Finding Your Path to Meaningful Involvement

Leaders are moved by what they care about to make the world a better place.” – Student Leadership Development

Last week, we discussed the importance of involvement to the college experience and finding meaning throughout the lifespan. As the Office of Student Leadership Development gears up for our Depth Over Breadth campaign, we will take this opportunity to introduce how to discover a path to meaningful involvement and why we encourage depth of involvement over breadth of involvement.

Here at William and Mary, we have over 450 different recognized student organizations. Looking through the directory of these organizations can feel overwhelming when you want to become involved, but have not yet decided where to become involved. In order to discover a path towards involvement that is right for you, it is helpful to first reflect. This can come in the form of asking yourself some questions such as:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • Do I have career and professional goals I would like to begin working towards?
  • What are some societal issues I feel strongly about helping to improve?
  • What activities, sports, or hobbies do I enjoy doing in my free time?

Asking yourself these questions is a great start towards becoming involved in organizations with a mission you truly care about and feel connected to. Here in SLD, we call this mission alignment “the why.” When you feel passionate about an organization or cause, you are more likely to follow through and become deeply involved. W&M’s hundreds of student organizations cover a wide range of interest categories including those such as religion, culture, social justice, sports, professional development, hobbies, and community service working with children, the elderly, and the environment. With so many options, students are bound to discover organizations with missions they care deeply about. Studies have found that this “deep” involvement in causes fosters more meaningful leadership development compared with involvement in a breadth of organizations. Do you see where I’m going with this????


Student Leadership Development is committed to promoting that deeper involvement fosters more meaningful development and leadership than participation in a breadth of organizations. In next week’s blog post, we will officially introduce and discuss Depth Over Breadth and how it relates to student involvement, leadership, and why Student Leadership Development is so passionate about promoting this message to our students.

Know someone who exhibits Depth Over Breadth? Nominate them here to be in the #LeadershipSpotlight social media and blog posts.



Student Involvement on Campus: Does it really matter?

Spoiler Alert: It does matter!!!

With the start of a new school year comes many questions and curiosities about involvement. Some students wonder how to get involved, some ask if involvement really matters, and some want to get involved but are simply overwhelmed by the thought of adding another activity on top of busy class schedules. It has been a week since the Student Organizations and Activities Fair, so many students are beginning to think about what this year at William and Mary holds and what organizations they plan to become involved with. The purpose of this blog post will be to highlight the many benefits of involvement on campus and show you that it really does matter!

Student involvement is often a major component leading to college student satisfaction and development. First, let’s breakdown what I am referring to when I discuss “involvement.” Alexander Astin (1984), a leader in research on college student satisfaction, defines involvement simply as the quality and quantity of energy devoted to the academic experience. According to him, a “highly involved student” spends considerable energy studying, actively participates in student organization[s], and frequently interacts with faculty and fellow students. For the purpose of this blog post, I will narrow the scope of involvement to active participation in student organizations, with the assumption that students who do this also spend a considerable amount of time studying and interacting with peers and faculty.

Positive outcomes from becoming involved at William and Mary:

  • Increased academic development

Becoming involved outside of the classroom has been shown to increase students’ general knowledge, critical thinking ability, analytical ability, and problem-solving skills (Astin, 1993). The college classroom can teach you a wealth of knowledge, however, being able to develop critical thinking skills and applying knowledge outside of the classroom is important in bridging the gap between college student and active professional! Involvement on campus has also been correlated with higher GPAs among college students.

  • Increased interpersonal development

Joining student organizations allows students to meet people outside of their classes or program of study! Meeting and working with peers outside of the classroom helps to build interpersonal relationships. You might even meet some of your best friends in a student organization!

  • Increased college experience satisfaction

Becoming involved on campus allows students to feel more connected to campus and resources! Involvement also increases a student’s sense of belonging. William and Mary has so many offices, resources, and people ready and willing to help. Becoming involved on campus connects you to more people who have been in your shoes before and want to support you and help you succeed!

  • Find MEANING!

Involvement in an organization related to something you have a passion for increases a student’s sense of finding meaning in college and in life. Not to get too deep here, but there has been extensive research on finding meaning in life and how everyday activities can contribute to establishing purpose. Many psychologists have found that participating in something bigger than yourself (in this case a student organization) or helping others through community service increases one’s overall sense of purpose and meaning. Joining a student organization can help you discover your passion and become involved in issues you care about.

