The Leadership Fellows: Educating their Peers While Gaining Skills for their Own Success


By Julie Tucker, Coordinator of Assessment & Research

Students’ co-curricular involvement at Denison is more than a way to fill their days or meet new people.  While we certainly hope that students’ co-curricular involvement allows them to make friends and enjoy their time on the hill, we intend that these experiences provide students the opportunity to gain and strengthen skill sets that prepare them for their careers and experiences beyond Denison.  One such experience is the position of a Leadership Fellow.  Leadership Fellows are peer educators who assist in the planning of leadership programs (e.g. LeaderShape, DU Lead) and create new leadership-related workshops for campus organizations.

To provide insight into what the Leadership Fellows learn from their experience and to provide them with an opportunity to reflect, we asked them to rate themselves on a variety of skills twice during their time as a Fellow last year (August 2012 and April 2013).  As shown in the table below, the Fellows rated certain skills as being stronger at the end of the academic year than they did at the beginning of the year.

Leadership Fellows

As a result of their involvement with this program, 71.4% of the Fellows indicated a “large” or “moderate” increase in each of the following skillsets over the course of the year:

  •  developing an organization inclusive of teambuilding, collaboration and strategic planning
  • creating formal and informal networks with other student leaders to build awareness of the issues facing their organizations
  • acting/making decisions in congruence with personal values and the college’s mission

As interesting as the quantitative data are, what’s more exciting is hearing the Leadership Fellows discuss skills they’ve gained from their experience:

 “Because there’s not a person in charge of us, we really have to work at building consensus and asking for help and collaborating with each other…Everyone’s responsible to collaborate on that one task together. We do have to work a lot with each other and develop those meaningful relationships. Sometimes…a lot of differences arise, but in the end, we have to come to one agreement, which probably makes our decision better in the end because everyone’s behind it fully.”

 “This year we worked to collaborate with other organizations…and that’s always very rewarding, but it can be challenging when the org maybe has a different mission than you or different goals and so really trying to compromise and see how you can both benefit each other. I’ve definitely learned how to do that this year.”

 “With LeaderShape…you have a huge to-do list and it’s such a huge program…We have co-coordinators for a lot of leadership programs…so you have to be responsible for someone else too and you have to coordinate with them. I made sure I was more organized and planned better just because I knew I also had to work with [her] on it so I didn’t want to let her down. Because it’s such a massive scale program and there’s so many details and intricacies to it, I felt like I did a lot better at planning and organizing to prepare for it.”

 “Logistically, I got a lot stronger about viewing things…in terms of how to execute something effectively and efficiently and not to the same extent that I’ve been challenged to do that before. I think that was huge. You owe it to your co-coordinator. You also owe it to the participants. [This] made me change how I approach and view problems; it was more from a logistical standpoint and less from a big-picture standpoint and I thought it was really enhancing to step out of my comfort zone in that way.”

 In hearing their voices, it’s clear that not only do our Leadership Fellows provide Denison with fantastic programs on leadership development, but they gain skills from this experience.  Their involvement in this program provided them with opportunities to build and practice skills in consensus-building, mission-oriented planning, event execution, and teamwork—skills that inevitably will contribute to their personal, professional, and civic success extending beyond their four years on the hill.

Julie Tucker