Leadership Fellows engage students with community

Volunteering in community projects, bettering leadership skills and participating in leadership classes are all opportunities available through the Leadership Fellows (LF) program. Started six years ago as an offshoot of the Leadership Institute at MSU, the LF program has continued to expand, and as a result has also had a growing impact on not only the students involved in the program, but also the communities they work in. Students in the program take both Leadership Foundations (UC202) and a senior capstone project (UC302) along with 12 elective credits both in and outside of their field of study.

Joshua Meyer, the Harvard educated interim director of the LF, wants students to be able to bring many different aspects of education, from problem solving skills to human resource management together to better prepare his pupils to become the leaders of the future. Meyer defined leadership as “motivating others to recognize the problems of reality.”

The director of LF emphasized the impact that his students have in the community. “Each of my students spends about five to ten hours outside of class volunteering in the community,” Meyer said. As a part of the LF class that is required for the program, students spend time doing service work in various community projects, the most recent being in a local community cafe or soup kitchen. “My students this semester will have three different experiences with the community cafe,” he said, also citing that the first visit to the cafe will have students eating with the other patrons and interacting with as many people as possible.

In order to fit the needs of students from countless different areas of study, Meyer caters to the needs of his students individually. “I try to be fairly flexible when working with students to make this experience worthwhile and applicable to them.” He believes that much can be learned from firsthand experience with leadership and engages students in the community in ways applicable to their lives and field of study. “One of the things that I do is try to bring a really hands on and practical experience to [the program].”

LF does deal with its fair share of struggles. One of these is the lack of housing in any particular department of the university. According to Meyer, because there is no freshman seminar class new students could take as an introduction to the program, many students do not become part of LF program early in their time at MSU. Without filling any university requirements, Meyer said it is more difficult to recruit new members.  “Another difficult thing with the lack of housing is that the UC202 class doesn’t satisfy any Core 2.0 requirements,” he said.

Although making recruitment more difficult, the elective nature of the LF program ensures passionate students participate. Meyer believes that his pupils are more dedicated to the program because they are they not there to fill requirements, but instead to learn skills pertaining to leadership. “I think that adds some strength to it because the students who are in the program really want to be here and aren’t just trying to check a box, they’re really interested in the material,” Meyer stated.

Those interested in the Leadership Fellows program are encouraged to contact Joshua Meyer at jmeyer@montana.edu.