And on top of all those reasons, being involved is FUN!

Hopefully those reasons were enough to convince you that becoming involved at William and Mary is the right choice for you! Visit TribeLink to discover the 250+ student organizations and get involved in something that is important to you.

Stay tuned for our next post on how to discover student organizations that are right for you!

Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of college student personnel25(4), 297-308.

Astin, A. W. (1993). What matters in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco.
Foubert, J. D., & Urbanski, L. A. (2006). Effects of involvement in clubs and organizations on the psychosocial development of first-year and senior college students. NASPA journal43(1), 166-182.


An Introduction to Discuss Difference

William & Mary’s Student Leadership Development Discuss Difference is an opportunity for leaders to think intentionally about ways that you engage with people across socio-cultural differences. These differences range and include but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, neurodiversity, region, political leanings, etc. Research shows that leaders who can have healthy conversations across differences engage and thrive in their leadership efforts. Leadership experts reveal that discussing difference of views and seeing diverse perspectives advance leadership skills. Those discussions can be informal and formal and should include a wide range of issues.

There are various opportunities on campus to get involved with organizations and events where discussing difference lives at the center. Reading through list serves such as Diversity Happenings published by the Center for Student Diversity allows you to learn more about what is happening on campus. Here are a few suggestions for things you can do to inspire conversations across difference:

  • Have lunch with someone who has a different political point of view than you! Check out this initiative, Hi From The Other Side that provides a guideline for conversations.
  • Attend an event sponsored by a faith based organization that you are less familiar with.
  • Consider ways that cultural awareness will allow you to become a better leader. Read this great article!

Please join the Office of Student Leadership Development in celebrating discussions across difference. Throughout April, we will post a weekly blog that offers more tips and we have a series of podcasts. The podcasts feature W&M staff and faculty who care deeply about leaning into conversations around difference. If you are not an avid podcast fan, try listening and you may have a go-to medium for learning & sharing ideas (ultimately, inspiring you to have more conversations across difference!)

Student Leadership Development’s #NoTitleNeeded November


“Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader…They set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role-always about the goal.” – Lisa Haisha

Join us this year as we celebrate #NoTitleNeeded this November!

Join us this November as we celebrate #NoTitleNeeded!

Student Leadership Development’s #NoTitleNeeded initiative exists to encourage students to recognize and celebrate where leadership and contribution take place without a reliance on position, title or role. Leadership is a process amongst all members and through #NoTitleNeeded we work to elevate the concept that it is not about the role (or title) but always about working toward a shared goal together.

During the 2016 #NoTitleNeeded initiative, we hope you and your organization will focus on emerging contributors within your group or cause. The belief that you are capable is one of the greatest contributors to leadership efficacy. Build this leadership efficacy in your members by thanking them for the (#NoTitleNeeded) contributions they are making to your shared goals.

SLD is excited to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded and we hope you’ll join us! Join us in Sadler Center on Tuesday, November 15th through Thursday, November 17th to pick up swag, participate in the photo campaign with the #NoTitleNeeded boards, and write a note card to someone who you would like to recognize.

Do you want to celebrate #NoTitleNeeded, but in need of materials? SLD is offering a #NoTitleNeeded pack complete with buttons and stickers! You can register to pick up a #NoTitleNeeded Pack here: Please register by Friday, November 18th and packs will be ready for pick up in the Student Leadership Development Office (Campus Center Room 203) between Tuesday, November 15th and Tuesday, November 22nd.

Be sure to check out our handy guide here with suggestions on ways to recognize others:  #NoTitleNeeded Resource. Remember that the sky’s the limit as you recognize others!


Discovering A Path to Involvement


The Wonderful World of Leadership: Discovering A Path to Involvement

It has been a week since the Student Organizations and Activities Fair, which means for many new students, you are already thinking of what organizations you will be joining. Hopefully the fair felt like you entered a world of pure imagination without leaving you overwhelmed. During this time, the Student Leadership Development Staff encourages you to consider the organizations you will join in an intentional, mindful way. As you consider your path to involvement, consider the following questions:cropped-IMG_1896.jpg

  • What do you care about? (People, places, causes, events, trends, culture, etc.)
  • What skills, knowledge, or insights do you want to develop?
  • What energizes you or restores your well-being?

