Sophomore Spotlight #7: What I learned from being a sophomore president
I’ve been the president of a student group for about six months now, and the experience has completely transformed my thoughts on leadership, time management and self-motivation.
Nothing consumes my time like The Northwestern Chronicle does. But at the same time, nothing teaches me as much as the Editor-in-Chief position does.
But because I’m the EIC of a college newspaper, the position extends far beyond enforcing deadlines, planning issues and hearing story pitches. There’s a whole other side to it, the social aspect that can really motivate and connect students, that is unique to the college environment.
First and foremost, you have to be able to engage your members. Whether that means being liberal about shooting personal emails, saying hello in meetings or even doling out Facebook likes, you have to communicate to them that you’re not their professor, you’re their peer.
Being president of a student group doesn’t make you better than them or more important. You’re among them, because you’re one of them. You’re a representative for them.
You’ve got to focus heavily on the members. They put the “student” in “student group.” Literally.
Make yourself a resource for them and mold their experiences and roles according to their preferences. Ask them, what are you looking for? Not here’s what we have, can you fit the bill?
Only by prioritizing them can you really get them motivated. After all, no one joins a student group to give their time and effort. They join because they think the group offers something valuable to them, whether its a community, skills or connections. Engaging your editors and your members in a way that emphasizes their desires and needs is a way to motivate them to act.
Public speaking is an imperative life skill. Being able to effectively engage a crowd does wonders when you’re trying to host an event or give a presentation. From my high school debate experience, I learned that a strong voice helps build credibility with an audience and that eye contact is essential. It helps you create a stronger connection and convey a deeper meaning in your words.
For this past quarter, we organized weekly workshops designed to educate members about specific journalism trends and concepts. From workshop to workshop, I constantly gathered feedback from my peers and editors. Improvement is not something that you wait until the end of the quarter to pursue. You can utilize every exec meeting and open workshop to ask yourself and others, what worked and what didn’t?
I texted my editors the other day, asking, how much of my presentations do you actually listen to? After all, if you can’t capture the attention of your own editors, how do you expect to engage other members?
I consistently tell my friends about the social aspects of The Chronicle, asking for their opinions, would you come out to an event if it were presented to you in this way? Hearing people’s opinions, regardless of whether they’re in the student group or not, sucks me out of your my brain and forces me to use others’ opinions to gauge my event planning skills.
Another important skill I’ve learned is how to ask for help. Focusing too much on details tends to exhaustively drag out the process of getting research, editing and planning done. I’ve learned to rely on other motivated people to shoulder the weight of running a student group and a newspaper.
And then, there are people you ask for help and feedback, like your senior mentors, advisers and even, to some extent, your professors.
It takes a little something to gather up the courage to talk to your professors about something not class-related. A lot of people have a tendency to avoid interacting with their professors – going to Office Hours, staying after class, actively participating in class, contributing to non-mandatory online discussions – and some might feel like they are wasting the professor’s time by approaching them for non-class related help and feedback.
My journalism professor for winter and I got along really well and he really encouraged me to continue trying hard in the class, even though I was the youngest student by far. I guess I signed up for the course for other reasons than everyone else in the class did.
I’m also now a much better organizer. I never realized how early some events need to be planned. And now that I’m on spring break, I have a lot of free time to re-evaluate what’s happened over the past few weeks and make adjustments accordingly to my plans for spring. You can’t just plan things as they come, week-by-week. It wastes resources and keeps you stuck in the short-term.
Most importantly, I’ve come to view progress on a long-term scale. It’s not an immediate, tangible result. Satisfaction comes from building sustainable relationships with writers that will persist for quarters to come. You not only have to reel people in, you have to retain them.
That’s how you know that you’re doing a really good job, when you look back years later and see people still as involved and engaged as they were on day one. Success is more than meeting a quota of group members, it’s about the individual connections between the members themselves.
Probably not as good as the Wave Racer remix, but I really like this take:
Really into that tropical house thing right now…