This year’s Leadership Development Series, a program run by the Student Activities Office and the Bowdoin Student Government, launched with a a strong start as enrollment increased from last year.
The program, which has run intermittently for the past few years, brings speakers from members of the Bowdoin campus and the wider community to talk to students on Fridays about practical leadership skills.
Several changes have been made that Nathan Hintze, associate director of student activities, hopes will make the program more accessible. Last year, interested students had to commit to attending a full-year schedule of ten speakers.
As a result, 33 students registered at the beginning of last year, but by the spring that number had declined to 13, said Daniel Mejia-Cruz ’16, who attended the sessions last year and helped plan this year’s sessions.
“I really enjoyed a lot of the sessions, but there was definitely a problem with retention,” he said.
In response, the program this year is divided into two “semesters” with five speakers each. Hintze hopes this give more flexibility to students who schedule classes on Fridays and athletes who are in season for part of the year.
This year, 35 students have signed up for the full schedule, and 20 more for individual sessions. Mejia-Cruz said that the first session last week, with President Barry Mills, attracted around 50 students.
The sessions still meet on Fridays, but during an hour and a half lunch catered by Dining Services instead of later in the afternoon for three hours.
Ryan Davis ’15, who participated last year and enrolled again this year, thinks it’s an improvement: “You have a shorter, more defined time,” he said. “There’s less waiting around and more active ‘doing’.”
Mejia-Cruz also said that the Student Activities Office has made an effort to make speakers’ topics as relevant to their backgrounds as possible. For example, Katy Longley, senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer at the College, talks about negotiating contracts, and Allen Springer, chair of the government & legal studies department, speaks about leading meetings effectively.
Additionally, students are now able to register to attend individual sessions. While Hintze says that preference is still given to students who are able to commit to a full slate of five sessions, the new option gives those with tight schedules who are still interested in the sessions a chance to participate.
So far, the first session has received high marks. Mejia-Cruz thought Mills gave a “great presentation” and lauded him for keeping the speech focused on his personal experiences.
Davis thought it was “really informative” and appreciated the way Mills spoke about different leadership styles.
For now, Hintze says, all class years are represented, but first years and sophomores outnumbered upperclassmen. He doesn’t think this is a negative: “It’s great that they are so interested in becoming leaders on campus,” he said.
But looking forward, Hintze says he also wants the program to reach more campus leaders.
“I would love to have all of our club leaders participate,” he said. “There are always new skills that they can learn, especially during their senior year.”