Northwestern begins student leadership initiative

Emily Chin, Social Media Editor

Northwestern’s Division of Student Affairs is working to create a framework for bringing together different campus leaders.

The division is assessing the current leadership climate and holding roundtables with students to gauge what kind of leadership initiative students hope to see.

“The idea is that no matter if you’re a business assistant, or an employee at Norris, or a Greek leader, or an ASG leader, you’re getting similar opportunities in leadership that prepare you for other opportunities in leadership post-Northwestern,” said Adrian Bitton, assistant director of Leadership and Community Engagement.

The Division of Student Affairs is addressing the question of what it means when someone says they are a “Northwestern leader,” Bitton said.

Campus Life was restructured late last year and over the summer, creating three separate departments: Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Organizations and Activities, and Leadership and Community Engagement. This restructuring gave Leadership and Community Engagement more room to make an impact on student leadership.

“The reorganization reflects some new priorities in the works that we’re doing within the student affairs division of investing in student leadership and investing in student activities,” said Kelly Benkert, director for Leadership and Community Engagement. “It gives us the capacity to do our work differently and do it better.”

Benkert said the idea of developing a leadership framework came from the Division of Student Affairs and noted that there is already great leadership on campus but there are no common goals or learning objectives.

The goal of the framework will be to bring together different parts of campus to develop a strong leadership brand, Bitton said.

“We have really amazing strong leaders on campus, who are very professional, organized, passionate and committed students who are involved in a variety of different things,” Bitton said. “How do we continue to support that as we build out different programs and initiatives around leadership?”

The Division of Student Affairs is also working on harnessing some of the pressures that exist due to students’ high involvement on campus and the fast-paced quarter system, she said.

Last week, the Division of Student Affairs held a think tank in which it invited eight students to discuss their experience with student leadership on campus.

Weinberg junior Benjamin Kraft, a former Daily staffer, was invited to the think tank because he is a Resident Assistant. He said being an RA has given him a chance to grow as a leader by working with people’s strengths and weaknesses.

Kraft said the think tank gave him a good perspective on the campus attitude on leadership.

The Division of Student Affairs will be receiving feedback from students in Student Leadership Roundtable Discussions, which will take place on Nov. 19 and Dec. 2. After the roundtables, they will be extracting themes from the conversations and looking at common goals.

In addition, the Division of Student Affairs will be mapping out what the different leadership opportunities on campus are and where the gaps are.

“It’s to take the potential work that’s already happening and figure out how we can try to coordinate that into a shared outcome so we’re all working together,” Benkert said.

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