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Fall 2021 Emerging Leaders Cohort Graduates

The Emerging Leaders Program successfully graduated 26 students in Fall 2021. Throughout the semester, these first-year students learned about the SMU Leadership Framework and how to apply it to on-campus leadership roles. Through hearing from guest speakers, hands-on activities, and discussions, they learned about how their campus leadership experiences can prepare them to be world changers. A few students from each cohort return the following year as student facilitators, guiding that year’s emerging leaders throughout their activities. 

Hear what a student, a facilitator, and the director of the program have to say about their experience:

Hayley Hudgens
Emerging Leader

How do you think the Emerging Leaders program will contribute to your experience at SMU going forward?

Emerging Leaders has given me the resources to network across many different fields of people and has introduced thought-provoking knowledge that allows me to grow as a person and a leader at SMU. I can use all that I learned in future leadership positions on campus with the end goal of creating better organizations that contribute to SMU.

How has the program helped you develop as a person and as a leader?

This program has opened my eyes to what it means to be a good leader and how to practice that in my daily life outside of a typical leadership position. The skills that come with being a leader like being inherently ethical, relational, and courageously inclusive are not limited to being labeled as a “leader;” these skills are accessible to everyone. Now, I actively think of how to be a better leader and person in social settings and make sure to hold myself to a high standard so others may be inspired to do the same. The leadership framework has changed my way of thinking about how to actively improve my personal character because we were also taught that propelling a vision into action is part of developing ourselves and the people around us into better leaders. 

What is the most impactful lesson you have taken away from the program?

The lesson I learned the most from was when we talked about “what is power” and “what do different types of power look like.” The activity was to have volunteers go up and take a physical stance that they believed to hold the most power within a scene of others taking similar positions with the same mindset. Afterward, each volunteer had a chance to explain their reasoning for taking their position and explanations ranged from that they felt being the man behind the desk was the most powerful to putting a hand on another person to support them was the most powerful. It was extremely thought-provoking to understand that the definition of power is circumstantial and can vary according to each individual. We then applied this to leadership by realizing that anyone can be a leader even by using different types of power.

What was your favorite part of the program?

Out of all of the wonderful opportunities and lessons learned from Emerging Leaders, my favorite part of the program was learning more about the psychology behind being a good leader and how to implement this on SMU’s campus. Going into depth about what really makes a good leader and the growth that is involved with that was very beneficial to my personal development and to others as well. Having a support group of other like-minded individuals was also a major factor in contributing to each other’s growth and those connections will remain strong far into the future. 

What would you want to tell incoming students about the program?

I would tell every incoming student to take advantage of every opportunity they are given and especially try out emerging leaders. Whatever they put into Emerging Leaders is what they will get from it and with a good attitude and open mind, this short program will give them knowledge that will last them throughout college and into their future careers. The leadership framework curriculum will change you in ways you did not realize you could change. 

Willy MacCluskey
Student Facilitator

Why did you apply to become a facilitator for this year’s cohort?

I applied to become a student facilitator because I wanted to make the same impact on the freshman that Emerging Leaders had on me last year. It is difficult to come into college not knowing anybody and having to figure out your place; especially during the times we live in. EL always gave me something I could depend on last year. It gave me a reason to look forward to Mondays because I could count on doing something fun. I wanted to give this year’s freshman the same experience I had in EL, and I really feel like we succeeded in doing that.

How has your experience this year differed from last year?

This year’s experience is entirely different from last year. We completed the entire program over zoom when I was a freshman. This year, however, EL was fully in person, and I am so glad that I had the chance to experience it again because we did a lot of fun activities that we couldn’t do over zoom. I always joked with the Emerging Leaders that Colby and I were experiencing EL at the same time they were, but it was true because EL in person gave me an entirely new appreciation for the program.

What did you most enjoy about your role?

I enjoyed getting to know the Emerging Leaders most. They are the life of this program, and it is incredibly rewarding when they recognize and appreciate what EL offers them. Within the last few weeks of the program, they began applying for leadership positions they never thought of applying for at the beginning of the semester. They also got to know one another over the course of the program, and it was great watching them become great friends. Not only getting to know the Emerging Leaders but watching them grow over the semester was incredibly rewarding.

Meghan Perez
Assistant Director, Office of the Student Experience

What do you enjoy most about working with (both future and current) student leaders? 

I love working with Emerging Leaders because I get to know students as first-years and then watch them lead throughout their four years. It is really special to meet students in their first few weeks of college and then see how they learn, grow, and develop throughout their time on the Hilltop. 

How was the transition back to in-person programming, after being fully online last year? Were there any challenges and/or advantages?

It has been nice to go back to in-person programming. With the program being online last year, a lot of the curriculum had to be adapted to a virtual format which allowed us to get creative. We kept some of the activities from the virtual year and integrated them into an in-person experience. 

What is one thing you hope students in the program walk away with? 

I hope students know leadership is not a position or title, but rather a choice to care about the world around you. Leadership is not a point of arrival, but a process that, and if they choose, leadership can be a part of the rest of their life.

Written by Saifiyah Zaki. Saifiyah is a sophomore from Plano, TX majoring in Marketing and Psychology with minors in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.