Leadership.

First of all, Welcome Back, Golden Eagles! This is going to be a fantastic semester. For them months of January and February our blog, The Hub Happenings, will feature posts that focus on the topic of leadership and why it is so important. We are excited for you to read what students and staff have to say about this.

We are even more excited to highlight a great opportunity to get involved in a leadership opportunity through the Office of Student Activities’ Ambassador Program, click here to learn more about the selection process as well as what the ambassador program offers students.

Our first blog post is from our Student Activities Manager, Lindsay Watson…

Leadership. 

This word is often times tossed around organizations, classrooms, and jobs.  But what is leadership?  Dictionary.com says, “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”  Pretty vague if you ask me.  I dug deeper and cracked open a thesaurus (well, ok…checked Google).  Synonyms for leadership are ‘guidance, direction, influence’.  However, leadership can mean different things to different people.

Lindsay with her Residence Life Team for Relay for Life

Lindsay with her Residence Life Team for Relay for Life

When I think of leadership, my main focus is always influence…which takes me into servant leadership.  I think the best way to explain it would be that servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of OTHERS rather than trying to obtain power or have concern over their own needs.  Basic rule: treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Leaders have leaders. 

Yup!  Every leader has someone else they look to for direction, guidance, and motivation.  The leadership cycle is really quite fabulous.  Leaders set direction for everyone.  They help us see what lies ahead, visualize what one may achieve, and most of all, encourage and inspire us to be better.  Be a better person.  Be a better student organization leader.  Be a better student organization member.  Just be better.

Is everyone a leader?  Nope.  However, we would never have leaders if there were not followers.  You cannot have a group that consists of one person.  You have to have followers to mold and build into potential future leaders.

So why is all of this important? 

Well, put simply, without leaders we would have unproductive, unsuccessful, completely lost followers.  Society would have few goals, little ambition, and a lack of drive and motivation.  Let’s think back to September 11, 2001…or any event you recall that was devastating.  What would happen if we did not have leaders?  Who would people turn to?  What type of ramifications would be in place?  So many “what if” questions.  The human race NEEDS someone to look up to.  Without leaders, organizations, big and small…would become static, have lack of growth, and completely lose their way.  In some cases, a boss or CEO of a company may not necessarily be a leader….but rather, just a boss or a CEO.  Those companies or organizations typically do not last, do not make the Fortune 500 list, and have a very difficult time retaining their employees. We don’t just need leaders…we need GOOD leaders.

What will be your legacy?

Lindsay Watson, Student Activities Manager and SMAC Advisor

Lindsay Watson, Student Activities Manager and SMAC Advisor

If you are reading this, maybe you are on an Executive Board for a student organization.  When you leave The University of Southern Mississippi…or wherever you are…what do you want to see happen to your organization?  Will it fall apart when you leave?  If you think so, you have not done your job creating new leaders.  Will it prosper, evolve, and grow?  Then you have done a marvelous job as a leader.

E.M. Kelly has a quote that sticks with me.  “Remember the difference between a boss and a leader: a boss says ‘go’ – a leader says ‘let’s go!’”  Remember to put others before you…lead by example…and INFLUENCE others.  Once you have that down, you can evolve followers into leaders.  You can feel confident that you left a place better than you found it.

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Student Involvement Blog | Lemons

This semester’s final blog post is from Southern Miss Event Services Coordinator Ashley Grant. Ashley completed her undergraduate degree and her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) here at Southern Miss, and has worked in her current job for almost two years. Ashley’s post is all about the value of community service… which is perfect to think about during this winter season. Enjoy!

Lemons.  They are sour.  They make your mouth pucker.  According to our friends at Wikipedia, “The juice of the lemon is about 5% to 6% citric acid, which gives lemons a sour taste. The distinctive sour taste of lemon juice makes it a key ingredient in drinks and foods such as lemonade.”  Sour little fruit.

