Being a student leader is a selfless act.
Every student leader has an agenda, I’m sure. I mean, we all do. For a lot of student leaders, perhaps being involved is a way of making them look more marketable when applying for jobs. For others, maybe it's a way to gain a social circle of friends.
There are definitely underlying reasons our student leaders are doing what they’re doing. (Look up Dr. Sara Boatman’s “GRAPE Theory of Motivation”.) However, the bottom line is our students do a lot of awesome stuff and get little in return. In fact, they’re paying thousands of dollars for access to their leadership roles.
As a younger professional – only three or so years removed from grad school – I still vividly remember what it was like to be an overly involved student leader. Student Government. Student Activities Board. Resident Assistant. Circle K. On and on and on…
I reflect back on these years often. It’s a useful thing to do, considering I interact with student leaders as a professional today.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is Nevitt Sanford’s notion of challenge & support. A fair balance of the two is essential in helping foster growth in our students. Each of us is charged with striking a balance of challenge and support to help our students develop into mature, educated, and independent adults.
My interest in writing this blog entry today is to engage you all in a discussion about the support component of Sanford’s theory. What are we doing to support our student leaders? Specifically, what is it that we are doing?
Oftentimes, we don’t think about the specific things we do to support, encourage, and praise our student leaders. I’ve recently done a lot of thinking about how I can better support my students. I’m afraid that sometimes we, as student affairs professionals, are so set on challenging our students that we inadvertently neglect the support component.
I’ve challenged myself to do more intentional things in the coming weeks to support what they are doing as selfless student leaders. Specific things – such as unsolicited letters of recommendation, thank you notes, public praise, and even small treats in their mailboxes.
These kinds of things don’t cost much (and we all know that’s important in this time of scary budget crises); but they mean so much to our student leaders. After all, it’s not like they’re reeling in big paychecks for their dedicated service.
So, my question to you is, What are you doing – specifically – to support, recognize, and praise your student leaders on an ongoing basis?