While working as a camp counselor for Badlands Ministries, Steven Mindermann simply gave some advice to a camper who was having a rough time being away at camp. At the end of the week, the camper approached Mindermann, gave him a big hug, thanked him and told him that he was a great role model and a wonderful leader. That was all it took to motivate Mindermann to “keep being myself and learn more about how to be a better leader.”
Mindermann said when he started college he didn’t want anything to do with leadership.
“I just wanted to go to school, and get out.”
Instead Mindermann, an anthropology junior, is now the leadership coordinator for housing and residential life. He coordinates and promotes homecoming and DragonFrost events to housing students and helps co-advise the Dahl-Ballard activities board. His job is to bring programs into housing and promote leadership opportunities to campus residents.
“I feel like any student can be a leader,” Mindermann said. “It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter who you are. You just need the right tools and the right people to guide you.”
Leadership on campus this year
Mindermann’s leadership experience has presented him with a much larger leadership task. What started as a “one tiny seed of an idea” has turned into an entire leadership conference over a period of just three months.
Mindermann presented the idea to Troy Williams, Dahl-Ballard area director, and the pair decided to develop a leadership conference open to the whole campus.
“The idea is students can come and listen to presenters talk about leadership experiences, and then at the end, we will have a leadership fair,” Mindermann said. “(Students) go straight from learning leadership to seeing what leadership opportunities are on campus and becoming a leader.”
The keynote speaker at the conference is Greg Tehven, a co-founder of Students Today, Leaders Forever, a leadership program that implements an annual pay it forward tour, travels across the country for high school and college STLF groups. Tehven was also the curator for the TEDxFargo event held in August and is an adjunct professor at Concordia.
Mindermann and Williams decided on Tehven because of his extensive leadership history.
“He’s (Tehven) not that old … and he created this huge STLF program, which is nation-wide. It’s huge because it shows that any student on campus can do something like that.” Mindermann said.
The Gateway to Leadership Conference is on Feb. 10 at 7:15 p.m. in the CMU ballroom. Along with the keynote speaker, there are two sets of break-out sessions where student leaders and faculty will be giving presentations on different types of leadership and a leadership fair.
Mindermann and Williams chose the presenters from a list of proposals sent in by faculty and student leaders across campus. A few topics of the breakout sessions include: putting leadership on your resume, being an ethical leader, color personality, leadership and time management and what are qualities of a good — or bad — leader.
The leadership fair gives students an opportunity to learn about the different leadership roles they can participate in.
Leadership across the country
Holly Hoeschen is one of the leaders in the MSUM STLF chapter. One of her reasons for choosing MSUM was because of the active STLF chapter on campus.
The pay it forward tour, hosted by STLF, is a trip over spring break. Students travel across the country, stopping at five different cities to complete one-day-long service projects. The group continues on to their final destination city where they meet with other groups to complete a large service project.
“This year’s trip is to Salt Lake City, and there will be five stops for service projects along the way,” Hoeschen said. “We do this pattern of leaving your handprint across the country.”
On her first pay it forward tour, Hoeschen helped to clean the heavily-polluted Potomac River in their final destination Washington DC.
“We cleaned a half mile of this river,” Hoeschen said. “There were 150 tires in just the half mile we cleaned … there was more stuff than water.”
The service projects improve leadership through giving back to communities and inspiring others to do good things and “pay it forward.”
“Leadership is so different for every single person,” Hoeschen said. “That’s my favorite part about it. The moment you decide to be a leader, you’re a leader.”
Creating leadership opportunities on campus
The Office of Student Activities offers many opportunities for students to hone their leadership skills.
Becky Jones is the assistant director of activities and greek life. She coordinates the Dragon Leadership Program, which fosters leadership skills through a three-phase program that includes learning about yourself, learning about collaboration and learning to create change.
“My personal philosophy is that everybody is a leader,” Boyle said. “Everyone had that kind of innate ability to be able to work effectively with others to lead a group, organization or a team. A lot of what we (Dragon Leadership Program) are doing is helping people refine the skills and abilities they already have.”
The dragon leadership program pairs the student with a faculty adviser to complete the three phases of the program. Once the student completes the program, which Jones says usually takes about two years, but can be completed in more or less time depending on how the student wants to pace it, the student receives two letters of recommendation citing their leadership skills to use for future internship and job applications.
What is leadership?
Some people are intimidated by the word ‘leadership.’ It means different things to different people, but it’s more than just standing up and leading.
Hoeschen defines leadership as being responsible for actions, showing care to others and showing a desire to want to better society for others.
“It’s also about recognizing that you have the skills to help other people, to want to help other people,” Hoeschen said. “Service gives you humility, and I think that is a very valuable asset.”
Jones defined leadership as possessing many qualities, such as effective oral and written communication, working effectively in a team and being an ethical person.
“Holding yourself accountable and being accountable for others and following through when you commit to something and being honest are all qualities I look for in a good leader,” Jones said.
Jones pointed out that the Gateway to Leadership conference is free, and encourages all students to attend.
“There are professionals who pay hundreds of dollars in registration fees to attend conferences like this. To see a speaker like Greg Tehven and be able to attend all the sessions is a great opportunity,” Jones said.
BY KAYLA VAN EPS