• Why Is There a Critical Need for Student Leaders? • What Is the Difference Between the Shared Leadership Model vs. the Traditional Leadership Model • How Can Students Develop Leadership Skills during College Years? • What Is the Relationship Between Leadership and Mentoring? • What Are Resources for Student Leadership Development?
Faculty Mentor Program Professor Glenn Omatsu, Coordinator California State University, Northridge c/o Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) 205 University Hall (818) 677-4151
The Critical Need for Student Leaders
Ask staff from community organizations about what they feel students need to learn in college, and you will hear a common answer: Students need to learn leadership skills. They need to learn leadership skills in college, so that they can help their communities. Surprisingly, this same answer is heard when personnel managers of both big and small companies are asked to identify qualities they look for in hiring recent college graduates. They also rank a job candidate’s leadership skills as the main factor in hiring. As we will see later in this booklet, community groups and companies have a definition of leadership that is different from the prevailing definition. Community groups and companies equate leadership with the ability to work well with other people. Later in this booklet, we will see why this expanded understanding of leadership is so significant for our world today. Sadly, in college classes today, few students learn the leadership skills they need for their future jobs or to serve their communities. In most universities, the development of student leadership skills is not part of the academic curriculum but relegated to “extra-curricular” activities — i.e., it is regarded as part of students’ non-academic activities in clubs and organizations. Of course, at various times in U.S. history, student movements have challenged this narrow definition of college curriculum by demanding an education relevant to their lives and promoting the mission of universities to uphold democracy, social justice, educational equity, and diversity. In the late 1960s, for example, students fought for the creation of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies, as well as programs like EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) for low-income students who are often the first generation in their family to attend college. More recently, students have led the struggles to create programs and departments in Gay and Lesbian Studies, Environmental Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies. Because all of these initiatives were championed by students, their founding curricula emphasize an innovative approach to education by combining research and teaching with student leadership development, community service, and advocacy.
However, for most students, learning leadership skills in college is not easy because they need to do this in addition to their academic work. This challenge is especially difficult for students who need to work in order to pay for their education. Unlike students who are more well-off, they may not have the time to participate in student groups in order to learn leadership skills. Moreover, not all student groups in college understand their critical mission for providing students opportunities for leadership development. By their nature, some student groups are simply social clubs, while others are narrowly defined around a particular function. Given this reality, then, what can a student do to gain the necessary leadership skills that will empower them to serve their communities and prepare for future jobs? Although there are no simple answers, students need to rethink their understanding of college and the skills they want to acquire from their college education. This rethinking needs to occur on both small and big scales. On the small scale, students need to choose electives carefully; they need to find classes that can provide opportunities for...