Student leadership development within student government at Snow College Public Deposited


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  • The purpose of this study was to describe the leadership development process of former student leaders at Snow College. More specifically, the study focused on understanding how, when, and where leadership development took place in their "lived experience" within the student government at Snow College (Van Manen, 1998). Examining the lived experiences of these former college student leaders has helped bring forth the essence of their student leadership development process as it related to the Snow College student government program. The study identified key themes, formal and informal techniques, or common threads of success or failure that contributed to the knowledge base of student leadership development in this community college setting. Through a phenomenological inquiry, eight former student government leaders were interviewed. Two principle research questions guided the design of this study: (a) While you were a student leader at Snow College, how did your leadership skills and abilities develop? (b) While you were a student at Snow College, how did the institution specifically contribute to your growth and development as a student leader? Analysis of data yielded eight central themes, with 16 sub-themes nested within the central themes. Four broad themes and seven sub-themes emerged from the first research question. They include: (1) Opportunities and three sub-themes: (a) Learning to serve and the changes that take place, (b) Inclusion and putting others first, (c) Learning by doing. (2) Structured Experiences and two sub-themes: (a) Student government, (b) Other experiences from being involved, (3) The influence of mentors, specifically advisors, (4) The formal Education Process and two sub-themes: (a) The Leadership Class, (b) Conferences and Retreats. Four broad themes and nine sub-themes emerged from research question two. They include: (1) Snow College student government provided hands-on experiences, (2) Culture and three sub-themes (a) Invited participation, (b) The student is important to the institution, (c) Leadership driven environment, (3) Professional Support and four sub-themes: (a) Professional mentors, (b) Taught by example, (c) The college president, (d) High expectations to learn and do, (4) Education and two sub-themes: (a) The leadership class, (b) An established environment for active learning. Emerging from these thematic descriptions were six observations that demonstrated how student leadership development took place at Snow College: (a) An Elected Position within Student Government was the Catalyst for Leadership Development; (b) There was an Institutional Culture at Snow College that Supported Student Leadership Development; (c) Professional and Engaged Advisors played a Intentional Key Role in Student Leadership Development; (d) The Structured Formal Learning Forums within Student Government are Important to Leadership Development; (e) The Informal, yet Structured, Hands-On Experiences Provided Teaching Moments that made a Lasting Impression on these Participants; and (f) Unstructured yet Urgent Situational Leadership Decisions Connected to the Positions held within Student Government created Real Life Opportunities to Learn Leadership Skills. Recommendations include: (a) Student government or some other significant student life program that will provide heightened leadership opportunities that will allow a student leader to practice or have hands-on leadership experiences; (b) The institution should have a culture that values the importance of student leadership development at all levels and lends support by creating opportunities for others including administration to mentor student leaders; (c) The institution's primary goal is to educate, and this goal needs to be carried over to the leadership development program; (d) The institution should hire professional full-time advisors for their student life organizations such as student government or whatever organization is part of the student leadership development program; (e) There should be informal orchestrated experiences that help shape leadership skills and abilities in student leaders; and (f) The student leaders should be allowed hands-on experiences that are real and impactful such as those experienced by the study participants in student government at Snow College.
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