Rutgers launches flexible program to get first-years involved


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Photo by Yangeng Lin |

Rutgers University Student Life hosted their First-Year 15 Leadership Experience meeting at the Livingston Student Center Gathering Lounge yesterday to help first-year students get involved on campus. 


Thanks to a new program at Rutgers, attending cooking classes and scavenger hunts can allow students rack up points that may help them score a fellowship. 

Rutgers Student Life has introduced the First-Year 15 Leadership Experience, which is a flexible, accessible program open to all first-year students.

Ashley Demrest, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and manager at the Neilson Dining Hall on Cook campus, said she has gained valuable leadership experience from her job.

Adding to this success, Student Life has opened up a new opportunity for students who may not be interested in on-campus employment.

Robyn Ginese, the interim director of Leadership & Training for Rutgers Student Life, said she hopes students gain experience and specific leadership qualities from the program. 

“I really want students to learn important emerging leadership qualities, like time management and prioritization,” she said. “I also want to teach them the importance of multicultural acceptance and setting and working toward specific goals. Those are important qualities of a leader.”

Ginese explained the program’s point system. First semester, students who join the program will attend events to gain points, with the goal of attaining 15 points by the end of the semester.

Elizabeth O’Connell-Ganges, executive director of Student Life, stressed the importance of getting involved. 

“There really is something for everyone on campus to get involved in,” she said. “Rutgers has great leadership and student-run programs throughout campus.”

Those who want to develop leadership skills and get involved in the Rutgers community can take part in the First-Year 15 Leadership Experience. The organization is tailored to the specific and individual wants and needs of each student. 

The flexibility of the program is key, O’Connell-Ganges said. By not making events mandatory to attend, students are able to pick and choose which events they want to attend. The students are able to find their niche and decide what sort of leadership activity best suits their interests.

As a part of the First-Year Leadership Experience, students can design their own leadership portfolio with events and affairs that interest their unique curiosities. 

“I suppose that is the beauty of the program,” Ginese said. “Students are able to grow as leaders because they are doing what they love.”

In addition to scavenger hunts and cooking classes, where students will work with Rutgers University Dining Services to encourage healthy eating, another popular program is alternative breaks. Students can spend their spring break performing community service in other areas to receive points.

If a student accumulates 15 points by the end of the first semester, he or she becomes eligible for the spring fellowship. 

Forty students graduated with the fellowship last year, she said. This year, she expects 75 to 100 students to graduate with a fellowship and another 150 to 200 first-year students to take part in the First-Year 15 Leadership Experience.

The program held its first meeting last Wednesday, where students received information about the upcoming program. Students were able to meet new people and gain valuable information to decide if they would like to participate.

The First-Year Leadership program is a great way for first year students to get involved and learn important leadership skills for the future, Ginese said. 

“These skills are so valuable to just have,” she said. “Being able to cultivate them at your own pace is really special.”


Jillian Pastor

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