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Creating a Culture of Firestarters : . How to Foster Effective Student Leaders. Ben Datema, Student Sustainability Advisor University of Missouri Department of Student Life Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education 2011 National Conference.

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Creating a Culture of Firestarters:

How to Foster Effective Student Leaders

Ben Datema, Student Sustainability Advisor

University of Missouri Department of Student Life

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education 2011 National Conference

Students are an essential part of a robust campus sustainability movement. Their involvement is not only educationally valuable for them, it can also expedite your projects and allow you to overcome barriers that would otherwise bring your efforts to a screeching halt. But how do you spark students’ interest and turn them into valuable allies?

CHANGE

IMPACT

First Steps

increases

  • Go to events where interested students will be and actively recruit them, don’t wait for them to come to you.
  • Watch for passion – who keeps showing up?
  • Treat student recruitment like a professional networking activity. Establish contact with as many students as you can and get your name and your services out there. Pass out business cards and actively make contact after your initial meeting.

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Résumé Builders

Social Connections

PRODUCTIVITY

Foster a Relationship

  • Get to know the student as a person.
  • Talk to the student about his/her interests – what do they do in their free time? What sets them on fire? Where does their passion lie?
  • Connect them with other students. Begin to create a community, or integrate them into an established community. Social connection is often a huge motivator for students.
  • Prove your value to the student. If they don’t see value in working with you, they’re going to go it alone. Show that you can help them accomplish things more quickly and more effectively without completely taking over their project. Demonstrate that you are a source of useful information and mentorship.

Mentorship

To Try New Things

EFFICIENCY

Scholarships

Experience

DECISIVENESS

Put Your Students to Work

Free Food

Good Grades

  • Talk to your students about campus needs and where they may be able to apply their talents.
  • Provide tasks and roles that are appropriate for their abilities, interests, and experience level.
  • Starts with small, general roles that aren’t critical to the large plan and gradually make tasks more specific and important.
  • Let the student set the pace, but push them to be realistically ambitious.
  • Lead by example and set the tone with your own behavior. As a leader, you have enormous power to establish and influence organizational culture, whether that culture is laziness and incompetence or professionalism, efficiency and performance.
  • Don’t preclude tasks just because a student has no experience with them. Let them try new things. Remember: college is supposed to be educational.
  • Allow room for failure. Treat failure as an opportunity to improve rather than a reason to be disappointed. Give students permission to fail sometimes.

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To Develop Their Abilities

Professional Networking

CONFIDENCE

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What do students want?

Graduation

To Have Fun

KNOWLEDGE

To Have an Impact

To Get Out of the Classroom

Get Out of the Way!

  • If you’re doing your job well, the student should begin to show increasing initiative and independence over time. They should also begin to develop a body of knowledge that will make them more credible to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Give the student more room for autonomy without decreasing your level of support and availability.
  • Students generally have a much greater degree of diplomatic immunity on campus than staff or faculty. Encourage them to strategically put this to use to advance your mutual agenda as they become more influential.
  • Talk about next steps and future career goals. Get them thinking about how the skills they have gained with you can transfer into their career.

To Learn New Skills

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TRAINING

EXPERIENCE