Living Leadership at U of T

A few weeks ago I was approached to do an interview for Living Leadershipa Ulife blog - and cousin to Life @ U of T. For this week's post I figured I'd transcribe that interview for you below - with the interviewer's permission, of course. In the interview I discuss what leadership means to me, what the university could do better to promote student involvement, as well as a myriad of other topics. If nothing else this is a good opportunity for you to get to know your favourite blogger a bit better! The interviewer's questions are in bold with my response following subsequently. What year/area of study are you in? I’m studying Political Science as a major and doing minors in Philosophy and Semiotics & Communication Theory. I’m in my final year of study (also known as a 5th year). What leadership roles have you taken over the years at UofT? Most of the leadership roles I have taken have been based at my home college of Victoria. Over the years I have been an Orientation Week Leader, the head and founder of a variety of clubs, including an undergraduate journal for the humanities called HUMANITAS – we are currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2013 issue. Submit today! (please excuse the shameless self-promotion). I was also a Don as a part of a new Commuter Experience program and a Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council elected member. I currently represent Victoria University students on the college’s Board of Regents (its governing council) and I also write for the Life @ U of T student blog for the Faculty of Arts & Science (read my posts! – more shameless self-promotion, sorry). Have you found a distinct difference between college/faculty involvement, and larger UofT involvement? I can’t really comment on this one as, again, almost all of my student involvement has been centered at Vic. My brief exposure to the wider university though the Life @ U of T blog has been really neat and has allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. What prompted you to get involved? As cliché as it may sound; it was the new opportunities that go along with attending university that was the motivating factor in me deciding to get involved in student life. Despite always wanting to do more in the extracurricular realm in high school I simply felt that I didn’t have the support structure to really pursue leadership-related activities – i.e. none of my friends wanted to do them with me. Once I began my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto I figured that it was ‘now or never’ for extracurricular involvement and I just decided to start doing things. The first being the founding of a (now defunct) student club in my 2nd year where we would just get together and play video games. I also largely credit my getting involved to being enrolled at Victoria University. The entirety of the Vic administration (from the President’s Office, to the Dean, to VUSAC, etc.) does an exceptional job at creating an environment at Victoria where students not only have the opportunity to get involved, but feel comfortable in doing so – not to mention that the student community at Vic is very welcoming and receptive to new individuals and ideas. I am very fortunate to be attending Victoria and have no doubt that if I had attended another college – or another university – I would not be involved in things to the extent that I am today. What's something rewarding you got out of being involved? The opportunity to see your ideas and initiatives become actualized in the real world is probably the most rewarding thing about being involved. You realize that your actions and decisions have a real tangible impact on the communities of which you are a part! People talk a lot about how extracurriculars enhance their academics. Do you find this is true? I am not too sure about that, to be honest. I would instead argue that getting involved in extracurricular activities makes you more invested in your undergraduate life as a whole – not just your academics. Extracurricular activities makes school more enjoyable and if you are more engaged with university life then perhaps this translates into you enjoying the academic side of things a bit more (or maybe it helps you cope with your studies, in the very least) than if you weren’t involved at all. It is also true that extracurricular involvement teaches you many skills – time management, organization, social skills, etc. – which could enhance your academic success, I suppose. What's your favourite thing about having gotten involved? The opportunity to be a part of, and have an impact on, the Victoria University community is probably my favourite thing about having gotten involved. Through my involvement at Vic I have been able to work with a number of amazing individuals across all types of offices, councils, teams, committees, and organizations. I also met most of my dearest friends through my extracurricular involvement and I honestly can’t imagine what my life as an undergraduate would be like if I never got involved (again, as cliché as this may sound, it’s true). What makes someone a leader, in your opinion? To me a leader is someone who makes an impact on the communities of which they are apart. It takes creativity, drive, and a willingness to do something for its own sake – not for the sake of something else. True leaders do what they do because they believe in it, not in order to attain some other end. What do you wish UofT did more of, as far as student involvement goes? Again, my involvement has remained relatively Vic-centric so I cannot really comment on how the wider U of T goes about doing things. However, if there was one thing I wish that the U of T did more of with regards to student involvement it would be better communication about what student involvement entails. There are plenty of opportunities for student involvement at U of T, there just needs to be better communication about them, what they entail, and how one goes about pursuing them. Students need help with those initial steps, leaving their ‘comfort zone,’ so to speak. I’m not sure most students know how easy it really is to get involved in something and how doing so isn’t an all-or-nothing game. The sheer amount of opportunities available at the U of T allows students to tailor their involvement to suit their personal needs. You don’t have to take a 5th year, live on campus, or accept a low GPA to be involved in student life!

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