Linkages Mentors Embody Servant Leadership

Spring: It’s the time of year we all wait for with anticipation after a long winter, with warm weather, budding trees and flowers.

Spring also is a time when the campus becomes more alive with activity, and it marks the end of many things: classes, internships and club meetings. While many things seem to be “winding down,” this is one of the busiest times of year for student affairs professionals (second to the beginning of school). Spring holds a plethora of end-of-the-year banquets celebrating achievements, Spring Leadership Night, the spring dance and concert, the senior riverboat celebration and, of course, graduation.

One of my primary roles and responsibilities at UST is to manage the Linkages Mentor Program, a one-to-one learning-centered, peer mentoring program for first-year students of color. Over the course of the year, we hosted several workshops to increase student access to important information, resources and services while providing a meaningful experience for our students. Workshops were facilitated by UST staff and faculty, who helped students make connections across campus.

But ... all good things must come to an end. Last Thursday marked the final Linkages workshop of the year. It was definitely a bittersweet day for me. I was happy that we had completed another successful Linkages Mentor Program but sad that it was all coming to an end. As I reflected on the year, I felt a strong sense of pride in the students who gave their time to mentor one another and participate in the program.

In 2008-2009, Linkages had more than 50 participants, including 25 outstanding sophomores, juniors and seniors who volunteered to serve as mentors to 27 first-year students. They started like all other first-year students: wide-eyed and wondering exactly what they had gotten themselves into! They ended with a sense of confidence and eagerness to become more involved in the UST community.

Many of the first-year participants received student leadership positions on campus and others are pursuing research opportunities. Each made significant strides. As they left the workshop, I reminded them about the power and privilege they have in attending college, and I encouraged them to avoid taking it for granted because they are UST’s future leaders and scholars.

The day before our last workshop, I attended the Spring Leadership celebration. The keynote speaker, Nekima Levy-Pounds, challenged next year’s student leaders to be servant leaders. As I reflected on what that meant, I realized that the mentors in this program truly embody servant leadership. They strive to be their best on a daily basis. In addition to excelling academically, they are student leaders: McNair scholars, completing undergraduate research with faculty, VISION leaders and club and organization e-board members. They are high achievers who give back to their community, and for that I am grateful. This is what our St. Thomas mission is all about.

The students who have made the Linkages Mentor Program successful have touched my heart in so many ways. As this year comes to an end, I want to honor them for their hard work, their commitment to academic excellence, the program and St. Thomas and, most importantly, for their impact on the lives of the first-year students. They are phenomenal! Even though all good things must come to an end, this “end” also sparks a new beginning: a new group of students and a new year.

I wish the 2008-2009 Linkages Mentor Program participants as well as the graduating seniors the best of luck in their future endeavors. And remember, as the Greek statesman Pericles wrote more than 2,400 years ago:

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”