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Take The Lead

Written by Kristen Leising '07

Members of Ithaca's Bureau of Concerts pose for a picture.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

In his 1994 inaugural speech, Nelson Mandela spoke these wise words. This quote inspires and challenges us to be all we can. But how do you turn this inspiration into real leadership? The answer is simple: get involved.

As a first-year college student, the fall semester was hard. I had just moved to a new school, and I was making new friends, taking college-level classes, and eating in a dining hall. The combination of all these unfamiliar things was overwhelming. How was I ever going to make connections, let alone take on a leadership role, if I still had trouble finding my way around campus?

Walking back to my room after class one crisp autumn day, a blue poster for Student Government Association (SGA) congress elections caught my eye. I had no prior involvement with student government and didn't have a particular interest in politics. But still, I thought to myself, “Oh well, something new . . . how bad can it be?” I jotted down the meeting date, location, and time. After some anxious consideration, I decided to run in the election to represent my residence hall. And after a bit of poster-making and minor campaigning . . . I won! 

SGA was my first involvement on campus. I enjoyed SGA, and my participation snowballed into running for a position on the executive board. After an exciting win, I served as SGA’s vice president of student affairs the next year. This position gave me an amazing opportunity to plan big events (including the homecoming pep rally and alcohol awareness week activities), meet with important campus leaders (like the vice president of student affairs and the president of the College), and bring new initiatives to campus (such as the diversity council). Additionally, I helped respond to student concerns and ensured that the voices of students were heard. During my sophomore year I also became a resident assistant (RA), which gave me yet another student leadership challenge -- mentoring and planning interesting activities for a floor full of my peers.

There are more than 150 student organizations at Ithaca, which means there is something for everyone. If you can't find an organization that suits you, find three friends who share your interest and start one! It really is that easy. This year I've had the opportunity to work as a student leadership consultant in the Office of Student Engagement, which includes the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement, Office for New Student Programs, and Office of Multicultural Affairs. This position has allowed me to plan and facilitate campus events, assist students with student organization issues, and serve as a campus leader.

All of my experiences with student leadership at Ithaca have been extremely rewarding. What could be better than making a difference in the life of another person? As I gear up for graduation and get ready to enter the “real world,” I feel more prepared to apply and interview for jobs because these leadership experiences have given me knowledge that cannot be learned from a textbook. Experimenting with various types of leadership with many different campus groups has taken everything I've learned inside the classroom to a whole new level.

So how does one become fabulous? The answer is simple: get involved on campus, join organizations, or create your own. In fact, the answer is so simple that it almost seems too easy. If you become involved, it is almost guaranteed that your gorgeous, talented, fabulous self will shine. There are so many exciting opportunities at IC that there’s no reason to hold back. The simplicity of involvement is waiting for you.



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