This year, I am part of the STEP program — the Second Year Transformational Experience Program. Sounds fancy, right?
Basically, this program is available to students living on-campus in their second year. You can “apply” by simply checking a box saying you’d like to be a part of the program when you apply for housing. I’m not pressuring you… BUT DO IT!!!
In STEP, you meet with a small group and faculty member weekly to discuss plans and ideas to ultimately receive $2,000 at the end of the year to use toward whatever suits your interests — whether it be to study abroad, take internships, do research — literally anything you can imagine.
However, what I really want to share is the insight I have gained from my faculty advisor. When I first found out my group’s faculty member was an electrical engineering professor, you could say I wasn’t too thrilled. I am studying psychology and communication with a minor in public health (so basically I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I do know it’s definitely not electrical engineering), and needless to say, I thought I wouldn’t get much out of his advice. But something that he emphasizes week after week has been stuck in my head lately: to lead is to serve.
This got me thinking. I definitely like to serve; I’m in a service fraternity, am part of the UNICEF club and felt like I was doing a pretty good job of “serving.” But what I’ve come to realize this year is that simply participating, showing up, and being aware is not enough. If we want to make a true impact in this world, we have to go beyond just putting in our hours of service and feeling like a good person because of it. Instead, we have to be engaged, thoughtful, inquisitive, and give a voice to those who cannot be heard.
This could mean creating a new service club focusing on an issue that you are passionate about, this could be recruiting others into your organization by sharing your enthusiasm, or this simply could be teaching others what you have learned in a particular service project and how you think you could make it better the next time.
When I think more about the idea of to lead is to serve, I think of qualities in a leader that I find to be the most inspiring.
- Passion– I think it’s safe to say that there are no good leaders who lack passion. It takes a special person to be able to inspire an entire crowd with their own passion, and it always gives me the chills.
- Authenticity– Basically I see this as “being real.” It’s a person who shares their true self and understands they are human. This type of person is approachable and warm and doesn’t hide parts of themselves depending on the situation.
- Participator– I find a leader to be so much more valuable when they are able to practice what they preach. These leaders are involved in the grass roots and exemplify how to make an impact even at this level.
- Daring– A real leader is willing to take risks. A real leader is also willing to invest in their people and have faith in their abilities. When an inspiring leader has you take on a big project, you naturally step up to the challenge knowing that your abilities have been trusted.
An important thing to understand is that you do not have to hold a title to be a leader. A leader is someone who actively engages in the world around them, positively impacting the people they cross paths with regardless of whether they hold a special title or not. I encourage you all to reflect on yourselves and what type of impact and legacy you are leaving behind, because that’s all that really matters when it comes down to it, right? You can do it!