Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.
The Arts Leadership Cohort is a specialty floor located in Lister Center that seeks to support and cultivate a sense of leadership in its members. We are a group of university students that engage in our community through volunteering, fundraising and driving positive change. As the leader of the Cohort, it is my duty to organize and facilitate these experiences for the members. Most events we organize prove to be successful and beneficial to both the members of the cohort and the greater community. However, like anything else, executing these events takes some organization and processing power.
Stage 1: Generating Ideas for Events – “Look at your Group”
In the past semester we have become closer as a Cohort, which has made me realize that every group is different and preferences do vary. It is essential to program events according to the group’s preferences, but provide access to diverse activities to give them a wholesome experience. Last semester the activities of the Cohort were volunteer-heavy. We volunteered both on and off campus – which proved to be fruitful for the Cohort.
Stage 2: Process and execution
Some of the on-campus events that the Cohort was involved with during the Fall 2013 term were tied to the Career Center and the Faculty of Arts. This included the “Open House” and “Careers Day” events. Setting up events such as these requires approaching the friendly staff at university agencies and seeing how you can help them. Most agencies on (and off) campus are always positive about people looking to volunteer.
The off-campus volunteer activities we participated in included volunteering at the Edmonton Food Bank and the Salvation Army, among others. Setting up volunteer opportunities at these events involves finding a contact at the organization and getting in touch with them to set up a date that the group would like to volunteer (I find that calling the organization in advance is an effective way to obtain a direct response). From my experience, most organizations seek out groups with numbers ranging anywhere between three to twelve people.
The final and most essential part of this is to ensure that you follow through with the expected number of volunteers. I always tell the cohort members that the last minute drop-out of volunteers places strain on both the organization and the short-handed group of volunteers.
It also takes a proactive mind to identify the needs of the students in the Cohort. Aside from the volunteer activities that we undertake, there are other events that are organized in order to encourage leadership in (and general well-being of) the cohort members. They have been involved in a session on “Stress Management” by the Mental Health Center, a seminar by the Career Center on “What to do with an Arts Degree,” several “Leadership Workshops” facilitated by student staff on the Cohort and myself, and a “Meet and Greet” with the Faculty of Arts organized by the Faculty of Arts at the beginning of the year.
I believe that the importance of these events is vital as they provide the members with access to resources that they may not have otherwise sought out. By establishing valuable connections, it also provides them with other avenues to explore in their academic life or university careers.
Through the small part we play to influence progressive change, the Cohort benefits its members and leaves a positive impact on the greater community as a whole. I firmly believe that it is great for students to be involved in their community and do so confidently knowing that both their residence and faculty support them.
The Arts Leadership Cohort in Winter 2014
This new semester bears even more volunteer activities, workshops and sessions with campus organizations. We also plan to expand our reach into some fundraising and awareness campaigns for a couple of non-profit charitable organizations.
The Arts Leadership Cohort’s slogan this year is “Challenge Accepted,” and so far this spirit has been carried forward into all our events and activities. My hope is that the members ignite this same spirit in the people they may encounter in the months and years to come.