Leadership in Action

At the start of this school year and my final two semesters of grad school, I find myself experiencing a mixture of emotions.

Some days, my palms sweat and my breathing becomes more labored, and I think (in a slight fit of panic), “Has school already been in session two weeks? Will I really need to start looking for a job in three months? Where do I want to live? Etcetera …” But on other days, I step back and enjoy the atmosphere of a fresh start. Walking through campus, I’m greeted by smiles and I wave at passersby who now feel like old friends even though I have been here only for a year. Fall Welcome events, like the March through the Arches and the opening Mass, showed me how much Tommie Pride exists on campus and the feeling of unity present in university traditions.

People often ask me about my degree (M.A. in Leadership in Student Affairs), what that means and, most importantly, what I plan to do with it. I sometimes respond, “I hope to cultivate leaders,” which usually leaves people even more puzzled. Yet this sentiment is true; my greatest sense of achievement comes from watching students embrace their strengths and lead groups of their peers. One of my professors this semester began our class with a definition of leadership: “Leadership is continuous… internally derived and outwardly manifested.” Taking some time to digest this, I realize that I love watching leaders take what is inside and express it outside.

At St. Thomas, I believe we push students to be morally responsible leaders, working toward the common good of all and making our community a better place in the process. I watch student leaders stand up every day in front of their peers, feeling nervousness, no doubt, and pay homage to St. Thomas through their role in promoting the campus. One student, a leader in a program in CILCE (Center for Intercultural Living and Community Engagement), jumps out at me. I put her into a more non-traditional leadership style: the social change model. She learns new things about herself, listens to the needs of others and works to promote the good of the community. Knowing the changes that will come from this student – both in herself and the community and watching her excitement about things like an official “work shirt” – I am overjoyed with a sense of pride about my own efforts to advance the mission of St. Thomas.

When I was approached about writing for The Scroll, my immediate excitement plummeted after a nervous anxiety came over me. I can describe it only as stage fright. Quickly, I thought of student leaders and their similar pangs of nervousness, and I told myself that I will embrace my flurry of emotions and use this time – my last year at St. Thomas – to learn and grow in myself by carrying out our mission. The beginning of the end has arrived.