April 15, 2024

Emerging Leaders, Wittenberg’s first-year leadership development program, will undergo some changes this coming year, according to Michelle Gafford, Wittenberg area coordinator.
The program, geared toward first-year students, is five to six weeks long and encourages students to engage through networking, according to Gafford.
However, she said that in this coming year, the program will not only incorporate community service, but she also said it will be more purposeful for students, instead of just being a fun extracurricular activity.
“We want [students] to develop a deeper understanding of leadership,” Gafford said. “In the past, I don’t think [Emerging Leaders] was as holistic of an idea as it could be.”
While in the past, each week’s session focused on one element of the seven C’s of the social change model, this year, Gafford said that each week, students will instead focus on a group of values: personal values, group values and society values.
After the first three weeks of focusing on groups of values, Emerging Leaders will then be working with the Hagen Center to bring in an element of community service, allowing students to identify needs for community service in Springfield.
“Here at Witt, community service is an important element, but I feel that sometimes it becomes a checklist item,” Gafford said. “But part of it is not just showing up, but understanding that there are issues, and those issues affect real people.”
Sessions will also include “hands-on” activities, such as asking students to select their values, as well as the incorporation of guest speakers, including Wittenberg Athletic Director Gary Williams. The program will also end with a formal banquet.
“The hands-on activities will give students more applicable resources to use in student organizations or in the Springfield area,” Courtney Steinmetz, ‘17, Emerging Leaders student facilitator said. “I think that the program will give new students tools to help them thrive and gain more confidence during their college career, and that is of the utmost importance.”
Other activities will include interactions with fellow student leaders currently enrolled as juniors at Wittenberg.
“As a junior, we are required to take an active role during the Emerging Leader sessions. I am most excited to be a part of this,” Kelsey Lorko, ’17, Student Leader fellow said. “As a freshman, I participated in the program and learned all about my personal leadership style. I cannot wait to help first-year students find their voice, their role and their purpose through the new program.”
Organizers of the program, Gafford and Jon Duraj — Wittenberg’s associate dean of Students for Student Success & Retention — said that they are hopeful about the changes to come for this year.
“My hope with Emerging Leaders is for students to realize that anyone is capable of being a leader — regardless of position, personality or past — leadership occurs at any level of an organization and can occur in any environment,” Duraj said.
First-year students must apply to participate, and this year’s program will begin on Sept. 28; another session of the program will be offered for the spring semester.

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