Undergraduate students learn the skills needed to lead and succeed

The Emerging Student Leaders Program aims to help undergraduate students at SUNY Buffalo State discover who they are and how they can apply their unique strengths to finding a job when they graduate.

Maureen Vitali, coordinator of ESLP, works hard to make sure that students are acquiring all the information they need to succeed.

“Everything they’re learning in this program are things that they’re going to apply to not only their personal or academic life, but with helping the community and helping the world to become a better place,” Vitali said.

As an undergraduate student, Vitali had four majors, two of which include creative studies and leadership, which is what she is studying now in graduate school at Buffalo State. In addition to her schoolwork, Vitali was also a resident assistant, orientation leader and student ambassador, so she has the background to help students succeed.

“I tell the students that the program is designed to be stepping stones to success,” Vitalisaid. “We start from the bottom with visioning what they see themselves doing for the semester. It’s very important to set goals that are realistic and that you can accomplish. We like to do a lot of things to get them involved.”

At the beginning of the year, the program began with a reception where students were able to hear from those who have also participated in the program, including former United Student Government president Sara Garfinkle.

The foundation of ESLP is based on an ideology called foresight, which states that if people are faced with a challenge they respond in one of four ways. Some people are clarifiers, which means they’re likely to ask every question they can to fully understand the task. Ideators think of multiple ways to solve the problem at hand, while developers come up with one solution and strive to make it perfect.  Implementers dive right into the problem and solve it.

There is no specific group that is better than the other, so the goal is for the students to use their characteristics to get the biggest benefit. Students learn these responses in one of the first workshops of the semester. After they complete their first task, they get to find out exactly what characteristics they displayed while doing it. From there, Vitali tells the students how they can work together in a group with multiple types of people.

During this workshop, the students got a chance to put their new knowledge to use when they built a float out of a shopping cart for homecoming. The students won the competition and are celebrating with a pizza party this week.

In addition to workshops, the Emerging Student Leaders Program organizers work hard to bring their students the events they want to see.

On Oct. 23, members of ESLP attended a Civic Engagement Panel held in AssemblyHall two in the student union. The panel included Aurora Schul, associate at the Volunteer Service Learning Center, the site manager at Jericho Road CommunityHealth Center Deirdre Wright, Professor Drew Kahn, and Ben Bissell of Westminster Economic Development Initiative and West Side Bazaar, and focused on what students can do to help in the Buffalo and international community.

Wright stated that besides money, getting people to understand why it is important to help their community is a big challenge. A large part of her job allows her to deal with refugees from other countries.

“The challenge is getting other agencies, the government and corporate to understand why we need help,” she said.

Professor Drew Kahn, who is also the director of the Anne Frank Project, is actively involved in international community service as well. As part of the AFP, which focuses on the causes of global forms of intolerance, students go on a two-week trip to Rwanda, Africa during J-Term.

“We want to provide the tools and vocabulary to not only process this information, but to make the world different,” he said. “Your job after going to university is to improve the world.”

After the panel, students were full of ideas and ready to make their mark on the world.

“Before I didn’t know how to start my idea,” said Kalilah Scott, a freshman criminal justice major who wants to start a foundation for young girls in the future.  “Now I’m starting to get an idea of how to start and the steps I need to take to get there.”

“The primary goal in the Emerging Student Leaders Program is to equip the students with the skills they need to become successful,” Vitali said. “And more importantly to realize that they are skills that they already have.”

The ESLP meets every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Assembly Hall 2.

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