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Profiles in Leadership: Emzhei Chen May 7, 2012

Posted by Crystal in Leadership.
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Emzhei, left. Her collegue, Nadia, will be featured in a future leadership profile.

Emzhei Chen, Campus Life & Special Events Coordinator (U of T Scarborough)

The excellent campus life coordinators during Emzhei’s university career helped her have such a great student experience, they inspired Emzhei to get involved more and more in student life. So after getting her B.Ed., she decided to work in campus life rather than teaching, to provide future students with the same great experience she had. It has made for a great combination as Emzhei has become an irreplaceable part of UTSC.


What is your definition of leadership?

Leadership is cultivating the ability to create and support positive change in oneself, others and in communities.

What made you choose to work in student life?

I chose to work in student life because of my own student experience. I learned so much outside of the classroom through clubs, orientation and service learning. Having the opportunity to help other students do the same is a real privilege!

Were you not working in a campus, where could you see yourself?

If I wasn’t working in a campus, I would be a high school Biology/English teacher. I was in teacher’s college when I made the decision to pursue a career in student life, after working with fantastic students on dances, fundraisers and councils after school.

What are your favourite campus events?

There are so many to choose from! Orientation is definitely on the list because it’s an opportunity to highlight the tightly-knit community at UTSC for new students. Watching guest speakers on our campus is also a real treat! Through the Leadership Program, Jessica Holmes and Neil Pasricha have shared their stories to motivate and inspire me to do better. Lastly, Cultural Mosaic hosted by the Scarborough Campus Students’Unionis something I look forward to every year. It showcases the breadth and depth of talentScarboroughstudents have in song and dance.

How do you maintain balance of your work, campus events and other responsibilities, especially at busy times of the year?

I always schedule ‘me’ time in the mix in order to balance work, campus events and classes! This ‘me’ time includes things like: coffee conversations with friends, reading a book, and volunteering. By doing these things, I am able to recharge and bring my best whole self forward to focus on upcoming tasks.

Any tips for students who might be struggling with the balance between their studies and their involvement on campus?

I have always felt that the busier I was, the better I did in school. Having many things to juggle helped me time manage effectively. Also, in the age of the smart phone many people forget the agenda as an amazing tool. I have been a faithful user of agendas since high school which helped me map out my academic and extracurricular commitments.

I remember in my undergraduate studies, I wanted to tackle it all. When I sat down and discovered what experiences would be most meaningful to partake in, things became less hectic.

What accomplishments are you most proud of, either as a student or as a student life professional?

As a student, I am most proud of being a first generation student. I was the first in my nuclear family to go onto post secondary education. As a student life professional, I am most proud of supporting Orientation’s record number of participants (over 1300), the introduction of a conference specifically geared to student organizations and almost completing my M.Ed. (one course to go).

Any advice for students who feel they want to get involved, but don’t know where to start?

First off, discover what you’re interested in, whether it’s video games, dance or photography. Student organizations are formed all the time based on these interests, so join a club! Ask your classmates and friends what they’re doing after school and join them if it’s something that you want to get involved in. Check out poster boards, visit the Student Life office, and connect with your student union!

Do you have a favourite quote?

“It always seems impossible, until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

Interview by Redon Hoxhaj, 2011-2012 Communications Assistant, Office of Student Life

Leadership myths #3: Leadership – only for some? February 16, 2012

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership.
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By Kamilah Apong

Leadership is often seen as a kind of idea that belongs with fancy lecture conferences, big podiums, and long speeches. This can seem pretty intimidating to anyone who is not a professor, president, CEO, or other fancy title. I know the idea of being a leader and having to accomplish all kinds of fancy things was intimidating to me. However, it doesn’t work that way.

Leadership is more accessible than we think! You don’t have to have fifteen degrees or a lot of money and job experience to lead. You simply need to have the courage to share your own stories. And you don’t need to have a million people there to hear it, or even one. You don’t need to have it written down and proofread, or said into a microphone. All you really need is yourself.

A great example of accessible leadership is the EMPOWER project. I worked with them this past year. This project was a group of youth who had a lot of stories to share about sexuality, being street involved, racial identities, and more tough stuff that they wanted to share. They shared their stories through home-made videos that they learned to create and edit themselves (with some friendly help from a few video experts!). These individuals didn’t use fancy conferences with podiums, but definitely got a STRONG message across about perseverance, courage, and resilience. These qualities are all part of leadership. Their messages can now be shared with people all over the web, in hopes to spark new stories of accessible leadership for all.

See for yourself!

Kamilah is a 3rd-and-a-half year student studying Equity, Women and Gender Studies, and Sexual Diversity Studies. She enjoys taking long walks on the beach while simultaneously handing out free condoms to people.

