Why Do We Do It: What Motivates Student Leaders?

Why Do We Do It: What Motivates Student Leaders?

WRITTEN BY: Annette Latoszewski, President, University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club, and the Polish Students’ Association

You either know who they are or you’re one yourself –a student leader. They’re often difficult to make plans with, not because they’re disorganized, but because they’re incredibly busy. They are talented jugglers of academic, social, co-curricular and employment activities. If they’re anything like me, seeing the RedBull representatives giving out freebies on campus tends to make their day.

In my experience, student leaders love what they do, but sometimes –no matter how much we plan- commitments and deadlines stack up. Those are the bad days. Those are the days where I think about what life would be like if I just went about my schoolwork and left the leadership to someone else. While those days exist, your student leaders aren’t deterred. Why is that? What do we get out of giving up a whole lot of time that we really do have other uses for?

First, let me tell you where I’m coming from…

My name is Annette Latoszewski, I’m a third year undergraduate student completing a double major in Biochemistry & Physiology. That one sentence is all most people expect from you when they ask you about your education, but how dull would my student life be if that’s all there was? I’m also thrilled to be the President of the University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club and the Polish Students’ Association and to have continuously been a Woodsworth College Mentor in two programs since the end of my first year. I’m also a campus tour guide at the Nona Macdonald Visitors Centre and just recently I wrote my last blog post for the Life@UofT blog as this year’s MoveU blogger.

I’m not alone. UofT is riddled with students who need to shorten their resumes to meet length requirements and who know the ins and outs of this school like you wouldn’t believe.

This, brings me to my first point: Resumes.

It’s no secret that being active and engaged on campus, having presidencies to your name, successful events to boast about and a variety of references to provide to employers, goes a long way when building your resume and applying to paid –and volunteer- positions. UofT supports student engagement by giving us an official record of our co-curricular activities that we could potentially present to hiring managers: the CCR (Co-Curricular Record).

That said, we’re not just in it for the glowing CV or CCR.

Being a leader not only equips you with the rather obvious “leadership skills and experience”, but also requires that you be a team player not unlike the rest of your team. Sometimes being a leader means sitting back, blending in and supporting someone else in realizing an initiative or idea. Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” As such, student leaders gain a lot more than the ability to lead.

We also gain a network. At the very least, a professional one, but it’s pretty well impossible not to likewise make some friends along the way. The best part? These new found friends likely share our interests. My leadership experience within the University of Toronto Jiu Jitsu Club for example, has given me a family that extends across Canada and even across the ocean to Australia, South Africa and the UK. I’ve found leadership to be a great opportunity to make friends and get to know people, especially being a bit of a socially anxious extrovert. I will continue to give my time to the club because the incredible community I get to be a part of is worth far more to me than some spare time.

Finally (and this is a big one), it’s not only fun but also incredibly satisfying, to use one’s skills, experiences and unique talents to contribute to the UofT community… to ask big questions, to bring students together and to animate student life on campus! For me, nothing’s quite as motivating as this or as difficult to communicate. Being busy and engaging with all the facilities, services and opportunities this school not only makes me feel like I’m making the most out of my time here but also gives me a distinct sense of belonging.

When it comes down to it, I feel my leadership roles have given me far more than I’ve given back, and I hope that everyone seizes the opportunity to learn for themselves “why we do it”.

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