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Ashley Grant,
Coordinator for Event Services

When I was in college, I looked forward to community service project days with as much enthusiasm as I would taking a big bite into the biggest lemon you’ve ever seen.  I was involved on campus, a diligent student always willing to lend a helping hand, and befriender of the underdog.  Yet for some crazy reason, I detested community service.  To me, it felt like a punishment.  My opinion of the typical day of service was something like this:  (1) you’d drive off into the wild blue yonder, (2) you wound up doing something that made you really hot, sweaty, and disgusting, (3) you’d work with some tool that made me feel like I was going to die or I was going to kill someone because it was shooting nails through walls, (4) there would be so many people around with hardly anyone giving you any instruction on what you were supposed to do because we’d all just arrived in mass, (5) and the nerd in me ultimately thought I could use the time to be studying.  However, I also thought it was that necessary evil to boost your resume to make yourself stand out when I would begin applying for jobs one day.  And then I had a revelation:

It’s not about you.  It’s about them.

It’s about something greater than you can begin to understand.

That’s completely shocking and full of insane wisdom, right?  I mean… it’s about them.  By them, I’m not saying the less fortunate, underprivileged, etc.  When I say it’s about them, it’s about giving to others each and every day.  It is giving all that you have to those who are around you and not expecting anything in return.  You give because you have the ability to do so.  You give because we are all here to serve and love one another.

I was dining at a local establishment one afternoon and they had one of those carved stone signs with the phrase “Children spell love, T-I-M-E.”  Time.  While I agree with this assertion, I do think it can be applied to everyone.  People spell love, T-I-M-E.  With that being said, if you are struggling with your commitment to service or trying to figure out how you can do more, I recommend you take the time yourself to do the following:

  1.  Get out of your comfort zone.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.”  It’s true.  Getting out of your own head and your fears and diving into the unknown is worth it.  Do what makes you nervous.  The worst possible thing that can happen is that you don’t enjoy what you do that day.  However, I have a feeling you’re going to love it.  Use your energy to impact the lives of people in your community.  You’ll feel more connected and discover new things about yourself in the process.
  2. Find out what you like to do.  There are more places and people who need your time and your service that I can even begin to name.  Whether you prefer the puppies, Play-Doh, pounding hammers or passing out peas, there is a place for you.  Figure it out!  Give them all a try! Use our on campus resource of the Center for Community and Civic Engagement to help find your way.  Use community resources like Volunteer Hattiesburg to find out more information too if you’d like.  Just take the time to learn how to get involved.  When in doubt, ask someone.  If they don’t have the answer, they can likely lead you to someone who does.

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    Ashley Volunteering at the Hattiesburg Salvation Army’s Christmas Warehouse

  3. Don’t give 100%.  Give 110% or more.  The only way you’re ever going to like serving others is if you give it everything you have.  Think about it, when you’ve felt the most successful it’s typically because you have poured your blood, sweat, and tears (literally and/or figuratively) into a project.  It’s the same for every task you undertake in life.  Give it everything you have in that moment in space and time, and you’ll love the experience at the end of the day.  For one day, challenge yourself to live a life for others and give back.  A man much smarter than I will ever be said, “A life lived for others, is the only life worth living.”  Considering the brilliant mind of Albert Einstein, I am inclined to listen and take his words to heart.  Perhaps you will do the same.

Time.  Time was what sweetened those lemons for me.  Giving of my time and giving 110% of myself during that time is what made that lemon become lemonade.  Don’t get me wrong, not all of the work that is needed of you is going to be deliciously sweet and satisfying.  Sometimes the work is going to be plain filthy.  However, I can assure you that at the end of the day, you’ve just helped create lemonade for someone else.  So go out, find you some lemons, and make lemonade!

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Civic Engagement & Service Learning | How I Landed Here

Josh Duplantis, Director for the Center for Community and Civic Engagement at Southern Miss

Josh Duplantis, Director for the Center for Community and Civic Engagement at Southern Miss

I’d always enjoyed serving. For me, it started with a love of construction. I mean who doesn’t like to grab a hammer and a nail and join together random pieces of wood to build something? Well maybe not everyone, but I do.  It was this interest that led me to begin volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.

Following my undergraduate experience, I traveled around a bit working in the corporate sector. In the fall of 2005, I came home to assist in the recovery following Hurricane Katrina. After a year of relief work, I knew I loved two things—helping others and higher education. I was a first generation college student and had no idea what to expect when I showed up in Baton Rouge for my first day of class at Louisiana State University.

 

A Service Learning Education

I hadn’t planned on education beyond a B.S. (definitely wasn’t thinking PhD). But I new some folks in Auburn, AL that I’d met during my undergrad. One particular person, Elisabeth, was at Auburn. She is particularly important because I eventually married her and we now have two beautiful children. So it worked out pretty well.

