Workshops Teach Leadership
“Sometimes students have a vision and they can make it into a reality, and sometimes they struggle with how to access services, resources and how to get it off the ground,” said Assistant Dean of Studies and Director of the Center for Leadership in Health Promotion Lori Flood.
Flood was commenting on a struggle that her office finds common at Oberlin. The office has joined forces with the Student Union and the Center for Service and Learning to address that problem. The result is a string of diverse workshops that will stretch all the way through the Spring. This is year two of the coordinated effort.
“What we were noticing,” said Flood, “is that there are many, many opportunities at Oberlin for students to deliver leadership skills. But there was no coordinated effort to develop those skills.”
All in all there are 14 workshops planned. Three have already taken place: “Adjusting to and Understanding the Nuances of Oberlin’s Social, Philosophical and Academic Milieu,” “Anti-Oppression and Sexual Dating Violence Workshops” and “Nuts & Bolts & Duct Tape: Running an Effective Student Organization, Group or Project.”
The organizers agree that the programming is a mix of workshops that teach specific, readily accessible “take-away” skills, and some that take a more philosophical approach, focusing on critical thinking about the issue at hand.
“The hope is that you’ll be walking away with something,” said Assistant Director of the Student Union, Tina Zwegat. “But that may be a mindset. Or it may be a specific set of skills.”
According to organizers, examples of coming workshops with specific focuses include “One Chance to Make a Difference: Reaching Young Adults” a Nov. 30 workshop training students to teach youth about HIV and safe sex in preparation for World AIDS Day and a program in April titled, “Grant Writing is an Art.”
The former is to be led by an outside speaker, the President of Skills4, Inc. Florida, Stephen J. Fallon.
“[Fallon’s] career has been devoted to educating on HIV and STIs,” said Flood. “He’s going to give students the tools and teaching models he employs and explain how they work in various situations.”
More “theoretical” offerings include the Oct. 26 lecture “Walking the Line: Learning How to Lead Peers” and the February “The Value of Making Connections with Oberlin Alumni.”
About three quarters of these offerings relate specifically to the Oberlin community, something particularly important, according to the America Reads Coordinator for the Center for Service and Learning Andrew Frantz.
There are over 100 students who have paid positions in the community, through CSL and funded by the Work Study Program. The positions have been distributed over multiple organizations.
“It’s very diverse and very spread out,” said Frantz. “What they need and what we try to give them is a sense of continuity and being a group.”
For Frantz these community workers make up the essential target audience. He noted that the Nov. 2 workshop “‘Can I Really Say That?’ Empowering with Assertiveness for Real Life Situations” is run by Kendal at Oberlin staff, one of the major employers in the work-study program.
“[But] it’s a good thing to have collaboration cross-office and cross-campus,” he said. “We are all inviting our own groups. Lori [Flood’s] and Tina [Zwegat’s] [target audiences] are slightly different and perhaps have their own agendas. We put together the series to fulfill all those needs.”
Zwegat commented on the unique Oberlin definition of “leadership” being employed in this series.
“Traditionally leadership series will have workshops on leading meetings, decision-making, resolving conflicts, etc.” she said. “Oberlin students don’t respond to that. Maybe most of them don’t need it. They’re more cerebral. They want something they can think about – not just to learn how to write an agenda.”
Remaining workshops include “Serving to Learn vs. Serving with Authority” on Oct. 9, led by CSL; the February “Tools to Avoid Academic Loss, or Regain Academic Victory,” run by the office of Student Academic Services; and “The Art (& Science!) of Networking, Cocktail Parties and Not-So-Small Talk,” led by Paul Wolansky, director of Alumni Outreach and Education.