Hundreds of UBC students work and learn in the community - photo by Chloe Lewis
UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 8 | Aug. 3, 2006
A Buffet of Leadership Opportunities
BY Allison Dunnet
A decade ago at UBC, we didn’t believe that a talk by Stephen Lewis could pack the Chan Centre or that 600 students would participate in a Student Leadership Conference on a Saturday. Few faculty or staff at UBC thought that our students were interested in volunteering, leadership development or community issues.
How wrong we were.
The Student Leadership Conference, Imagine UBC (first-year orientation program), and Community Service Learning and other campus programs draw hundreds of volunteer students on an annual basis. We told students they could be more than a number at UBC and now they arrive expecting to be engaged in the community.
Today’s students don’t ask if they will get involved, but rather how. The number of opportunities on offer to students is staggering. Do you go to Sweden for an exchange year or go work on community water project in Ecuador? Maybe you get more deeply involved in your student residence, International House, or run for a position in the AMS. In the decade ahead, this buffet of opportunities will continue to expand — perhaps with international or Canadian service learning opportunities.
Increasingly the quality of the student leadership and international experiences is a major consideration in choice of university. That students can engage in discussion with the likes of Al Gore and David Suzuki, or design and teach their own upper year seminar, makes UBC a destination of choice.
Chad Hyson, the head of the Leadership and Involvement Program on campus believes that “as we attract more students and faculty who are passionate about leadership and global citizenship, we will gain student leaders with incredible prior experience and they will have higher expectations of our programs.”
Even more important than continuing to expand our opportunities for students will be enhancing the quality of these experiences. Higher level leadership and citizenship learning will be risky. New student-driven projects will not have tidy endings; the learning will be intense and profound.
While we expect in the decade ahead that students will focus their leadership and global citizenship education on issues such as HIV AIDS and global warming, they will also focus their uncompromising eyes on the UBC community. Our student leaders will ask tougher questions of us, and will demand higher ethics and a larger role in campus decision making. We see this already with student-driven ethical purchasing policies and better sustainability practices in our student programs.
If the Class of 2020 is to graduate innovative young entrepreneurs, effective community leaders, and perhaps a couple of ethical whistleblowers, student leadership and global citizenship will need to work its way into all corners of the UBC community.
Allison Dunnet is a UBC Student Development Officer and founder of Humanities 101.