In 2006 I went to Auburn to pursue my master’s in Higher Education. During my tenure there, I had a graduate assistantship in an outreach program at Auburn that allowed me to work on leadership training in rural, under-served school districts and I met a professor that was doing research on service learning, further sparking my interest and passion for the field.  

Why is it important for students (YOU) to be involved in service?

Honestly, I could go for days, but lets start with a simple list borrowed from our friends at the University of Michigan:

1. Less Stress & Depression, and More Life Satisfaction

From their analysis of collected data, Peggy Thoits and Lyndi Hewitt (2001) assert that “voluntary association membership contributes to decreased psychological distress and buffers the negative consequences of stressors (Rietschlin 1998); it increases life satisfaction and decreases depression (Van Willigen 1998).”

2. That “Feel Good” Feeling

According to an article in Current Health 1 magazine, in a recent survey by Prudential Insurance Company, the number-one reason that young people named for volunteering was that it made them feel good. Eighty-nine percent said so.

Josh with students from Delta State during their trip to Hattiesburg for Alternative Spring

Josh with students from Delta State during their trip to Hattiesburg for Alternative Spring

3. Improved Mental Health

Steven Smith (1999) indicates that ” volunteering appears to be related to longer life spans and improved mental health,” although he also notes that “…the type of volunteering is likely to make a big difference in the effects on mental health.”

4. Trust, Cooperation, and Citizenship – “Volunteerism can create social capital– that is, social networks of trust and cooperation– that can then promote greater political involvement in public affairs.” (Smith 1999)

5. Improved Communication Skills

In a 1991 article by Marty Brewster et al., various students offer their testimonials which link increased volunteerism to increased communication skills.

6. Positive Opportunities for At-Risk Youth

Many sources indicate, and indeed many organizations have been set up on the premise, that community service projects help redirect energies of at-risk youth to more positive social activities.

7. Political and Civic Awareness

An article by Steven Smith (1999) states that “through participation in voluntary associations, individuals will develop a keener appreciation for civic affairs and understand more completely their obligations to participate in the political process.”

8. Exposure to Diversity, Multiculturalism, and Different Ways of Thinking

Sandra LeSourd (1997) states “perspective taking is the intellectual ability that is germane to affirmation of differences for clarification of the public good.” This means that it is necessary to take the perspectives of others in order to truly understand the benefits that come out of differences.

9. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills

According to Diane Hedin (1989), “the situations in which young people learn most are ones in which they have the opportunity to determine what needs to be done at developmentally appropriate levels of responsibility.”

Service learning really struck my interest, and I love what I do here at Southern Miss as the Director for Community and Civic Engagement. It’s a way for students to learn academic content and serve folks in the community. It brings excitement and energy to learning. It was a way to work in the higher education environment, serve my community, and help students learn the importance of doing the same.

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Making Your Involvement Matter | “Connecting the Dots”

This week’s post is from our Student Activities Assistant Director, Emily Holmes. This is our final post on how you can make your involvement matter and get the most out of student organization involvement here at Southern Miss.

What if I told you that your involvement in college is shaping who you are? What if I told you that the skills and experiences you have while being engaged in college can help you determine your future?

Emily Holmes Assistant Director for Student Activities

Emily Holmes
Assistant Director for Student Activities

If you were like me in college, you wouldn’t have really thought much about it. I got involved because I enjoyed meeting new people, and I loved the traditions and culture on campus and wanted to be a part of it.   As an undergraduate student at Southern Miss, I was involved in Eagle Connection, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, and the University Activities Council (UAC) now the Southern Miss Activities Council (SMAC).  While not “over-involved,” I spent my time in quality experiences I got a lot out of. It wasn’t until I was in my senior year that I began to really start considering what I wanted to do after graduation. Luckily, I had good mentors in these student organizations that encouraged me to consider a future in student affairs. They pointed out my leadership experience in organizations, my dedication to the university and my desire to serve others as quality indicators that I would be good fit for the program.

