York’s Student Leadership Development Program a success

York University is providing students with leadership skills they can use to create a better future for themselves and their communities. York’s Student Leadership Development Program (SLDP), launched by the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development in January, has received an overwhelmingly positive response to its leadership sessions.

Three days after launching the SLDP Web site, all programs were filled to capacity. "We were literally flooded by students who were interested in participating. We jumped on the opportunity and expanded both the number of sessions offered and number of students who could attend each session," says Frank Cappadocia, director of Student Community & Leadership Development..

Student feedback following the sessions has remained highly positive. "The session was so engaging that students choose to stay an extra hour to keep the conversation going. Everyone came out smiling," says Jing Zhai, a second-year bachelor of business administration student.

Right: Students learn leadership skills in SLDP session

The program is free of charge and open to all York students. Each leadership session is approximately 90 minutes long and has been developed by a "York expert". The program is a great way for students to either improve their current leadership skills or acquire new ones.

The program brings together some of York’s best facilitators within each respective subject area to give participants a competitive advantage that can be used here at York and in the rest of their lives. "I look up to the presenters. They really are York’s best facilitators," says Katelyn Fairweather, a fifth-year, double-major student in music and humanities.

Jamil Jivani, a second-year international development studies student, thinks the speakers are noteworthy because they’re involved on campus. "We’re learning substantial leadership skills from passionate presenters who preach what they practice and share their true beliefs."

Completion of any number of sessions can be a great addition to a student’s resumé along with enhancing community involvement and citizenship. "Session topics are really life lessons, given by experienced presenters," says Sean Karmali, fourth-year, political science and broadcast journalism student.

Left: Students in SLDP session work on developing communication, planning, presentation and assessment skills

Extensive on-campus research showed the majority of students wanted student leaders to chose the content of the initial 11 workshops. "The Student Leadership Development Program was designed by students for students. Elected York student presidents charted the program’s course by identifying core areas of student development," says Cappadocia. "Student leaders told us that these sessions couldn’t be lectures. They needed to be highly interactive and dynamic and we’ve done our utmost to meet that expectation."

The program is designed to provide York students with leadership skills in a timely, meaningful and interactive format. Sessions cover a variety of leadership topics, including ethics, communication, power & influence, motivation, planning, public speaking, presentations, assessment, cooperation and diversity.

Students have expressed positive connections to York through their involvement in the SLDP program. Jivani believes that through this program, York is "recognizing, fostering and cultivating student leadership and taking the initiative" to help students tap their leadership potential.

The future plan is to continue to expand the number of sessions as the SLDP continues to grow. Student participants can take one or more of the sessions at their discretion. Participants who complete at least three sessions receive a letter of recognition from the director of Student Community & Leadership Development. Students who complete eight or more sessions receive a letter of acknowledgment from the vice-president students. Students are highly-motivated by the prospect of earning a reference letter, which many plan to use for job and grad school applications.

Karmali appreciates how the program reaches out to all York students. "I like how many students are involved and how this program reaches out to commuter students to offer them a way to connect with campus life."

Current student leaders are immediately transferring their learning to the betterment of York’s student organization and view the program as "an opportunity enhance their skill sets and get promoted up the ranks in their York student organizations," says Jivani.

The SLDP brings together York students, across all disciplines and connects them to leadership. "It’s a way for York students interested in leadership to meet and exchange ideas," says Zhai.

For more information on the SLDP, visit the Web site or e-mail leaders@yorku.ca.