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Learning to Lead

Learning to LeadA joint initiative between the Office of Campus Life and Tisch College helps train students to apply leadership skills to active citizenship.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.30.09] Almost five years after Constantin Sabet d'Acre (F'11) founded International Funds for Children's Computer Assistance, an NGO that provides children in developing countries with computers, he found himself at a crossroads.

"I needed more experienced advice on what to do next," he says.

Enter Tisch College and the Office of Campus Life's new collaborative effort-Leaders for Change.

The Leaders for Change initiative was launched in summer 2009 to help students develop the skills needed to be active citizen leaders through a series of hands-on workshops.

"Over the summer, we surveyed the students in terms of the workshops we wanted to put on for student leadership, and then we went to different departments to see what they thought of the idea of leadership workshops," says Melissa DeFreece, coordinator of the Tisch College's Citizenship and Public Service Scholars program and facilitator of the most recent Leaders for Change workshop on Nov. 17. "The Office of Campus life was stirring the pot on their own about the leadership challenge, but we came to join forces."

Participants so far have ranged from CPS Scholars to Greek life philanthropy coordinators. Although the workshops are geared toward undergraduates, some graduate students, like Sabet d'Acre, are also reaping the benefits.

With three workshops under their belt so far, organizers have four more workshops planned for the spring semester, with topics including grant writing, developing leaders and the ethics of speech.

For Sabet d'Acre, the Nov. 17 class, which focused on volunteer management, helped him outline some specific goals for his organization.

"It allowed us to have reference points in what we're doing," he says. "We know all this subconsciously, it's somewhere in the back of everyone's head, but it's very nice to actually have someone saying, 'This is what you should do.'"

At the workshops, the learning goes both ways.

"It's given me a sense of where students are at in their own leadership and their own development, in terms of what could be needed here on the Tufts campus as a whole," says DeFreece. "Students do need and value skill building, because it supplements what they learn in the classroom."

And what they learn, she says, can go a long way.

"It really is about giving students civic knowledge, skills and values, but also applying all of that to the work that they're doing in the community, whether it be on or off campus," DeFreece said. "All of the things that they are doing are things that they can also use when they graduate from Tufts."

Story by Charlotte Steinway (A'10)

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