Volume 83 | Issue 5
September/October 2015

From the President: Inspire Leadership

Sarah Aikman

In 2001, I made a trip to Bloomington, Ind., to serve as an I-LEAD® facilitator. The Institute for Leadership Education and Development (I-LEAD®) is one of ACUI’s premier student programs and prepares students to develop skills that will serve them as leaders in any situation, regardless of role, organization, or environment. There are many people involved with I-LEAD® who assist in the success of the program. These people include the staff members from the Central Office, student programs volunteers, curriculum committee members, facilitators, interns, the cooks who make sure the group is well fed, and the host institution staff. This program has had a formidable impact on hundreds of past participants. The role of student intern is a coveted position. Many students who attend I-LEAD® vow to return as an intern. It is also a competitive position since each year only two or three students are selected from a large pool of candidates. It is a volunteer role that keeps the undergraduate and graduate students involved with ACUI. At this year’s I-LEAD® program three students served as interns. Let’s meet one of them.

Sarah – AlyssaAlyssa Singleton is from San Antonio. She is a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and during her first year she joined the Tech Activities Board as a way to get involved. She served on the special programs committee, which planned events like laser tag, ice skating, and mini golf. As a third-year student, Alyssa served as the coordinator of the special programs committee and the following year became president of the Tech Activities Board. These roles provided her with great leadership experiences. 

In 2012, Alyssa received a scholarship to attend I-LEAD® at the University of Missouri–Columbia. She had heard about the institute from others at her school and was nervous but excited to attend. Alyssa shared with me that her experience at I-LEAD® was “life-changing.” That phrase is used a lot when people describe the program, so I asked her to elaborate. Alyssa said: “In 40 years if someone asked me how I got to where I am today, I-LEAD® would be part of that conversation. It had such an impact on me [that] it will be a part of me forever.” This is one of the main reasons Alyssa applied to be an I-LEAD® intern this year. As an intern she relished the opportunity to facilitate sessions, work on logistics, and help those in attendance have that “light bulb” moment. She was thrilled to be able to give back to a program that has given her so much.

Alyssa’s experience with the Tech Activities Board and I-LEAD® introduced her to the field of higher education. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in biology, she pursued a master’s degree in higher education at Texas Tech. She developed a strong foundation through her assistantship with fraternal life, her employment in the union as a building manager, and her volunteer roles with the Tech Activities Board. She graduated in May and accepted a position at the University of Texas–Austin. Her goal is to inspire students like her mentors, Kimberly Simon-Akins, Jon Mark Bernal, and Claire Maginness did for her. 

In closing, I asked Alyssa as a new professional how she would convince a student she worked with to attend I-LEAD®. “I would share a personal story of my experience,” she said. “The program helps you find your strength and confidence. It shows you how as a small piece of the puzzle you help make a beautiful picture.”

Sarah – ILEADSpeaking with Alyssa brought back many wonderful I-LEAD® memories for me. I had such a great time as a facilitator in 2001 that I did it again in 2002 and 2004. In July, Alyssa and a cohort of 153 completed this year’s I-LEAD® program. For decades, this annual event has been the only way to participate in the institute. However, just last month, ACUI held the first sessions of I-LEAD® Connect, a new program that brings the institute to member campuses. I’m thrilled that we can extend the reach of the institute so more student employees and organization officers can benefit from this focused leadership development experience. The curriculum is packaged such that it can be customized to offer cross-departmental participation and make the best use of campus resources. It adds yet another premier program to help develop student leaders like Alyssa.

Each year, I commit to sending students to I-LEAD®. I can’t wait for them to return to campus and share their stories. They may have been nervous, unsure, or indifferent about going, but they always come back renewed, changed, and thankful for having attended. With that in mind, I urge you: Before July, make plans to send your students to I-LEAD® 2016. In April, apply to serve as a facilitator. And immediately, as a supervisor or advisor, consider bringing I-LEAD® Connect to your campus. It is an unmatched, inspiring experience.