Popularity and the Stereotypical APU Student Leader

Many students are feeling underprepared and disregarded when it comes to leadership positions within the APU community. Due to the variation in training that on-campus leaders receive, we as students are forced into a hierarchy of popularity and leadership stereotypes.

I am an APU student, which means I am supposed to be a “difference maker.” As an RAR (Resident Advisor’s Roommate), leadership minor, past D-Group leader and Mexico Outreach team leader, APU has incessantly emphasized my ability to change the world. The only problem is, I am not this picture-perfect APU leader. There is a stereotypical outlook that people, myself included, have about the positions on campus and the type of people who should be leading them.

There is an assumption within the APU community that RAs (Resident Advisors) and Alpha leaders are bubbly, empathetic and extroverted; they are what many people would consider to be the popular ones. The reality is, most of these leaders do not match this description, myself included. Can those of us who do not fit this mold still be “difference makers”? Why does this stereotype even exist?

I believe it is partly due to the style of training different leaders receive.

The popular, well-supported groups on campus go through incredible training programs in preparation for their leadership roles. These long trainings build the hype about these positions, adding to their high status.

For Alpha leaders, this includes Bridges, a week long trip to walk alongside the homeless in San Francisco.

Freya Tuazon, a junior applied exercise science major, noted that she sees how some aspects of the training feed into stereotypes.

“There’s a sense of popularity or importance that comes out of it once you are done,” Tauzon said.

Considering the amount of hard work that RAs and Alpha leaders face throughout the semester, I understand why they go through such extensive training. What I do not understand is why Bridges or Walkabout builds a community that maintains a higher status of popularity.

Lacey Litzinger, a senior social work major and Adams Hall RA, gave her opinion about how the Walkabout program affects the community.

“Sometimes RA is held higher [in regard], while groups like D-Group are minimized,” Litzinger said. “As a tradition, it makes you feel like you’re part of something more.”

Although APU clearly strives to build community within leadership groups, Administrators seem to be unconcerned about the less popular organizations on campus. Regardless of the reasoning behind the various types of training programs at APU, students are impacted by the attention some leaders receive over others. This shapes our stereotypes of one another.

Those who have extensive, community-building leadership training are raised up together to be a special type of “difference maker,” while the rest of the student leaders on campus fall into discouragement.

Katie Bennett, a senior English major and former D-Group and SALT leader, shared her experience with leadership training in Discipleship ministries, a group seemingly not as popular as Rez-Life.

“I remember initially feeling like D-Group leader training was short,” Bennett said. “But soon realized that the support I received from the Discipleship office made up for it.”

Although crucial to a good leadership experience, feelings of support unfortunately do not transmit throughout all organizations on campus, especially in those that experience less extensive training.

Amanda Mahoni, a senior psychology major and the president of the Pacific Islanders Organization, noted her experience with these issues.

“I think that some positions do [have stereotypes] in terms of doing too much and having the authority to overstep in a position,” Mahoni said. “I would love more support for the club (PIO) from the APU community.”

Mahoni’s thoughts represent the concerns of many student leaders on campus. This lack of support and recognition is due to the focus on more popular organizations, usually those with tight-knit communal training programs. This creates a certain stereotype of an APU leader—the “difference maker”—leaving other leaders who do not fit the norm discouraged.

I strongly believe that anyone can lead if he/she has the will to do so. The “difference maker” is not necessarily found within the well-known student in leadership, but rather within any leader who receives the respect and support of the APU community.

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