February 9, 2009

C.U. Students Aim to Hone Leadership Skills

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Cornell student leaders enthusiastically gathered this weekend to develop their leadership skills and learn from some experienced University leaders, like Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67 and Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73.
The Student Leadership Institute Conference held yesterday at the Straight was designed to provide student officers of registered University organizations with the opportunity to explore topics of collegiate student leadership.
To attend this year’s conference, attendees went through a competitive application process in which a total of 100 applicants were admitted.
Jeffrey Katz ’10, president of the 2010 Class Council, said he decided to apply to the conference “to learn new techniques to become a more effective leader and to keep [his] organization’s members motivated and happy with what they’re doing.”
Katz has led the 2010 Class Council to host a variety of events and said he hoped that by attending SLIC and honing his leadership skills “[his group] can have more people participate and have fun at [their] events.”
Alexandra Meier ’11 acknowledged that as the vice president of finances of the 2011 Class Council, she has encountered certain problems that have caused a lot of stress.
For example, last Thursday, the 2011 Class Council hosted a speed dating event that attracted a comparatively low number of male students.
“What I want to get out of [SLIC] is how to organize events more smoothly so that there isn’t as much stress and to delegate jobs to the council,” she said.
Not all attendees were officers in student organizations, however.
Nicole Mormilo ’12 said she attended the conference because it is a requirement for those running to serve as officers on the 2012 Class Council.
In high school, Mormilo was president of her class for four years and co-president of the Future Business Leaders of America.
“There are times when you end up doing everything yourself, and I want to learn how to improve the cohesiveness in an organization,” she said.
The conference offered an array of workshops to develop and to foster student leadership skills such as “The Art of Contract Negotiation” and “First Impressions, Second Steps –– Mindful Business Etiquette,” but the conference also challenged student leaders to ponder the meaning of leadership.
As the keynote speaker, Murphy stressed the importance of execution as a leader.
“Many of you will create something new while you’re here … The challenge is how you’re going to get the organization to survive after you leave,” she said in her speech.
She also encouraged student leaders to never punish a learner and instead to help nurture the learner’s leadership skills.
Hubbell spoke of leadership as “a skill to be acquired through practice.”
“It seems to me that leadership is a scalable concept, a continuum where it exists on the most intimate levels among other humane social arts, ordering relations between families and other social groups. But of course, it is also the indispensable tool that permits us to organize our society and culture at a national and global level,” he said.
Michelle Leinfelder grad, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, commended the student leaders who attended SLIC.
“If you, too, are questioning what it means to be a leader, why you are in this place, what it means for the future –– you are not alone. Being a leader is not easy … You’re very courageous for identifying that, in fact, you are leaders,” she said.
Many students at the conference said they enjoyed their experience in the workshops and felt that they had developed their leadership skills.
Kitu Kumar ’09, vice president of the Sri Lankan Student Association, attended “The Art of Contraction Negotiation.”
At the workshop, the presenter, Joe Scaffido, assistant dean of students, discussed legal terms involving contracts and his own experiences as a negotiator in dealing with middlemen.
“As a small organization, we’re trying to get out the word for joining the organization. Although there aren’t as many performers in Ithaca, I think it’d be nice if we could get contracts for cultural acts,” Kumar said.
Ronny Huang ’09, the praise team leader of the Chinese Bible Study, went to “First Impressions, Second Steps –– Mindful Business Etiquette.”
“The workshop really helped me to learn how to be more engaging with newcomers … It made me aware of the way I welcome new people,” said Huang.
Barbara Lang, undergraduate adviser in the School of Hotel Administration, talked about how seemingly insignificant actions –– introduction, handshake and even salting food before tasting –– shapes people’s impressions of one another.
According to Lang, anytime one enters a room, “people are immediately making a first impression of you.”