Question 7

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Samples of Effective and Ineffective Responses to Question 7

 

7. DESCRIBE AN EXAMPLE OF YOUR LEADERSHIP.

SATISFACTORY RESPONSES:


After volunteering with COMPASS (Cultivating of Minds in Primary and Secondary Schools) during my freshman year, I returned the next fall to find that the organization no longer existed. The student leaders who ran the COMPASS program, which grants college students the opportunity to work with public school students throughout Chicago, had abandoned it. Over the next quarter, I joined with former fellow volunteers to restart COMPASS and was elected vice-president. Being a student group leader, I soon discovered was not as easy as it had seemed. Reestablishing contacts with teachers and regaining their trust in our program demanded perseverance and patience. Publicizing the return of COMPASS on a campus of 8,000 students required weeks of planning and execution. We posted flyers, placed advertisements about COMPASS in the school newspaper, and typed numerous e-mails. That winter, the new COMPASS welcomed over 50 new and returning volunteers at its first organizational meeting in ten months. To complement our steadily growing volunteer program, I organized a lecture series about public education in America with a focus on Chicago public school reform to help inform our volunteers about developments in educational policy. In continuing our tradition of offering information along with a high-quality volunteering experience, COMPASS is hosting a lecture and workshop series with Dr. George Farkas this February. Dr. Farkas, a critical contributor to the America Reads initiative, will work with student group leaders on modifying programs to have more tangible benefits. As president my duties have multiplied but I have still remained a volunteer tutor and a dedicated student group leader. COMPASS has been a great test of my leadership potential, my patience and my diligence. I feel that I played an integral part in rebuilding a program that once was down to three members and now sends over one hundred volunteers into Chicago public schools every week throughout the year.

[Good description of the problem and the actions taken and roles played by the writer. Cites the increase in volunteers. One hopes the volunteers had impact.]


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What could a Chinese-American college girl from the suburban Midwest possibly have in common with a bunch of southern African-American 'tweens? A shared summer of learning and hard work! For seven weeks, I taught oral history techniques and African-American history (with a special emphasis on class issues) to a classroom of 11-14 years olds for the Community Stories Program at the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The summer program concluded in a published anthology of the students' oral history interviews of Durham life during Jim Crow segregation followed by students' reflections on their past and present communities.

As a Community Stories Intern, I designed the curriculum and student research with two co-teachers for our 200+ page publication and also acted as the main classroom disciplinarian. I also laid out the text in one week and organized the first-ever Community Stories Talent Show to introduce the personalities behind four Community Stories classrooms. In the teacher's role, I balanced the forthrightness and critical thinking required for administrative responsibilities with the flexibility and patience needed to support students' diverse capacities and interests. Teaching, as a leadership experience, challenged me more than anything else I've ever done. If I failed, the expense would not be just a ruined prom or a botched poetry reading - it would contribute to Shantel's apathy towards her hometown roots, Sean's rejection of a potential college education, Josh's internalization of adults' negative criticisms, and more opportunities slammed shut in the mind's eyes of all of my students.

[Describes program and particular role played. Also conveys the meaning of this experience to the writer.]


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"I need your help. There's little enthusiasm or participation at the Baptist Student Union, and this campus and its community needs what we can offer..." Of course, I couldn't decline my friend Jason's challenge to make the BSU a light for new, bewildered freshmen, needy members of the community, or anyone else seeking spiritual nourishment. When Jason didn't return for our sophomore year, though, I suddenly was faced with an exciting, but scary opportunity. Discouragement was the biggest battle I had to fight. I started "Friday Night Live" to stimulate discussion on issues college students often confront such as stress and relationships. Yet, despite mass advertising and other "plugs" for the program, attendance was poor. Frustrated, I thought about quitting, but I simply couldn't abandon the dream. The key lesson was realizing that change doesn't happen all at once, but often in small increments. I saw that even one new person becoming involved was an achievement. As new faces began to appear, I encouraged them to stay active by giving them roles in various programs. Through delegating such responsibilities, new members quickly became active supporters, and the BSU came to life. It has been a year since our campaign to reach the campus and community began, and participation and enthusiasm have both increased. The BSU has begun to take a more active role in the community as last October it collected canned food for one of the city's poorest sections. Although there is still a lot to accomplish, the vision of broader service is steadily becoming reality.

[Nice description of what the candidate did. Sustained example of leadership. Wish the writer had "told" how much participation increased.]

