Opinion: Student Leaders at Meredith
At Meredith College, being a student leader in some form or fashion is something that several students seek out. Whether that means becoming a co-chair for a Meredith tradition, Student Advising or holding a leadership position for a club, there are several opportunities for students to hold leadership positions on campus.
With this comes several varying experiences of what holding their leadership position has been like. It is essential for student leaders to have the support of administration and faculty in order for any real and meaningful work to be done while serving in their position. The Herald spoke to several students who have held and currently hold leadership positions on campus to hear their honest opinions on what being a student leader at Meredith truly is like.
What Made You Decide to Become a Student Leader?
“During the Spring 2021 semester when it was announced that we would be back on campus with mostly in-person or hybrid classes, I knew I needed to find a way to bring back the joy I had when I first visited Meredith’s campus and connect with peers who shared my visions, hopes, and interests.”-Rosemary Vega Escutia- Meredith Hues President, Meredith Educators (SNCAE) Co-President, Meredith Activities Board Publicity Co-Chair
“I decided to become a student leader because I wanted to be involved on campus and stay connected to my peers as much as possible. I was specifically interested in SGA Senate because of the responsibility they have in ensuring that student organizations run smoothly and are treating members fairly. I was also interested in Queer Space because it was an opportunity for me to connect with people like me.”-Elizabeth Sharpe- Secretary & Vice President of Queer Space, Vice President of MC Dems, President of Alpha Lambda Delta, Senator for the C/O 2023
“I became a student leader to step out of my comfort zone and learn valuable life skills. I enjoy being involved on campus and with other students and being a student leader has allowed me to do so. I have the opportunity to build new relationships within my organizations and beyond and learn communication and interpersonal skills. Being a leader means being a resource for other individuals, I enjoy being a resource for others and lending a helping hand when needed to steer them in the right direction.” Mary Wesley Craft- President of Iris Ambassadors Student Tour Guides, Freshman Student Advisor
How much support do you feel administration and faculty has given you in your time being a student leader?
“Administration and faculty gave a decent amount of support. I would say that the advisors for organizations could be hit or miss, but the ones who did participate really tried their best to give us the resources we needed or just help is when we needed advice.”- Elizabeth Sharpe
“Most faculty members are supportive of what I do. But administrators are a different story. The only time they show up for students is when student leaders beg them to come to an event. Most of the time, our requests go unanswered. There have been times where staff of the College have actively worked against my organization because of personal issues they have with individual students. President Jo Allen in particular has several documented instances where she has snapped at students or criticized their desire to make changes on campus. She and others claim to appreciate us, but barely speak to us outside of events they think are important.” -Anonymous
“As a student advisor, I feel incredibly supported by the First Year Experience program. They do an excellent job at making sure we have the resources and communication we need to help our advisees as best as possible, and they pour so much love into the programming.”-Ashleigh Millinder- Freshman Student Advisor, President of Communication Club
Do you find it easy to have a balance between being a student leader and your courses or work?
“No. Especially last semester. It always felt like something was happening pertaining to my [leadership role] so I wasn’t really able to establish boundaries. Part of it is because this position is new and people aren’t entirely sure how to incorporate it in different spaces. However, I also couldn’t establish boundaries because staff and fellow student leaders would violate them or pressure me to violate them myself.”-Charlie Hatch- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Board Chair of Student Government Association
“At first finding that balance between my duties and responsibilities and my coursework was difficult.” “After I learned better time management skills, this improved my balance a lot. I am a student teaching this semester and I am still able to be involved and active in my roles because of those important skills I have learned through my roles.”-Rosemary Vega Escutia
Do you feel that you are fairly rewarded or compensated for your duties as a student leader?
“I understand that with many positions for student leaders, there are no rewards for your duties….I believe that more rewards, scholarships, and compensation would increase the demand for those who would like to enter student leadership positions. If there were such opportunities available for student leaders, I think this would also diversify the pool of student leaders.”-Mary Wesley Craft
“Not in the slightest. SLS and other departments try to give out various certificates of recognition. However, these awards don’t accurately reflect the work that goes into the position or how oppositional they are to our success. The greatest reward I’ve gotten from being a student leader is the support from other students. As much as I appreciate it,that doesn’t pay the bills.”-Anonymous
Knowing what you know now about what it means to be a student leader, would you sign up for it again?
“Being a student leader can get busy sometimes, but overall, I am very thankful for the opportunities I've had to get involved. I feel like I have gained valuable experience and friendships through student leadership that wouldn't be possible without it! I would absolutely sign up again.”-Ashleigh Millinder
“I’m not entirely sure. While I am grateful I was chosen for this role, there were several moments throughout the year that made me question if I wanted to continue the DEIB role as well as DEI work in general…Not only did staff and fellow student leaders violate my boundaries, they encouraged me to violate them myself which ultimately led to miscommunications that were blamed on DEIB.”-Charlie Hatch
When discussing student leadership, it is hard not to mention the Office of Student Leadership and Service (SLS). The purpose of the SLS office is to help students develop leadership skills and become productive leaders on campus. When asking about support from the administration, a student said, “SLS is one of the worst culprits. For an office that has leadership in their name, they don’t seem to value it in the slightest. They host annual training sessions for student leaders. In the spring of 2021, a guest speaker spoke on diversity in leadership. A white student leader accidentally unmuted and called the training ‘a waste of time.’ SLS sent an email saying the situation was ‘being addressed,’ but the student leader remained in their position.”
Student leaders on Meredith’s campus have varying experiences in their positions due to a multitude of factors. It is important for faculty, staff and administration who are involved in programs with student leaders to take the necessary time and resources to listen to what the student’s concerns and needs truly are. This, in turn, will make students more willing to participate in student led organizations and not be as hesitant about the consequences of taking on a leadership position.
By Haileigh West, Opinion Editor, and Destiny Calvin, Co-Podcast Director