ULead prompts students to take leadership positions

Two students of the Master of Divinity program held an event for students of color called ULead in the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity office on April 6.

The purpose of the ULead event was to create dialogue among minorities to prompt them to apply for different leadership positions on campus. As seminary students that have held various leadership roles on campus in undergraduate and graduate school, Norris Spagner and Adedeji Olajide started the discussion with sharing their leadership testimonies.

Norris Spagner, an undergraduate alumni and second year seminary student, talked about why he chose to be in leadership. Spagner said, “The reason I chose to be in leadership while I went here for undergraduate was because I didn’t see any students of color in leadership outside of the ethnic organizations.” Not only did this sadden him, but it encouraged him to be different. With the push of mentors and male figures on campus, he eventually took on roles that he considers himself fortunate to have had. During his senior year of college, he was co-president of the Black Student Association (BSA) and a part of the Kaleo salt team. Through these experiences, he was given the opportunity to continue on in his academic endeavors with a scholarship that has covered majority of his schooling in the Divinity program.

Spagner “encourages students to use their voice” in leadership positions because it allows connections to be made, perspectives to be heard and opinions to be stretched. Spagner credits his leadership positions as avenues through which he was heard in such a way that he wouldn’t have been otherwise.

Olajide, another undergrad alumni and first year seminary student, spoke on his APU journey and how he took up leadership positions shortly after finishing his time in football. As a football player, he mentioned that it was hard for him to be in leadership. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a voice on campus and decided to apply to different arenas on campus like Student Government Association (SGA), Black Men Something Institute (BMSI) and the Black Student Association (BSA). He admitted to wanting to do everything, but that leadership taught him the benefit to having boundaries. He ended up saying yes to a number of different things that he just took on working for senior chapel, working at a middle school and being the finance coordinator of BSA.

He said that being around other people in leadership also played a factor in him wanting to be a leader. He was able to meet a lot of his friends and now colleagues in his current position as an intern for the campus pastors’ office.

“You just never know what your positions in undergraduate will lead you into,” Olajide said.

After their leadership discussion, they opened up the floor for students in the room to dialogue about their leadership experience(s) or lack thereof as students of color on campus. Many of the students in attendance were leaders of some sort already, but discussed how they are often times looked at or perceived by the greater APU community.

One African American student spoke up about how there weren’t any black students as part of the alpha promo video. However, she applied anyway. She assumed that because she looked differently and was not of the majority that her group of students wouldn’t be as thrilled to have her as a leader. To her surprise, she felt more accepted than she had originally anticipated.

Another student had a similar experience, but didn’t receive the position to which she had applied. She reflected on her interview and said that she was open and honest with her interviewers about not being as energetic as the “typical” alpha leader. She said that she wanted them to know that though she might not offer those qualities of an alpha leader, she does present others that are just as beneficial. She now questions if she didn’t get the position because of her honesty at the start of her interview.

Danielle Harris, a first year College Counseling and Student Development (CCSD) student at APU and undergraduate alumni, jumped in and spoke of her leadership positions in an effort to inspire students in their leadership pursuits. Harris has worked in a number of on-campus offices and has made connections at each that have opened doors for her to get involved at other institutions as well. Though she recognizes that leadership is a great experience and something to be a part of, she urged students not to stretch themselves too thin. Harris’ advice to students is “Say yes to good things.”

She told students of how she had been involved in so many leadership positions that her grades suffered, and it wasn’t worth losing her academic standing over. Harris prompts students to “learn how to say no when no is needed” and yes to the things they feel capable of taking on. By the end of her testimony, she reminded students that they are all leaders regardless of they racial backgrounds and socioeconomic class.

Since students enjoyed the dialogue discussion, Spagner and Olajide anticipate having more discussions in the near future.

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