On the Job with Leadership Directors: Melissa Boyd-Colvin
Assistant Director, Student Leadership
University of Rhode Island
Do you have a leadership program for first-year emerging leaders, and if so, how is it structured?
Boyd-Colvin: We have multiple opportunities for first-year students to engage in leadership development initiatives offered through our Center for Student Leadership Development, including a 2-1/2 day pre-college immersion experience, targeted first-year service learning opportunities, and academic credit opportunities for students who wish to begin taking core or elective courses in the university's academic minor in Leadership Studies.
Can you give some examples of how students, in their day-to-day experiences, are provided with opportunities to allow their leadership traits to emerge?
Boyd-Colvin: We are fortunate to have solid academic partnerships via an interdisciplinary minor in leadership studies that is supported by the Division of Student Affairs. Students have the opportunity to develop leadership skills in various jobs, internships, and in student involvement offerings, as well as to learn about the discipline of leadership studies in academic courses. We also are a strengths-based unit that utilizes Gallup's Clifton StrengthsFinder inventory, as well as the Values In Action Character inventory, to scaffold knowledge of self and leadership development over time. We hope students develop personal, organizational, and academic competencies through intentional involvement and purposeful reflection.
What is the most popular student leadership-oriented program, activity, event, or initiative you’ve seen?
Boyd-Colvin: Our cohort-based leadership initiatives. Any time we can build community and provide a space for genuine learning, we have an experience that students value. Our first-year initiatives have made an impact on retention and student success, especially among undecided students, and our student peer leaders are proud to be a part of that work. Our Sophomore Breakthrough experience is a bold way for students to make a commitment to continued growth and is a hit for its active and peer-led atmosphere. As a practitioner, I see our senior expedition trip and portfolio experiences as the culmination of multiple years of work for our students, and a highlight of their successes.