First year leadership experience program helps students feel empowered

GVL / Courtesy - Laker Leadership Programs
First Year Leadership Experience

Laker Leadership Programs

GVL / Courtesy – Laker Leadership Programs First Year Leadership Experience

Dylan Grosser

The First Year Leadership Experience is a session-based program open to first-year or transfer students where those students can learn leadership skills and how to become more active on campus. The program is run out of the Office of Student Life and has six, two-hour sessions each week per semester. The fall program starts Tuesday, Oct. 4, and ends Tuesday, Nov. 8. The deadline to sign up for the fall program is Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The program is five years old and typically invites about 45 students each semester. In each session, a student facilitator leads the meeting with a presentation or activity centered around a leadership topic.

Leading the program is Chase Dolan, a graduate assistant for leadership development. He said his goal is to establish a broad perspective of leadership. Topics are pitched to the student facilitators who run the sessions, who are then responsible for teaching that topic to the participants. The facilitators are usually student graduates of the program themselves.

GVSU junior Amber Gerrits serves as the leadership staff assistant for the program and said the program is a good experience, not only for the participants, but for the student facilitators as well.

“It’s a really awesome experience for (the facilitators) because they prepare different activities and presentations to present the topic as they see fit,” Gerrits said. “So we do have all the key components that we want them teaching, but they go ahead and take that information and make it their own.”

The program is not mandatory for any leadership positions on campus, but it can be used to fulfill requirements for LIB 100 classes.

Dolan said participants come from all different majors, and no majors were predominant in the program last year. He said he wants it to be inclusive to all people.

“I think really we’re just looking for people that are curious about being leaders,” Dolan said. “They just come to campus, and they’re already comfortable to want to have an impact on this campus.”

“Leadership is something all employers look for, and it’s such a transferable skill. When we market it, it’s great to be able to say that any student at all can join,” Gerrits said.

Gerrits said the most important thing students can get out of the program is empowerment.

“Just feeling empowered that they do know this information and they can be an inclusive leader,” she said. “Some of the first year students haven’t really made that many connections yet at GVSU, so just feeling you belong here at GVSU, and you can go off and be a leader in whatever capacity you choose.

“By helping one person, you are a leader. I feel like when people think of leaders, they think of politicians, they think of CEOs, but that’s not necessarily what it is. You can be an introverted leader, you can lead in so many different ways.”