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New training helps students lead organizations effectively

by Sherry Fisher - September 17, 2007

Leaders of some 400 student organizations on campus will be better equipped to handle their jobs, thanks to a new training program.

The Student Organization Leaders Intentional Development program was developed by the Department of Student Activities to ensure that leaders of student groups are prepared to lead their organizations successfully and use all the resources available at the University.

Attendance at workshops, which run about 90 minutes, is mandatory for chief organization officers, secretaries, and chief financial officers. Attendance at an event planning workshop is mandatory for groups that host events.

Organizations that complete the program are eligible for services including access to facilities, organizational and financial advice, and may apply for funding from the student government. 

“We’re trying to make sure everyone is trained and can succeed,” says Christine Wilson, director of student activities.

“The organizations are already doing well, but we want to help students run them more effectively. The program provides a consistent foundation for all organizations to get started, and maximizes their success during the year.”

Short-term and long-term learning assessments have been established to evaluate what students gain from their workshop experiences.

“Students can graduate being good leaders, but if we train them, they’ll be even better ones,” Wilson says. “We also believe that what students learn in the workshops will prepare them for leadership roles in the future.”

Workshops for chief organization officers offer information on risk management; strategies for managing the transition of officers; suggestions for developing and leading effective groups; and strategies for recruiting and retaining members.

Secretaries learn how to develop agendas, maintain records, and correspond effectively.

Financial officers focus on financial planning, contacts, reimbursements, equipment inventories, and fundraising.

Those who plan events learn about publicity, fundraising, budgeting, catering, and arranging for speakers and entertainment.

Melissa Arroyo, program director for student activities, gives a presentation on planning events as part of a new training program for leaders of student organizations.
Melissa Arroyo, program director for student activities, gives a presentation on planning events as part of a new training program for leaders of student organizations.
Photo by Frank Dahlmeyer

Samantha Sherwood, president of the Honors Council, was a participant in “How to Lead an Organization.”

She says she enjoyed learning about her personal leadership style: “I found some of the exercises to identify your individual leadership personality interesting and insightful. We learned how to use those qualities to benefit our organization.”

Sherwood adds, “Before this program, the burden was on individual organizations. If you didn’t have strong communication from year to year, it was difficult at the beginning of the year. I’m glad they’ve organized this program.”

Jacqueline Guzman is involved in many student organizations.

As vice president of administration in the Student Entrepreneurial Organization, she attended a workshop for secretaries.

“The workshop provided a lot of information, such as how to take minutes, plan an agenda, and keep records,” she says.

“It provided a lot of information that doesn’t get passed down.”

Guzman says student organizations will now have the guidance they need. “I think it’s an exceptional program.”

Jane Duffy, a graduate assistant in career services, presents workshops and is involved in assessing the program.

“We want to help students realize that the skills they acquire are transferable,” she says.

“Whether it’s taking effective minutes, balancing a budget, or organizing an event and following through, the skills will be useful as they venture out into the workplace. The University is presenting a special opportunity for students that will make their organizations stronger and their leaders and members more confident. It’s one more way UConn is on the cutting edge.”

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