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New program offers students a ‘catalyst’ for leadership development

As part of a growing campaign to further student leadership development, William & Mary undergraduates recently had the chance to participate in a one-day program designed to strengthen their leadership skills and put them into action.

Students work on a project together during the Catalyst program. Photo courtesy of Anne Arseneau.Catalyst, sponsored by the Office of Student Leadership Development and facilitated by LeaderShape, Inc., was held in the Sadler Center on Sunday.  The Catalyst program encouraged participants to identify their personal strengths, recognize strengths in others and discuss how to better organize and motivate them to action. Forty-one students attended the event, which included activities such as small group conversations, large group interactions and opportunities for personal reflection.

“Our students will thrive as they come to understand themselves as leaders in spheres that matter to them, and the wider William & Mary community is made stronger by their applying what they learn to situations right here on campus,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler. “We know our students leave Williamsburg to become leaders in communities far and near, and programs like this one give them the confidence and the skills to effect positive change wherever they may be.”

The Catalyst program is part of new efforts from the Office of Student Leadership Development (OSLD) to understand how William & Mary looks at and furthers student leadership development. The OSLD believes that student leadership development is the key to becoming engaged citizens in every position of society, not just those of leadership, said Drew Stelljes, assistant vice president for student engagement and leadership and director of the Office of Community Engagement. According to the OSLD mission statement, leaders “develop a skill set to adapt to change, craft creative solutions, and seize opportunities” and are “moved by what they care about to make the world a better place.”

“We aspire to create a campus culture where students examine their talents and joys and use them to address the world’s greatest needs,” said Stelljes. “We believe there is no better place than W&M to cultivate in students an intense desire to emerge as engaged citizens and effective leaders.”

The Catalyst program encouraged participants to identify their personal strengths, recognize strengths in others and discuss how to better organize and motivate them to action. Photo courtesy of Anne Arseneau.Catalyst and its parent organization, LeaderShape, Inc. ask students to “reflect on questions [they] consider important to [their] work”.

“With so many opportunities for involvement and engagement at William & Mary, it is the perfect practice field for students to learn how to more effectively be involved in creating positive change,” said Anne Arseneau, director of student leadership development.

OSLD is working toward becoming a national model for student leadership development and will continue to offer more leadership building programs over the course of the year. Hosting Catalyst allowed the OSLD office “an opportunity to engage a greater range of students in exploring their own leadership development,” said Arseneau.

“Effective leaders know and understand themselves, and this was a day that focused on giving individuals the space and opportunity to discern what they care about, what their strengths are, and how they can best contribute to positive sustainable change in the communities where they live, work, and play.”