ambassadors assist the college and community by serving in a variety of roles at office and department programs, events, and conferences.

We are thankful for the opportunity to offer our incredible student leaders NASPA’s BACCHUS Certified Peer Educator Training each summer. This is a great way to initially encourage bonding among our student leaders, provide a solid foundation, and kick-off our leadership development initiatives.

In addition, each winter, we partner with Genesee Valley (GV) Outdoor Learning Center in Parkton, Maryland. The organization offers an experiential education program at their location, as well as on-site visits. We take advantage of the latter option and bring a team of GV experts to facilitate high-quality teambuilding to cultivate communication, cooperation, healthy risk taking, leadership, trust, persistence, and creative problem-solving skills.

As advisors, we love this time of year with GV when we get to step out of our facilitator roles and learn about our students on a casual level. We use this opportunity to immerse ourselves in the experience and at times, just step back and watch the magic happen! Mid-year, the GV experience is a good way to reconnect, rejuvenate, and introduce new members to our teams.

But the fun doesn’t end there! Throughout the academic year, to bridge these larger initiatives, we meet on a biweekly basis to provide ongoing training and development. Every other week, we meet for a 90-minute workshop that focuses on various areas of personal and professional development.

Student leaders doing a paired activityWhile our smiling faces are always a pleasure to see, we know our students appreciate connecting with other professionals at the college, so we are sure to use our resources around campus and in the community to broaden our students’ networks.

Over the past five years, we have offered more than 40 different topics. Some of our favorites cover active citizenship, communication styles and effective communication, conflict resolution, reflection of privilege, values assessments, and inventories such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), StrengthsQuest, and True Colors.

To keep the attention of our student leaders on Friday afternoons, we ensure our workshops are engaging and interactive. Plus, we believe these types of workshops are more effective than traditional lectures. We encourage our presenters to include the students in hands-on learning and respectful, thought-provoking discussion. We often incorporate facilitation tools such as small group collaborations, skits, creative projects, and trivia/games.

In addition to the joint leadership development workshops, the First-Year Experience Mentors, who are more of our traditional peer educators, receive job-specific training to enhance their peer-relation skills. For example, they participate in training related to orientation efforts, mentor-mentee boundaries, classroom presentations, and intentional outreach.

Over the years, we have seen countless numbers of students grow immensely through their involvement with CCBC’s Student Life leadership cohort. Part of our jobs as advisors is to see the potential in students and provide them a platform to exercise their strengths and challenge themselves in areas of apprehension.

For example, many of our student leaders are international students who describe our programs as a way to practice their language skills and what they have learned about American culture in a safe and accepting environment. Other leaders have transformed from soft-spoken and timid to confident and assertive.

We consistently receive feedback that our student leaders feel as though they are part of a family and feel a connection to the college that they did not realize they were seeking or needed. Many of our student leaders progress to four-year institutions where they continue to shine as leaders!

As a result, we consider ourselves motivated advisors. We are motivated to continually provide opportunities for students; motivated to keep students engaged; motivated to train students with transferable skills for personal and professional success; motivated to shape our leadership programs to be as amazing as our students deserve.

Photo credits: Meg Gallagher, Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center

Training is an ongoing process throughout the year – there is learning to be done at all points along the way. Continue the conversation below. What ways are you training and developing your student leaders? Is there an issue on campus you would like to hear more about? Email the BACCHUS Team with your suggestions!

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The B-log highlights important peer education advising concepts. These “essentials” articles are featured here periodically, though you can always find them archived on the BACCHUS Homepage.


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