Myths of Leadership #2: Think Leadership is Just about Titles? Think Again February 1, 2012

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Has it ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting or working with a group and you have an idea but think to yourself, “but I’m not the leader; I’m not the one who’s in charge here” so you keep quiet? So often we default to titles and roles to guide us in these situations, when really these could be opportunities to step up and show leadership without necessarily being the leader in a group.

Leadership as a practice is something that everyone can do, no matter what your position, title or rank within and organization or group is. It just takes a shift in mindset to see this. Personally, I like this think of these as “leadership moments” or “leadership with a lower-case L”; a time when you voice your opinion, make a suggestion for better group process, or put yourself out there to do something daring, even without a title beside your name.

Kamilah, a student at U of T had this to say, “true leadership is not based on position or rank. It is based on action, performance, ability, and effectiveness. People naturally gravitate to those they want to follow, respect, and work with. There are no limiting job descriptions, job titles, and few rules and regulations. If a person comes up with a new idea, he or she puts a team of people together who have the desire and knowledge to make it work.”

Still not convinced? Check out this video that highlights some great title-less leaders.

– Kate Bowers, Student Life Coordinator (Leadership Programs)

What’s Your Green Dot? January 23, 2012

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership, Student Life.
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The Green Dots are here at U of T!

Last week, U of T was introduced to this violence prevention strategy during Green Dot Week, with events across all three campuses to educate students on violence prevention. A Green Dot is any action that furthers the prevention of personal violence, and focuses on ensuring that bystanders play a role.

Bystanders can make a real difference in preventing violence. Think of the bystander effect and its connection to the domino and/or butterfly effects: a charged particle will transmit its charge to particles close by, a hot material will emit heat to other materials around it, and so on. Interestingly, in human culture the bystander effect is usually characterized by not taking action.

The bystander effect was what prompted Dr. Dorothy Edwards of the University of Kentucky to become a leader in her field and develop the Green Dot Strategy, which is solidly based on extensive cross-disciplinary research into social diffusion theory, bystander literature, perpetrator data, and marketing/rebranding research. Says Dr. Edwards: “If Social Diffusion Theory speaks to ‘who’ and Bystander Theory speaks to “what”, then understanding how perpetrators operate in targeting, assessing and victimizing speaks to ‘how.’”

Bystanders can make a huge difference by making the conditions more difficult for potential perpetrators. Potential actions include the “Three Ds”: Direct, by suggesting a change in behavior to get a person out of a dangerous situation; Delegate, by getting someone to take care of a person who is at risk of violence and finding help; and/or Distract, by creating a distraction that will interrupt the flow of the potential violence.

Although Green Dot Week has now passed, you can still get involved. There are still Green Dot events planned at all three campuses. You can keep track of them on their Facebook page.

So, be a leader of your community and take the initiative to cover U of T with green dots and eradicate violence.

– Redon Hoxhaj, Communications Assistant, Office of Student Life

Got a good idea? Get to know the GIF December 1, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership, Student Life.
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By Redon Hoxhaj

You know what GIF is, don’t you? No, I’m not referring to the graphic interchange format that is so useful and versatile. GIF at Hart House stands for the Good Ideas Fund, a student panel that will give you up to a grand in cash to make your great idea a reality.

Before you let your imagination run wild, it might be important to know they won’t fund just any idea. So if you have a brilliant plan for a computer program that hacks into ROSI, don’t expect to receive a warm reception. Here’s what the good people at GIF are looking to fund:

Highlights of ideas funded by GIF in the past include:

–          David Suzuki appearance at Convocation Hall

–          G8 Research Group

–          University of Toronto Health and Human Rights Conference

–          Writer’s Co-op Spoken Word Event – Exchanging Notes

–          Students Against Climate Change—Green Jobs Fair

You’ll need to come up with a brilliant idea first, then fill the GIF application form, and submit it to the committee at least three days prior to their next meeting and four weeks prior to your event.

There has never been a better time to realize your dreams, so hurry and submit your application!

Redon Hoxhaj is the communications assistant at the Office of Student Life.

Myths of Leadership #1: Leaders have to be outgoing and social all the time November 29, 2011

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By Ryan Oh

Leaders are often expected to be sociable individuals whose leadership work is publicly noticed for the impact they have on the community in which they are a part. This is one of the most common myths of leadership. I’m not the talkative type and may come off as shy, and yet, there never came a time when I questioned my ability to be a good leader. At the end of the day, I know what I’m doing and I get the job done, and I’d like to think I do a pretty good job (I say this in the most humble tone…seriously!). As David Rock, author of Quiet Leadership says, “help people think better, don’t tell them what to do.”

Sure, presence is an important element of being a well-respected leader. Leaders with presence exude confidence, are passionate about their beliefs, aggressively speak out, and make bold decisions. But Frances Kahnweiler, author of the book The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength introduces the idea of an “introverted leader.” This sort of leader does everything mentioned above but processes information internally. This kind of leader considers what others have to say, reflect, and then responds. Introverted leaders can be eloquent, aggressive and bold just like the loud, extroverted leaders. The key is to engage the audience, and we – I’m talking to all you introverted leaders out there – each have our own unique charms to do just that.

