Broadening access to leadership: How to harness the ideas behind Frosh Leadership Weekend

Last Friday and Saturday’s Frosh Lead- ership Weekend (FLW) was the first lead- ership event hosted by the newly consti- tuted Office of Student Life. The event was implemented with new vigor, as dem- onstrated by a substantial increase in stu- dent attendance. Moreover, the weekend seems to have revitalized the Frosh Coun- cil, a leadership body tailored specifically to first-year needs. We applaud the Office of Student Life for seeking to expose first- years to the many leadership opportunities at the College by putting them in contact with upperclassmen mentors and College bigwigs, developing their leadership and interpersonal skills and teaching them to organize events at the College. Yet, while the event was clearly successful, we hope that the Office of Student Life will not become complacent as a result: FLW is a broad and multifaceted event, and each of its elements can be strengthened, restruc- tured and better presented to first-years.

FLW was opened to members of Frosh Council before it was opened to the first- year class as a whole. With 26 students on Frosh Council, the cap of 30 for the event did not leave much room for other students to participate. Even though not all Frosh Council members attended last weekend’s events, roughly two-thirds of the participants were members of Frosh Council. It is important for Frosh Council to operate as a cohesive group; however, limiting this opportunity mostly to stu- dents who are already leaders on campus inherently contradicts one intended pur- pose of FLW – to foster appreciation for the plethora of leadership opportunities at

the College. Moving forward, the Office of Student Life should consider separating FLW into a retreat for the Frosh Council and a separate, larger event targeted at stu- dents who are not yet in leadership posi- tions at the College.

Furthermore, the Office of Student Life should consider locating this type of new programming for first-years to the Winter Study period, when all first-years are required to be on campus. Creating a weekend during that period comparable to FLW for students who are not yet involved in leadership positions could introduce members of the class to social networking opportunities and resources at that crucial mid-year point. Schedules are slimmer, and students can more easily access such an event. Moreover, many of the skills workshops and mentoring opportunities make more sense as mid-year programs; a later date inherently allows first-years to approach the event with a more in- formed and invested perspective on their interests regarding leadership opportuni- ties on campus. Perhaps Frosh Council could even work on the logistics of such an event, giving the fledgling organiza- tion a concrete goal halfway through the year. Regardless, it is imperative that such a resource be available more broadly to the class, rather than in a targeted fashion to leaders who have already been identified.

Moving forward, those organizing FLW and comparable events also need to take into account such events’ intended audience – first-years – and make sure that advertise- ment of the weekend is geared toward this demographic. If the purpose of such week-

ends is to inspire all interested first-years to become leaders on campus, then this needs to be made clear. The perceived focus of the event needs to shift from coaching and workshops for current campus leaders to education for students aspiring to leadership roles in the future. Event organizers should specify that all students interested in leader- ship – even if they do not yet hold a leader- ship position – are welcome, and, more im- portantly, that any student can benefit from a workshop in leadership skills.

This year we have seen the Office of Stu- dent Life focus on leadership not only for first-years but also for the campus at large. Perhaps this focus can become a common bond between upperclassmen and first- years across campus. This year’s FLW din- ner was a success because it provided an op- portunity for upperclassmen and first-years alike to share a meal and discuss the benefits and hardships of leadership at the College. Such an event exemplifies the best means of providing first-years with a genuine and complete sense of student leadership on campus. We see the effective implementa- tion of these individual events, as well as the reaching of their respective goals, as be- ing critical to the development of first-year leaders. While we understand the utility of a single, cohesive leadership weekend, we also see immense value in offering a wider array of workshops and socials designed to bring current and future leaders together and provide them with necessary skills. We are excited to see how the revamped Office of Student Life continues to pursue its mis- sion to help student leaders both this year and into the future.