Building leaders: Program gives students chances to gain confidence, connections

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June 28, 2012. That’s the day a quiet, one-on-one conversation with a student leader at Rowan University put Ethan Stoetzer on the path to involvement—and success.

Stoetzer, a junior writing arts and journalism major, was attending Freshman Orientation when then-sophomore Joe Chen suggested Stoetzer join the Freshman Leadership Involvement Program (FLIP). Sponsored by Rowan’s Student Government Association (SGA), FLIP is one of many initiatives under the umbrella of Leadership Rowan.

Stoetzer took Chen’s prescient advice and joined the program.

“FLIP gave me the opportunity to be introspective, to think about the kind of leader I am,” says Stoetzer, who was not involved in activities in high school but has made up for it by being extraordinarily involved at Rowan. On campus, among other activities, Stoetzer is features editor of The Whit, the student newspaper, a resident assistant, a former SGA senator, and the play-by-play and color announcer for Profs Football on the Rowan Television Network.

He credits Leadership Rowan--and his quiet, memorable conversation with Chen, now president of SGA--for his turnaround.

“Being a leader is about knowing who you are and about how you interact with others. It’s also about learning your strengths and weaknesses. Leadership Rowan gave me confidence, helped me better understand myself and my personality, and helped me develop listening skills,” says Stoetzer, an aspiring novelist.

Leadership Rowan

Presented by the Office of Orientation and Student Leadership Programs, Leadership Rowan works on the foundation that all students have the potential to develop leadership skills that will serve them well in their educational endeavors and in their careers. During their years at Rowan, students can earn three leadership certifications through participation in programs such as FLIP, the Freshman Connection Leadership “Boot Camp” and the ASPIRE (Achievement, Success, and Progress through Initiative, Respect and Excellence) Development Retreat.

The Leadership Rowan curriculum focuses on educating students about leadership, empowerment through personal development, and enriching the campus community through leadership and service. A Leadership Rowan experience is provided for students for each of their academic years: Leadership Training for New Students; Leadership Application and Organizational Effectiveness for Sophomores and Juniors; and Leadership Sustainability for Seniors.

Big rewards

And while the program is not for credit, its rewards are enormous, says Gary Baker, assistant director of OSLP. The biggest misconception about leadership, Baker says, is that “leadership is all about titles.

“You don’t need a title to be a leader,” Baker says. “While we do need people to be presidents and board chairs, true leadership also happens when there isn’t a crowd watching.

“There’s not one right or wrong way to be a leader. You need people to speak up sometimes. But sometimes the quietest person in the room will speak up and give the most profound insights. That’s also leadership.”

Involvement in Leadership Rowan helps students better understand themselves…and helps them distinguish themselves, too, Baker says.

“We tell them that when they graduate they will have a very similar resume to others who have the same education. What differentiates them is the extra work, the experiences they have, the leadership qualities they’ve developed.

“We want a mix of students in Leadership Rowan, not just the ones that are super involved. Everyone needs their leadership start at some point.”

Opening doors

Chen, who was a three-year member of the PROS (Peer Referral and Orientation Staff), the student group that helps new students and their family members transition to Rowan, attended FLIP as a freshman. He’s finishing up his final certificate through the Leadership Rowan program, an achievement that happened organically, he says.

“I enjoy the involvement. For me, it was a natural progression. It’s a lot of fun,” Chen says.

The human resource management and history major says the Leadership Rowan program helped him develop the skills necessary to run for—and win—the presidency of SGA.

“The program really helped me understand the type of leader I want to be,” Chen says. “It was one of the greatest networking tools I’ve had in college. It definitely set the tone and opened doors for me.”

For information on Leadership Rowan, visit www.rowan.edu/leadership.

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