NYU’s Leadership Week, during which students had the opportunity to participate in personal development and skill-building events, goes unnoticed by far too many. It is important to reflect on the state of student leadership at NYU. Everyone wants to be a leader, but there are not enough resources to accommodate. While there are many opportunities to get involved at NYU, such as Program Board, Inter-Residence Hall Council, Class Activities Board or Leadership Fellows, there are far fewer resources exclusively dedicated to students wishing to develop their own ideas of leadership and practice these skills.
The NYU Leadership Initiative is an institution on campus whose aim is to create a network among students who have a commitment to improving the world around them. Founded in 2013, the Leadership Initiative is just now getting its own physical space on campus. It is split into three offices: the Reynolds Program for Social Entrepreneurship, the Office of Global Awards and the Leadership Development Office at NYU Stern. With outstanding staff and students, the Leadership Initiative is truly searching to take root on campus and promote itself and its missions through efforts such as Leadership Week.
Through practice-based programs such as workshops or the Leadership Fellows, the Initiative promotes community development. Often, discussion surrounds impact and how the learned techniques or abilities can be used for lasting benefits. Whereas institutions such as NYU’s Stern School of Business prioritize networking and skill development related to leadership, they also lack the strong, intentional attention to help our communities. Institutions based on service and social justice, such as the Center for Student Activities, Leadership and Service and or the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, lack strong leadership development, but the Leadership Initiative takes a vigorous approach to examining the intersections of social responsibility and leadership. The word leadership itself has an ambiguous definition: “the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.” Students are encouraged to think about leadership in terms of themselves and their experiences, discovering their own definitions and applications of a skill so central to any graduate school or career efforts. The Initiative narrows the definition as such: “the process of working ethically and inclusively to invent the future.”
In its work as a student interest office, it fulfills its duties many times over by empowering students to take charge of directing their lives and experiences here at NYU and into their post-graduation careers. With an outlook that searches to combine the missions of groups like Stern, CSALS and CMEP — not to exclude the many amazing institutions on campus working toward similar goals — the Leadership Initiative has the potential to help NYU students bridge the gap between activism and the lack of meaningful leadership experience.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, October 24th print edition. Email Connor Borden at [email protected]