Leadership students help United Way

May 04, 2006, volume 36, no. 1
By Paulette Johnston

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United Way month at Simon Fraser University isn't until November, but volunteers are busy now, thanks to the groundwork for a five-year strategic plan developed for the university by four students completing a certificate in innovative leadership.

Chris Rogerson, student life educator with the student development and programming centre, says the seven-month, non-credit program's primary purpose is to teach undergraduate and graduate students to be effective leaders in any field.

In the program's final stage, teams of students work on real-life projects with organizations as diverse as Volunteer Burnaby, SFU student recruitment and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Calgary.

Four of the 47 students in this inaugural program - James Liu, Alex Nataros, Corwin Odland and Joshua Ruberg - selected the SFU United Way campaign as their project.

They worked with volunteers on campus who organize the annual campaign, as well as with staff at United Way of the Lower Mainland in Burnaby.

The result was a comprehensive list of recommendations and strategies for recruiting more campus participation in activities like designing new campaign posters, or involving student athletes in fundraising ventures. In the past, the campaign was directed to faculty and staff, but the students found there were also ways to involve the student community.

“The goals of the United Way campaign at SFU have always been twofold: to raise much-needed dollars for the wider community and also to encourage participation from members of the SFU campuses in university-wide activities like book, bake and garage sales,” says Alison Watt, a member of the campaign committee.

“The project these students have developed is a starting point for developing future plans as needs within the community grow and our need to contribute financially grows.”

For the students, the immediate benefit was learning more about United Way, as some of them had volunteered in the past with organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, a United Way recipient.

They learned about campaigns held at other universities and at large and small companies throughout the Lower Mainland. Longer term benefits included participation in various workshops, including Leading with vision; How to lead, motivate and keep your best people; and Situational leadership. Says Odland, “I learned skills that I will be able to use for the rest of my life.”

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