Posted February 11, 2011 by Elizabeth Stringer 

My College Experience as a Student Leader

The following is an entry by Ethan Lobenstine, University of Rochester, to ACUI's Remark. competition in late 2010 discussing his experiences as a student leader.

When I look back on my freshman year, I see a very different person. That freshman standing on the doorstep of Gilbert Hall was full of childish enthusiasm, without focus, casting about for meaning in the world of possibilities presented by the university. Today I stand here, slightly taller, with focused passions and sense of direction. What did he change? How did that freshman find himself? For me, than began with my acceptance into After Hours, the university's co-ed a capella group.

After Hours gave me a sense of purpose and pride. When I came into the group, we were fractured socially and didn't sound our best. I saw this and I resolved to change the group. I began running rehearsals, demanding more of each member, pushing us to go farther. I saw that I had the opportunity to make a difference, and this suffused me with a sense of purpose; it was suddenly my personal goal to elevate After Hours, to make us sound great instead of acceptable, to make each one of us care about our sound like I did. Thorough consistent effort, the group has changed dramatically; each new year was a turning page for the groups attitude, taking ourselves more seriously and committing ourselves to further excellence. My greatest moment of pride I've felt in my life to date was listening to our new recordings for the first time. I put on my headphones over the summer and heard the first mix from our producer, and I cried; the feeling of having your dreams realized in a wave of sound is incomparable.

Of course, this would never have been possible if I had not changed as well. Leadership in a student organization forces us to change in order to accomplish our goals, and demands from us greater maturity and professionalism, which are such important parts of life after college. Especially in performance groups, we must find intrinsic motivation, find internal supports that drive us to excellence. There's nobody giving us grades or setting a standard for our performance, so we have to search within for the drive to raise those standards. This teaches us how to excel without supervision. Furthermore, in order to keep a group moving forward, a student leader must learn significant social skills. Since joining After Hours I have mediated numeral conflicts between members and learned how to earn the respect and attention of the group without being aggressive. By demanding internal motivation, tuned social skills, and professionalism, leadership in campus groups helps prepare us for life beyond college.

The most wonderful thing about my story and the growth of After Hours is that it isn't unique. Across this campus, in more than 200 student groups, students are taking charge, pushing their groups to new heights, and learning the skills and earning the pride that will help them succeed once they leave this cherished place. Our school calendars are filled to overflowing with performances, events, research, and competitions, each one led by students trying to make their mark on the university. Theses student leaders are our most powerful testament to the diversity of passions that suffuses this campus. Thank you.

This was posted as submitted.

Elizabeth Stringer

Elizabeth Stringer is the Senior Manager of Marketing & Communication at ACUI.

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