The key theme of these questions are meant to encourage and inspire the “why” you are joining a particular organization. As you reflect on the following questions, begin to think about why you are joining groups and what you bring to the organization. Asking and answering “the why” allows you to enter a new space with a mission, vision, and sense of purpose. The path to involvement can be a more enjoyable path, when you are making the connections. It is much more fulfilling to share why you joined an organization instead of providing a list of what you are involved in.

Many W&M students are driven by different desired outcomes. If you are feeling stuck, considering your involvement with these questions in mind will help refine your choices and enhance your experiences this year! You may want to be involved in an organization that is tied to:

  • Something you care about and want to continue with
  • Something you are interested in but have yet to try
  • Something that would advance your academic or professional interests

For more information about ways to get involved and for a full list of recognized student organizations, visit the website for the Office of Student Leadership Development at

We cannot wait to see how you answer ‘the why’ and navigate your path to involvement!

An Open Letter of Understanding

At the beginning of the spring semester, a few student organizations hosted themed parties in which the theme and resulting costumes marginalized members of the W&M community. The following is an open letter written in collaboration by two of our Student Leadership Development staff members, Trici Fredrick and Joe Wheeless.

January 29th, 2015

I am an “administrator.” I spend my days working with students. I share in their joys. I share in their triumphs. I also share in their disappointments; their missteps; their “why on earth would you do this” days. Each morning I wake to a new day just like many other people. However, no two days are alike. My work with students brings forth opportunities to educate, engage, and learn both with students and my colleagues at William and Mary. These past few days have been no different. You are likely aware that over the past weekend a few student organizations chose to host social events where the themes and/or related costumes were hurtful to members of our community. These are not the first groups to host such events and sadly, they will likely not be the last. However, events such as these provide an opportunity for all of us to reflect on, learn from, and process the world around us. They present us with questions like: “Why do groups hosts events like this?” or “Why don’t they understand the implications and why this is hurtful to others?” I will admit, even as a seasoned “administrator,” I don’t have all the answers. I struggle to determine how to best support all students in their learning from and processing of recent events. But I have my ears open and am willing to learn.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have my biases too. I grew up in a privileged environment. I rarely wanted for much. I made mistakes. I learned from those mistakes (and some of those lessons were tough). And every day, I am still learning. None of us are without scars, without burden. We are all human. We all have a story to tell. And I have a deep desire to bring all of us to a conversation and a place that weaves together the beautiful, vibrant, and unique fabric of our William & Mary community.

College is a place for learning; for exploring and building… not just our resumes but also our minds, our hearts, our souls. It is a time of discovery of who we are, what we’re made of and where we might be going (at least for the next chapter of our lives). But it’s also a place for making mistakes; for taking responsibility for our mistakes; for allowing for forgiveness; for being able to stand up and say “This doesn’t feel right” and to hear “What can we do to make this better?” in response. When you find a member of the Tribe who needs to hear this statement or be asked this question, tell them so. Ask them for their story. Share yours. This is the only way we can wade through the waters of uncertainty and find the “right” answers and create a better community. We have to trust each other to ask the hard questions but more importantly we have to be forgiving and gentle enough to be able to work through the answers…together.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s hard work, but it’s the right work. And I commit to working on bettering our community and encouraging people to be better versions of themselves every day.

I need your help though. I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this with closed hearts and closed ears. I respect the voice of others where words come not from a place of revenge or doing harm to others, but from a genuine place to improve the lives of others.

Engage| Elevate| Explore

SLD_3Es_graphicI’m going to try to stop saying “leader”and “leadership.”

Our office gets to share the message of student leadership development pretty regularly – which is a great way to spend your work days.  Except it’s also easy to determine that everyone has a preconceived notion about what “leadership” is or isn’t.  And sometimes the actual use of the word leader or leadership distances people and that’s the last thing we’re hoping for.

The Office of Student Leadership Development has just celebrated our 2nd anniversary here at the College.  We have a mission that tells the world who we are and how we approach our work but it really boils down to just three things.  And these three things are, for us, the critical components to supporting ALL students.

  1. Know yourself.
  2. Know what you care about.
  3. Take action to create positive change.

If you are in action on these three things, then you are doing “leadership” and you are being a “leader.”  It’s that simple.  So I’ll be dropping the L-words and instead I’ll be talking about how we can all engage, elevate, and explore (ourselves, the things we care about, and the communities we are a part of and/or where we want to see positive change).

We hope this new blog from SLD will give you a place to reflect on where you are engaging, elevating, and exploring for yourself both across campus and in the communities you care about most.

– Anne Arseneau