BY LAUREN REEVES
Captain. Resident Assistant. Coordinator. Peer Mentor. Those are just a few leadership positions that McKendree students have the honor of holding. These elect few walk around campus and shine in these roles. But, what is it really like to be a student leader here at good ole McK?
According to sophomore Matthew Roberts, “It’s a lot of fun. And it’s enjoyable. You get to help those younger than you and those who are older than you strive for greatness. It feels nice to have people look up to you.”
Roberts is one of the drum majors in the Marching Band, a choral captain in the Show Choir, and the student director of first year Student Ambassadors. With all of those activities, he really knows how to stay organized. “It’s enough to keep you busy. I have thought about cutting back, but you can’t pull yourself to do it. You enjoy what you do so much that you don’t want to take anything away. You will sacrifice a few hours of sleep.”
He credits most of his organizational success to calendars. “I am a big fan of calendars. If it’s not in the calendar, then it’s just not going to happen,” says Roberts.
However, he does admit that being a student leader on campus comes with a lot of stress. “It does put stress on you: good stress though. You have to make sure that you are always being that role model leading by example because there is always somebody watching.”
Many students understand that in this day and age people can keep an eye on you whether you know it or not. Another student leader on McKendree’s campus is junior Schallon Foggs. She wants everyone to know that everyone falls down sometimes. “I’m a human, and I will make mistakes, and if someone happens to catch me making them, congratulations; you’ve discovered I’m not perfect.”
Foggs is currently a Residence Life Assistant, Secretary of the International Student Organization, a University 101 Mentee, Cheerleader and a Change Ambassador. Over her course here, she previously served as a senator for the Student Government Association, was a member of A.L.P.H.A. and volunteered in different areas on campus, ranging from Public Safety to Campus Event Planning.
She is aware that she needs to make sure her schedule is put together well. This is due to the fact that, once her academics are in order, she is thrusted into all her activities and obligations. Life as a student leader is not easy, according to Foggs. “In my daily life, the biggest obstacle that I face is overworking myself. I tend to put a lot on my plate in an attempt to achieve all of my goals and aspirations.” She is well aware of how much she has put on her plate while being a full-time student and leader. “Sometimes everything works out, and sometimes I’m left evaluating the decisions that I make. Usually, I take it all in stride with an occasional pity party, and then I’m back on my feet.”
Being a leader is not something you can wake up and decide to be. It takes time to develop the skills. Senior Shyla Minor, who is the Director of Activities for the Campus Activities Board (CAB), is the type of leader who worked at it.
“I have become a better leader,” she says. “I know how to stay on top and manage tasks. More students should look more into leadership positions because they really help you with the real world.” Minor has been a member of CAB since her freshman year. “I have changed a lot as a person. I came out of my shell a little more, thanks to the responsibilities I have while working with CAB.”
Working with the Campus Activities Board is a great avenue for students who want to grow as leaders and to be involved with different events. “CAB is a great starter position to get your feet in the door,” says Minor. CAB really does allow each member to get hands-on experience with hosting, planning and organizing events. There are numerous positions that students can take advantage of, anywhere from volunteering to being a coordinator like Minor.
Organizations like CAB help shape leaders, but at McKendree, we have an entire office of faculty members dedicated to help students become great leaders on campus and when they graduate. This helpful office is located on the second floor of Clark Hall, and it is called Career Services.
The mission of Career Services is to:
- Give students the opportunity to become actively involved in developing their career by providing a variety of training activities, programs and services that support the goals of students and McKendree University.
- Encourage students to take initiative and be active in developing their career, using Career Services to help guide them towards success in a career and our society as a whole.
- Help students understand that developing a career path is truly a life-long process.
The office of Career Services takes the time to really work with students to ensure they are successful after they graduate. The office houses the Assistant Director, Jill Smucker, who has this advice to offer McKendree students: “Be aware that many people on campus are looking at you and have their eyes on you and even eyes looking up to you. Realize that you are always an ambassador for McKendree regardless of where you are.”
Smucker explained how much this generation is used to having their lives on social media outlets. “Social media is also something we look at. Try to always maintain that positive image of yourself,” remarks Smucker. “It has been around so long for your generation that most students forget how much is out there and who can access it. It’s important to maintain that positive image online as well as in person.”
Smucker, along with the office of Career Services, really wants students to be aware of their presence out in the cyber world, especially if they are student leaders on campus. “Put positive messages out there. Be helpful. Encourage others to be great.”
On behalf of Career Services, Smucker offers this advice to all students: “It’s never too late. Take a first step. Do one thing. Join one student organization. Baby steps are what will allow you to grow.”
Overall, being a student leader is more than what we see on the surface. These students are just a few in the multitude of models all over McKendree’s campus. Each model has a different story, but they all possess the same qualities that make them great. They are role models for all the students that gaze upon them. Yes, the pressure can get to these students, but they do their best to be a shining light for others.