On the first day of orientation, the Class of 2017 sat on Green Beach to listen to some guy working for DoS spell out the logistics of our Wilderness Orientation Adventure trip. Dean Vos droned on, saying something about sleeping on the floor in a dorm lounge with our WOAmies for the night before we would wake up at an obnoxious hour, get on a bus, and go into some woods with a group of kids we had not met yet. Interrupting his speech, a group of starkly pale, completely nude students darted across us. Our WOA parents really were streaking across Green Beach — not only in front of me, but in front of my future classmates, all of our parents, and members of the administration. That really set the tone for my four years here at CMC.
And damn, have I loved it.
I look back fondly on my time here. I remember freshman year 6:01, kinda. I remember performing with Under The Lights. I remember landing my first on-campus job. I remember going to those empty Friday night movie sessions in the Freeburg Forum once or twice. I remember working with Financial Economics Institute. I remember giving tours to students. And finally, I remember becoming a WOA dad, or First Year Guide, and beginning the cycle again for incoming first-years. It’s been a wild ride.
Like most students here, I challenged myself to take advantage of the seemingly countless opportunities we have available to us. Some of these opportunities were available on a register-and-go basis: UTL, ASCMC Senate, Admissions Student Panel speaking, Dorm Vice President, Claremont Accounting Association, etc. Some of these opportunities were application-based: conducting interviews for the Admission Office as a senior, researching for the FEI, becoming a FYG, and so on.
During admissions tours, we preach to prospective students that all the resources they could ever want as an underclassman are available to them — research institutions, clubs, and student government roles — in a non-competitive manner. However, I have always felt like this is a half-truth. After moving through these groups over the years, I have seen a trend (and I know I am not the first one to see it) in these groups’ selection decisions.
We see the same faces in the same leadership roles in all the places we would expect.
This is not to insinuate that those students in those spaces are wrong for being there. They are doing exactly what they should be doing: taking advantage of the resources and opportunities CMC offers to them.
What I do want to bring to light is how we as a community define leadership. I use “we” because it is not only student-led organizations that do this, but admission-led, Dean Of Students-led, and administration-led organizations: in other words, our entire community. When choosing someone for a leadership role, we do so based on name recognition on campus and past positions held, rather than leadership qualities.
I fear that when we go about this label-chasing practice in selecting students, we are cheating both ourselves and those students we failed to give a second look. Speaking as someone who has been tasked with choosing leaders in several roles, I have seen our community (including myself) fail to take the time to truly challenge ourselves in developing our own definition of what a leader ought to be for the role we are looking to fill. On the other side, for those applying for leadership roles, we as student leaders are teaching them that leadership cannot be defined. We are teaching them that it is simply a game of roles and labels, rather than developed attributes of effective leadership.
I really enjoy doing resume touch-ups and cover letter walkthroughs. Call me weird. In doing so, I usually ask students to talk through their ability to work with a team, one of the easier ways to strengthen a cover letter. Students in the past have responded that because they didn’t hold a role within specific organizations on campus, they had not developed the ability to work in a team.
I find this response rather strange. I see the student involved with Rotaract, who is garnering student interest and organizing events for Lupus Awareness Month, developing the same skills as the student who is garnering student interest for and organizing our student Senate. From my experience here over the past four years, I don’t know if these respective students feel that way.
Current leaders on campus, I challenge you to take a second look at the applicant who was first chair trumpet in his or her high school concert band. Perhaps this means that he or she possesses the attention to detail you are looking for to take minutes during your meeting. I challenge you to take a second look at the student who kickstarted our very own Freestyle Fridays event. He may have the very organizational and persuasive skills and political savvy that you need in your debate group. Let’s stop assuming that just because a student has Student Investment Fund, FEI, or SOURCE pasted on his or her resume that he or she fits the bill for all roles on campus.
As for the students applying to roles within the CMC community, I challenge you to look outside the box as you define who you are as a leader when moving through this space. Titles do not make you a CMCer. You make yourself a CMCer. Our Admissions Office has accepted you as part of the 8% of over 7,000 applicants. Every single one of you has some lick of leadership in you, and it’s almost frustratingly easy for me to see it in all of you as I walk through campus.