While a career in student affairs is not for everyone, I encourage you to connect the dots in your undergraduate engagement experience on campus with what is in store for your future. It is never too early to put those plans into action. Here are three ways to do that:

1. Seek opportunities.

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Emily in Kenya during her time as a camp counselor in Eastern Africa
Summer 2006

Not everyone can be the president of a student organization. And maybe that isn’t something you desire, but you should seek out opportunities to be engaged in your organizations.  Maybe you can chair a committee or be the person in charge of an upcoming event. The experiences you get when you embrace these opportunities give you critical skills development. When you are interviewing for jobs upon graduation and a potential employers asks you to expound on your involvement in a specific organization, what do you think they want to hear? They don’t just want to know that you were a member. They want to hear about your leadership development, the skill set you developed, and how you gave back. Seek out the opportunities now!

2. See the potential.

Start to see your out of the classroom experience as just as important as your inside the classroom one. I am not saying academics is not important or that it shouldn’t be your focus. Quite the opposite. You’ve got to make the grades to stay in school to be here and be involved. But, begin to look at your involvement as a potential indicator for future success. Start connecting the experiences you have in these organizations with how that makes you a good candidate for a job when you graduate. Keep track of the skills you are developing and the learning lessons you’ve had to keep focused on putting together the best you possible. Recognize that every experience you have is a potential skill to develop or lesson to learn. And then process those experiences and remember how you grew from them!

3. Connect the dots and put it all together.

Four years goes by really fast. Don’t be afraid to take that leap towards more involvement or better leadership experiences sooner rather than later. If your ultimate goal in college is to graduate with an education that secures you a job, get serious about making that happen. Make a résumé now if you don’t already have one and keep it updated each semester with the leadership opportunities you’ve added. Visit with your mentors on campus to get advice on your future. Begin to see your involvement as a way to grow and develop on campus and then jump right in!

We in the Student Activities Office love watching you grow and enjoy sharing these experiences with you! Come see us if you ever need anything! Best of luck to you this year and in the future! You’re doing great things at Southern Miss and beyond!

 

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Making Your Involvement Matter: Being Present in Your Student Organization Involvement

This week’s post on making involvement matter comes to the Student Activities Blog from our Union and Programs Associate Director, Dr. Michael L. King.

michael 1When I recall my undergraduate years, I would be lying if I said my campus involvement choices were made for any reason other than because I found them interesting and fun.  Some of this involvement included hosting a radio show, singing in the choir, serving on the student government board, playing intramural sports, working a few on-campus jobs.  I loved them all!  With these groups and the members who comprised them, I made many memories by meeting new people, going on trips, staying up late, getting to know friends, solving world problems, and doing whatever else I could find time for!

As I reflect on these experiences today, I realize that regardless of how much time I committed to a group, I always was present.  I know now that by being present, I made my involvement matter. I don’t mean that I simply attended the meetings, events, etc.; rather I made sure to insert myself into the conversation and interact with others in the group.  By being present, I was an active participant, and this participation was key to making those many hours both fun and important to my professional development.  More specifically, I constantly practiced my ability to interact and communicate with others competently, and I didn’t even realize it.

Perhaps it was fitting that several years later I earned a PhD in communication studies.  My focus in this field of study has pointed me to research relevant to this month’s blog post and communication specifically.  For example, the National Communication Association reports that competent communication requires the motivation to make a positive first impression, the knowledge of appropriate social norms, and the skills necessary to accomplish one’s interpersonal goals (Spitzburg, n.d.).  As a soon-to-be college graduate, your attention to these three areas is of great importance. In fact, in a 2012 study employers reported that recent college graduates “too often don’t know how to communicate effectively. [They also] have trouble adapting, problem solving and making decisions . . .” (Scott, 2013).  Your involvement in most campus organizations and many on-campus jobs provide the perfect place—a laboratory, if you will—to practice and perfect these important skills.  As popular Southern Miss professor, Dr. Amy Miller, frequently exclaims, your successful development in these areas will most certainty put your resume toward the top of the pile.

Michael during his radio d.j. days. He's the one on the right in yellow.

Michael during his radio d.j. days… He’s the one on the right in yellow.

When I was an undergraduate, I didn’t know any of this. I was just having fun doing what I liked to do, and I suggest that you do the same.  But, when you do, try hard to be present whenever you can.  While you’re having fun, try to identify and apply concepts you’re learning in your courses.  Seize opportunities to help your group solve a problem, plan an event, strategize for the future, or even attend a conference.