When I interviewed a couple of U of T students, one mentioned the idea of a quiet leader that doesn’t talk outright but acts as more of a supportive type. Another student felt that the ability to successfully assign tasks and ensure that responsibilities are completed does not require that one be gregarious.

I’d also like to emphasize that a leader does not have to take centre stage and be recognized for the group’s work. A lot of the big, bold stuff can happen behind the scenes. Take, for example, the various motions that are passed in the Governing Council meetings. They sculpt what our institution is today. Our leaders, however, make those decisions without being noticed by the several thousands of UofT students. This lack of recognition does not make anyone less a leader.

I find that introverted leaders perform just as well as their extroverted fellows. While they conduct themselves calmly, they are capable of leading with great enthusiasm and confidence. So let’s defuse any misconceptions that leaders need to be loud and out there. The quiet types, like you and I – and that quiet student we all know who always seems to be able to motivate people to do great things without seeming to say or do much – can be effective leaders too!

Read more:

How to be a Quiet Leader
Why we need Quiet Leaders

Ryan is in his third year of studies in Biology & Physiology. He is one of three vice-presidents for the New College Student Council and manages the monthly student publication The Window. He also serves as one of the Program Assistants for the Leadership Development Program at the U of T Office of Student Life.

Leadership might not be what you think October 21, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership.
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When thinking of a leader, who comes to mind? To a sports fan, it’s an athlete with a C on their chest. To a little kid, it’s probably a parent or an older sister or brother. To an employee, it could be the boss, team leader or a senior employee. I’m sure you can come up with many more examples, and they most likely are people with very different set of skills.

James MacGregor Burns once said: “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth”. Before the 20th century, not much literature had been devoted to leadership, but with the advent of management sciences and social psychology, extensive research has been done on the subject. However, one of the problems with “scientific” studies has been the lack of definition of the subject: what is leadership? Phillip Selznick defined leaders as people that “infuse values and purpose into a group.” Since then, anthropologists, historians, political scientists and sociologists have contributed to literature on leadership, and research has shown that the idea that leadership is limited to a select few individuals is a myth – there is no defined gene or set of genes for leadership. It definitely is not something mystical, because leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices.

Something leaders do have in common is self-confidence, a trait that comes from learning about ourselves – our skills, values, talents, and shortcomings. Formal training and education can help, but they are insufficient. Look at Richard Fuld, for example: the former CEO of Lehman Brothers in the U.S. was voted the #1 CEO in 2006, considered a leading expert in hedge funds, yet in 2008 failed as a leader to save his 158-year-old company when it fell over the brink of bankruptcy.

Those that become the best leaders take advantage of a wide range of opportunities: they try, fail, and learn from their mistakes. The student that did not do as well as they wished on a midterm, because they didn’t take the course seriously enough or did not figure out how to organize their time, learned from that experience and excelled on the final exam. That student was then able to transfer their skills to team members in a group project, leading them to success – has this ever been you or someone you know?

Leadership development, then, is self-development. And leadership is about empowering others, because as the group members become more empowered, self-confidence ensues, and the self-confidence and power of the whole group is increased.

– Redon Hoxhaj, Communications Assistant, Office of Student Life

We Can’t All Live in a Tree… October 14, 2011

Posted by Chris Garbutt in Leadership, Student Life.
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But we can do something! That’s a message I try to pass on to students through my work with the Leadership Development Program here at U of T.

One person who actually did live in a tree is Julia Butterfly-Hill. She will be speaking at Hart House on October 18, and will talk about what you can do to have an impact on the community around you. In 1997, Julia climbed 180 feet into the branches of a 1000-year-old redwood tree in California and refused to come down until she received a guarantee that the tree would be protected from logging. She stayed for a very long time.

It’s pretty impressive. Not only did she find the time to get involved in something that mattered to her – protecting an ancient forest from clear-cutting – she did so by climbing into a 1000-year-old redwood tree for 738 straight days! That’s more than two years! In a tree!

There are a million ways to make a difference, and some of them may even complement your studies, your skills and, if you’re lucky, your interests. As a staff member I try and role model that message through my own involvement in my community as well.

But amidst the bustle of classes, clubs, and trying to stay attuned to the latest trends of pop culture, finding the time to seek out that special something that gets your fired up can be the straw that breaks a student’s back. As someone on the other side of a Bachelor’s degree from U of T, I can certainly sympathize. For students and professionals alike, squeezing in the time to make a meaningful difference isn’t always easy.

Now, we can’t all live in a tree, but we can do something! Whether you have ten minutes, or two years, what meaningful contributions can you make to your community? In a sense, what’s your tree?

– Kate Bowers, Student Life Coordinator, Leadership Programs