Every year before classes begin at AU, there is a week of training for student leaders.
The student leadership training consists of between one and two weeks of preparation for the succeeding academic year. Everything from academic coursework to interactive training and spiritual development prepares student leaders to serve in their diverse roles at AU.
The staff of residential halls, CAB, IM Leagues, admissions, first year experience and peer mentors fall into the category of student leaders. The training required for student leadership involves activities and exercises aimed at building relationships and learning leadership qualities.
“I believe we are called to the kingdom work, and for us to do the work that God’s called us to, that kingdom work, we all need to be working together,” said Dr. Chris Confer, the dean of students.
He says that in order to do the work of God, “we have to be on the same page, and we need to have content that’s relevant. Every year I change up some of the things that we do—not only me, but with my director team to make sure that we’re covering things that are relevant.”
Mckala Lindsey is a peer mentor who became involved in training as a team member.
“We started off with some team bonding so we could get to know each other,” Lindsey said. “We became comfortable talking to each other because, in order to work together as leaders, we need to be on the same page and be able to work well together.”
Additionally, students were given Title IX training. They also talked about counselling.
“We talked about what to do if a student is depressed or if they have anxiety, and how to handle the situation so that we can best take care of the students,” Lindsey said.
As diverse as the training was during the program, student leaders also have to take a spring semester course for student leadership as a prerequisite for the succeeding academic year they are to train and serve.
MJ Furnish, a sophomore catcher for the baseball team and a peer mentor, detailed the spring course.
“There was a spring semester course that we received credit for, and that was every Monday night. We spent a couple hours in Hartung 101 with all the other student leaders,” Furnish said.
“There were many different speakers who came in,” added the baseball catcher. “Each had their own topics and presentations prepared. Each week we had a different lesson. We also had different books that we were required to read.”
Furnish, who is an accounting major also studying for a minor in computer science, said that he learned more than he expected.
“I learned that there are many more things I have to be aware of as a leader—more than just being a peer mentor and in charge of my classes all sorts of issues going on outside of the classroom, and issues bigger than what you may see on the surface,” he said.
Walker Spahr is a senior on the intramural staff who is completing his third and final year as a student leader.
“For the IM staff, we do a lot of our own training, and we just attend the impact day.”
“[Impact day] was a really long day,” Spahr said. “It was almost 12 hours long. It started off with speakers talking about depression and how to handle suicidal thoughts. Then, at the end of the night, we had worship and Pastor Tamara Shelton talked about our new word, or motto, the flourish. It was very helpful, very useful information. This is my third year going through that, and it was very redundant, but some of that redundancy is a good thing.”
Other students thought that this year’s chapel theme will influence how student leaders interact with their peers.
“The chapel theme this year is flourish,” said Lindsey. “It’s about growing through God and God’s love.”
“I think [the chapel theme is] really important for us to encourage [new students] to go out and be a part of this community – to get involved and go to chapel, go to church,” Lindsey continued. “By doing these good works, and encouraging them to do these good works, they’re going to grow in their faith and grow in their relationship with God.”
“I think it takes a very personable person who wants to talk to people” in order to be a student leader, Lindsey said. “It’s a lot about just making friends and building the community that Anderson’s so well known for; painting a community of mutual respect for people.”
Furnish echoed Lindsey in his thoughts about the qualities a student leader needs to have in order to endure the job.
He added, “I believe it takes commitment, and it takes good time-management skills, as well as compassion and being able to put yourself in the freshmen’s shoes who are going through all kinds of change and tough stuff.”
CAB is also involved in student leadership training. Sophomore Alana Weber, a dance and math education major, is serving her first year as a student leader with CAB.
“We had personal training with our returners. We had five CAB staff returners,” Weber said. “We worked hands on with them, planned different events, talking through CAB situations—like if a student comes to the office and they want to sign up for an event, how we help them out. We also had a whole day of impact training at Eastside Church of God. We all got together and talked about spiritual life at AU, how to get other students connected. We talked about Title IX and what to do in those situations.”
After two consecutive years of being a CAB staff member, senior Kathy Gutierrez Eberly is finishing her career in student leadership as a peer mentor.
“Leadership training week is my favorite week of the year; that and move-in weekend,” she said. “It’s a week packed with nurturing influencers. The people from the Student Life department really pour into you that week.”
“We have a worship evening in the afternoon; we hear from Tamara Shelton, Dean Confer and Maggie Platt,” said Eberly about impact day training. “We did have a really cool introduction time where we all had to come up with a skit with our staffs and perform in front of everybody, and that’s how we introduced each other. They’re all pretty comical skits from Saturday Night Live and made-up skits.” Eberly’s group did an SNL skit called “The Sound of Music” that she said was very fun to perform.
The student leaders encouraged their peers to consider leadership training for themselves. Many believe that the training is beneficial for building a strong community of dedicated students that seek to serve and give back to AU.