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UNSATISFACTORY RESPONSES:


As an orientation leader, I was awarded the opportunity to play an active role in the initial experiences of new students at my school. While the position required activities such as monitoring placement tests and assisting with class registration, I reveled in the opportunity to answer students and parents questions about the college experience. While I was required to sit on parent panels and present flip chart presentations, I enjoyed the one-on-one experiences. During one of the orientation sessions, a new student and I started talking about how he was afraid that he was going to be surrounded by a bunch of pot-smoking, binge-drinking, and not-studying classmates. A first-generation college student, his only "real" experience with college came from a campus tour. The rest of his knowledge about college life came from watching "Animal House" and other stereotypical media images. I enjoyed being able to serve as an individual that could show him that college was not about those things, but was about studying, meeting new people, learning new things, and enjoying new experiences. I emphasized that there was partying in college; but, you did not have to participate or be looked down upon if you did not "party". I recommended that he join a couple of clubs in the fall and meet people with similar interests. When I walked by him on campus in the fall, I said "hi" and proceeded on my way. That Tuesday, at my student government meeting, he was sworn in as a representative-at-large. I do not know if it took talking to me to begin to change his perception or if some other individual may have provided the same information. However, I enjoy knowing my one-on-one interaction might have made a difference-perhaps even more than my flip chart and skit presentations to 1200 freshmen regarding the same issues.

[No evidence of persuading a group of people to act constructively. Responsive to an individual's needs, but does not show initiative, action, impact.]

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I waged my election campaign for Student Senate from overseas last spring. Never before had a student attempted such a thing, but I found it to be a brilliant strategy: if an opponent engaged in mudslinging, I never had to listen to it! True, not knowing the results of the election until 3 in the morning after the election was a little nerve-wracking, but the results made the wait worthwhile. I was one of the rare students who ran (and won) as an Independent. I have set myself apart in Senate by demonstrating my capacity to stand alone on issues without losing the support of members of the majority. One recent incident illustrates this ability well. A bill advocating the investigation and implementation of a new computerized enrollment system came before the Senate. I was the only one to question to the bill. "How much will it cost?" I asked. The framers of the bill did not have cost estimates or a survey of student opinion regarding the new technology. I proposed amending the bill to mandate research of the computerized system, but not its immediate implementation. I won support and the bill passed with my amendment. The chairmen who proposed the bill invited me to be a part of the research process. The changes that I aim to bring about in the Senate are twofold: first, I attempt to improve the legislation that we pass, and second, I work to improve the way in which the Senate itself operates. Another of my goals is to change the Senate's relationship to the rest of the University community. I have reached out this year to student organizations which had never before been contacted by a member of the Senate. As a member of the Senate Academic Committee, I am responsible for resolving student allegations of unfair examination policies. I have had notable success in bringing students and faculty to mutually satisfactory compromises, mostly due to a diplomatic approach that is non-confrontational and shows genuine concern for the positions of both parties.

[Too many examples presented. Not clear what changed, if anything.]

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Having recognized the Student Activist Union as a potentially empowering compliment [sic] to my coursework in social problems, I decided to get involved by talking to various student groups and academic departments to help raise fund to bring Dr. Owen Wiwa to speak on campus. As I learned about the execution of his brother, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the horrors of the collusion between Sanni Abacha's current military dictatorship and the Royal Dutch Shell Company, I realized that the situation in Ogoniland combined significant issues of environment, race, political freedom, and corporate accountability. Following Dr. Wiwa's visit and independent research efforts, I organized a "Nigerian Concerns" group by soliciting members of the Student Activist Union and the campus chapter of Amnesty International to mobilize against the corporate and political policies of global racism and environmental destruction. In weekly meetings, we planned a series of public events to make the issue more visible and to stimulate student interest. We also designed a made hundreds of buttons reading "Nigerian Blood Shed for Shell Oil", which we distributed at the campus Earth Day celebration. Having successfully targeted students, we then distributed buttons and an easy to read fact sheet to faculty mailboxes. In my mind, this campaign was a great success as we received almost 300 signatures on our petitions to President Clinton and the President of Shell Oil, U.S., and many backpacks around campus can still be seen sporting our buttons. This year, I have been elected as co-chair of Student Activist Union, one of the largest campus organizations, with a membership of approximately 140 students. While my efforts have necessarily expanded to include other issues, I have continued to promote awareness of the economic, environmental, and political situation in Nigeria.

[Not clear that getting 300 signatures was a big accomplishment. Last paragraph does not necessarily suggest any impact. Potentially good example but not well-handled to show major differences on the campus.]