Student leadership a serious responsibility

It’s early in the semester to be thinking about next year, but there’s a group of students that are doing that right now – those applying to be student leaders for the 2011/2012 school year. From Student Body President to Resident Assistants to Whitworth.fm General Manager, positions are open and students are beginning the application process now.

Seeking a position in student leadership is a worthy goal. The function of students in leadership positions is integral to Whitworth’s ability to work as well as it does. The experience can be invaluable, both professionally (leadership positions look great on a resume) and in general.

Having observed student leadership come and go over a few years, this board would like to remind students that a leadership position isn’t – or shouldn’t be – something you do out of anything but a desire to work and to serve.

Most of the positions are compensated with salary or other benefits; but very few of them pay enough to cover the number of hours you’ll end up working. A word to the wise: don’t apply for the money. If all you’re after is a paycheck, go apply at Starbucks. The pay-to-hours ratio will be much better.

Something else to keep in mind: student leadership is a huge responsibility. It’s understandable that the uninitiated might have this wrong. If all you know of the RA position, for example, is the goofy outfits and huge smiles they wear during Traditiation you might be under the impression that being an RA is 24/7 fun. Or at least 22/7 fun.

This is not the case. It is not the case for any of the positions. Chances are high that while you are doing your job, you will have fun, but it goes in that order – you’re applying for a job. It’s work first. Late nights, long meetings, endless paperwork, constituents you just can’t seem to keep happy. All that and more await the student leader.

It is not the intention of this editorial to scare everyone away from applying to student leadership; rather, it is merely to notify the ones who are applying because they think it will be a walk in the park, or those who just want free room and board. Those applying for the wrong reasons end up being the terrible student leaders you hear horror stories about. Don’t be one of those people.

Student leaders are a vital part of the Whitworth community. They help define a student’s Whitworth experience. Classes and learning are key elements of a Whitworth education, but it is the student leaders that can make or break a student’s time here.

Students aren’t the only ones relying on these leaders, though. The faculty and administration often turn to student leaders when discussing new policies or updating old ones. They rely on these leaders to know the students they serve, to understand their wants and needs, and to advise them accordingly in planning for Whitworth’s future. It may not always appear so to the average student, but student leaders play a large part in the growth and development of the university.

This aspect of student leadership – this idea of stepping up, of improving things so that future Whitworth students can have an even better experience than we do now – is an aspect that is both exciting and daunting. You have a real chance to make a difference, but it will take a lot of time and effort on your part – time you may not always want to give. Being a student leader is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle.

As you apply for a student leadership position, take some time to talk to the current student in that position. Make sure you understand what you are signing up for. Realize that you are committing your time and energy into something that is more than adding another line of experience to your resume. This isn’t just about you; it’s about the students around you and the students who will come here in the future. Make sure you’re 100 percent committed before you step up to the plate.

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