What I Learned as a Student Leader
What I learned as a Student Leader
Sako Khederlarian, Student Engagement Coordinator, Student Groups & Interfaith
When I first began my first year of university, I never imagined I would become a student leader in any way. My goals: Do well in my classes; graduate; get a job. Within the first week of studies, with new friends, conversations with members of clubs, and a brand-new environment, those plans quickly changed.
I looked at activities run by other students, saw how productive and fulfilled they seemed with their experience, and wanted to be just like them (yes, just the way some new students are looking at YOU right now). So, I ran for a position at the end of my first year as a social rep for a campus organization, and there began my life as a student leader. I also volunteered for orientation week as a leader and our campus open houses. Since then, I became President of my college cabinet, and then Vice-President of the student union for another few years (and, now, my full-time job is to support students during their growth and journey as a student leader). I started small and moved into higher positions of leadership.
The 5 years I was a student leader were some of the most formative years of my life, with an incredible number of new skills gained, new connections made, mistakes made, and lessons learned. Let me share with you some of the things I learned as a student leader, and how it helped me grow into a professional role…
Managing My Time
15 hours of classes a week, assignments and papers to complete, a part-time job, and many meetings—the life of a student is quite busy. As a student leader, I had no choice but to organize my time in the most productive way I could—otherwise, things would fall through the cracks. I took advantage of my phone schedule, made lists, and of course a large calendar right in front of my desk to ensure I don’t miss any meetings, assignments, or work obligations. I don’t think anything could have provided me with this real-life experience without having participated in a leadership role in a group.
Allow Opportunities for Others to Grow
Though we are always looking at how we can grow, I learned that many of my group leaders, volunteers, and participants were looking for ways to learn and grow as well. This was an important realization to me, and I reflected on how others can grow. Much of this I learned through delegation and trust. By trusting other members, you give them the responsibility to learn how to manage projects, run events, facilitate meetings, and expand their skills. Students will look up to you for guidance, and this is an excellent chance to learn how to give them opportunities to learn new things, to make mistakes, and to grow.
And who knows, next year they may be in YOUR shoes and would be able to share what they learned with other new members.
Always Have a Back-up Plan
No matter how much planning you have done, or how much experience you have as an event or program coordinator, you will quickly realize that not everything goes as planned. I have so many experiences where things did not go as anticipated. This is ok! We grow through our mistakes, but quickly realize that a back-up plan is important.
What is the plan if our Wi-Fi isn’t working? Or if the room we hoped to use is no longer available? As we develop new programs, events, and opportunities, we should know things may not always go as planned. Through my experience as a student leader, I learned how important it is to have a back-up plan before an event or a new program. You may not always need it, but you will certainly be relieved to know it is available when it is most important.
Being a student leader is such an important learning process, and I am so happy to see many of you on this adventure. Use this time to gain valuable experiences that will give you an incredible amount of new skills, along with a lot of patience, and of course a long list of lifelong friends.