Leadership experience highlights skill sets

Colleen Schonfield

The ability to lead effectively is one of the main aspects and qualities that today’s employers are searching for in college graduates. Grand Valley State University’s First Year Leadership Experience is designed specifically with this in mind, where leadership roles are presented by showcasing how they can be practiced throughout campus and beyond.

FYLE is a six week session that aims to sculpt students into those who know how to utilize leadership skills to motivate, build respect and network with other leadership-minded peers. The program is also designed to enhance a student’s personal philosophy of leadership while developing basic leadership skills and learning about the many leadership opportunities offered throughout GVSU.

Valerie Guzman, assistant director of the Office of Student Life, leadership and service initiatives, said the program provides students with a variety of learning outcomes.

“A few examples are awareness of self in regards to their own abilities, personality, values, commitments, leadership style, awareness of the importance inclusive practices as a leader, etc.,” she said. “We focus on individual values with the framework of the social change model of leadership development.”

This is the first year that the program is being offered during the winter semester and currently has 24 students enrolled. The program is open to all first year and transfer students who are interested in future leadership roles.

Nicole Wilson, an adviser for FYLE, said the program acts more as a stepping stone for leadership opportunities around campus, such as becoming a residential assistant or a transitions leader.

“It acts as a gateway for networking opportunities because we have GVSU staff and upperclassmen as facilitators,” Wilson said.

Each of the six weeks of FYLE are given a designated theme, starting the session with an overview of exploring leadership and team building, and ending at week six with networking, celebration and empowerment.

“The core of the program is for students to reflect and get to know themselves,” Wilson said. “(FYLE) gets them to ask the question, ‘What is my leadership style?’”

Guzman said one of the highlights of the program involves participants being able to bond with small groups and create authentic relationships and connections with other students and FYLE facilitators. By the end of the six weeks, she said students will be acclimated to leadership development opportunities at GVSU, and feel empowered to pursue those opportunities.

“After graduating from GVSU and entering their communities and professions, GVSU students need to be prepared to take on challenges,” Guzman said. “Taking the initiative to participate in FYLE and other leadership development experiences helps to fine tune their leadership abilities and knowledge, and this will certainly aid them in their future.”

FYLE began on Tuesday and will end on Feb. 24. The next FYLE session will begin during the fall of 2015 for those unable to attend the winter session, or who are graduates/upperclassmen of FYLE interested in serving as a facilitator. For more information, visit

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