Finally, commit yourself to interact with your peers through both social media and face-to-face exchanges.  We at Southern Miss not only want you to graduate, but we want you to be employed after you walk across the stage.  Making your involvement matter will contribute significantly toward this goal we share.  It worked for me, and I know it will do the same for you.

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Making Involvement Matter | How Will You Make It Count?

MGWilkinson

Megan Wilkinson,
Union Complex Operations Manager

For the month of October our blog will focus on making involvement matter. This means we want to help you see the connections between your involvement here on campus and how it can matter for your future and for the time being in your undergraduate experience. Our first blog post for October is from Megan Wilkinson, the Union Complex’s Operations Manager.

We aren’t there yet. We aren’t at the point where we are satisfied with exactly who we’ve become. Sure some of us may be content or even proud of what we do and who we are. But, we aren’t perfect.

Gamma Rho Chi Training 2006 Meg

Gamma Rho Chi Training 2006

Tri Delta 2007 Meg

Delta Delta Delta 2007

That’s the beauty of college. We’re able to take chances in an effort to test our own limitations. One of the best ways to do that is to put ourselves out there. Sometimes, it’s just joining an organization which will push us.  Sometimes, it’s running for that valued officer position. And then, sometimes, it’s just being a member that is the hardest part. The point is: if you’re just joining, just showing up, or just going through the motions, you aren’t pushing yourself. In order to make your involvement count, you’ll have to push beyond your pre-conceived limitations.

So, take it one step further. Make your involvement count so that you can leave college as an improved version of yourself. You’ll never know until you try.

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Professional Staff Perspective | “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Valencia Walls, Coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services at The University of Southern Mississippi… In 1998, this would have never been the answer given to the age-old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  But here I am, 15 years later!Valencia1

Believe it or not, judging by my credentials after high school, I could have been viewed as a “marginal” student.  I registered late, ACT score was less than stellar, and if I’m honest, my high school average was not what I would consider outstanding.  Nonetheless, in the fall of 1998, I arrived on the campus of Southern Miss eager and ready to conquer the world.  I was excited about leaving my mark on campus…but I was not sure how.  I graduated from a small high school (32 members of my Senior class) and I felt like a minnow in a sea of sharks.  I ended up spending much of my freshman year homesick and disconnected from what I thought were supposed to be the best years of my life.  I reached out to my Resident Assistant in Jones Hall who encouraged me to connect with my hall mates and to join some student organizations.  As my freshman year ended, I made a vow that I would not go through my sophomore year the same way.  I would get involved.  That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

When I returned for my sophomore year, I became a member of the Afro-American Student Organization where I was active in the gospel choir and served on the community service committee.  I was also active in an organization called S.L.O.O. “Students Looking Out for Others”.  I truly enjoyed my involvement in these organizations.  It helped me to connect with my peers, led to networking opportunities and paved the way for many other opportunities.

By my junior year, I had truly found my niche and began to explore the possibility of joining a sorority.  It was always something I wanted to do and is the one experience I truly credit with polishing my love for Southern Miss and my life in general.  In the spring of 2001 I was initiated into Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Lambda Theta chapter.  At the time, I had no idea the opportunities and life decisions that would stem from this one experience.  Six months after my initiation into Zeta, my peers elected me as President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).  As President I had the joy of working in the Office of Greek Life and working closely with my mentors and friends Mrs. Wynde Fitts, Dr. Eddie Holloway and Ms. Delores McNair. My experiences with such wonderful mentors and friends, as an undergraduate, helped to open many professional doors for me.  Upon graduating, I became the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Greek Life at Southern Miss and decided to pursue a Masters in College Student Personnel Services which later helped land a job at Louisiana State University and ultimately brought me back home to Southern Miss.  I count it a privilege and a blessing to give back on a daily basis to not only the university that has given so much to me, but also the organizations.  As a professional, I have advised, ALL of the organizations that I was once a member and I work side-by-side with those who mentored me along the way.  So, you see, involvement as an undergraduate has truly shaped my life!

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April 22, 2001- after my new member presentation show for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

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Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. at the Student Activities Involvement Fair

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NPHC Regional conference in Atlanta, GA. where we swept awards for our council

Valencia7Residence of Jones Hall 3rd floor in 1998

Valencia8Hanging out on the Commons (that’s Centennial Lawn now)

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