With so many jobs, research opportunities and roles in clubs, there are literally thousands of options available for St. Thomas students to get involved on campus. Within each of those is an opportunity for leadership growth. Many first-years don’t necessarily set out to develop leadership growth, but realize later that they have.
For senior Sarah Beck, looking back on her time as a resident adviser and as a member of the Pre-Dental Club’s executive board, she can appreciate just how far she has come.
“It’s much easier in retrospect to look at these past four years and to see how I’ve grown from the person I was when I first came to St. Thomas to the person I am now,” she said. “It wasn’t really something I thought about my sophomore or junior year, but it’s more so as I’m going [toward graduation] and seeing the path I’m going toward, I’m realizing how much and how valuable these skills I’ve developed here are.”
Developing leaders is an explicit goal for many student positions at St. Thomas, but anything Tommies get involved in presents an opportunity to grow in that respect.
“Student leadership means many different things to students. It’s important to notice there are leadership opportunities no matter where you focus your time,” said Margaret Cahill, director of Campus Life. “Leaders come in so many forms. Not everyone is going to hold the title of president; we can’t have 6,000 presidents of clubs at St. Thomas. It’s, ‘How do you make the most of whatever experience you’re opting in for?’”
While applying for outside internships and jobs, students frequently end up reflecting and needing to articulate the leadership value they’ve gained from on-campus experiences.
“The skills I’ve learned communications-wise, teamwork-wise, that’s been huge to bring into my internship experiences,” said senior Erin Abbe, who has spent three years as the marketing intern for St. Thomas Activities and Recreation, and three years on the Residence Hall Association e-board, including this year as president. “Translating that into the job hunt, I’ve seen a lot of progress.”
A huge benefit of opportunities on campus is the relative safety in gaining leadership experience at St. Thomas, where growth through error has less at stake than while in careers.
“You’re going to do stuff, and you’re going to make mistakes and have some failures. With our clubs … that’s where they’re learning,” Cahill said. “It’s the next decision and how you learn from that mistake. … That’s where the growth happens. Who doesn’t make a mistake or the wrong decision? How do you move forward from it?”
The St. Thomas Career Development Center has a range of resources to help students translate experience into application materials, and Campus Life is a main hub for finding opportunities to get involved on campus.