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Currents: progressive scholars learn to lead

Progressive Scholars Learn How to Lead the Way

A small group of Colby-Sawyer students from the Progressive Scholars program awoke in the early hours on Saturday, Oct. 2, to board a van bound for Amherst, Mass. Accompanied by Professor of Social Sciences and Education Joe Carroll and Associate Dean of International and Diversity Programs Pamela Serota Cote, the students attended the Best in Class: Building Skills, Changing Communities conference sponsored by New England Campus Compacts and the Jenzabar Foundation at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The goals of the conference were to strengthen students' leadership skills and kick off a year of student outreach and programming. The interactive, skills-focused workshops addressed ways to increase civic participation on campuses.

Nicholas V. Longo, assistant professor of Public and Community Service Studies and director of the Global Studies Program at Providence College, is the author of Why Community Matters: Connecting Education with Civic Life (SUNY Press, 2007) and served as the conference's keynote speaker. He led an absorbing morning conversation on “The Next Generation of Engagement,” in which he discussed with students how they see engagement on their campus, the possibilities for taking engagement to the next level, and strategies for making this happen.

The highlight of the afternoon was a session called “Language as a Tool for Change,” during which the Colby-Sawyer students initiated a dynamic discussion of the meaning and interpretation of the word diversity on college campuses.

Bernardine Bernard '12, from Cambridge, Mass., says she picked up valuable information from the conference about ways club leadership is structured and how to open the campus to a new approach for social awareness. "In the Next Generation of Engagement workshop, for example, students had a chance to discuss how we see engagement on our campus and ways to take that engagement to the next level and strategies for making it happen," says Bernard. "I have a list of goals and innovative programs such as a Reach Out Center (for reaching out to the community) and an online bulletin board to keep track of club activities around campus instead of bombarding students with emails. I pulled a lot of information from this conference and how to apply much of what I learned to the Colby-Sawyer College community."

This conference is one of several new leadership opportunities that the new associate dean, Pamela Serota Cote, will initiate in an effort to provide more structure for the Progressive Scholars program. “I want this to be a dynamic program,” she says, “in which the students are learning valuable leadership skills at the same time as serving the campus community through the diversity of perspectives that they can offer.”