Students find their inner leader

Program helps develop community involvement, communication skills



The three-tiered program offered by WSU allows students to attend workshops and engage in community service, like Adopt-a-Block. WSU alumna Keanna Maki says she went to Spokane to hear speakers talk about their leadership position.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

Kaye Gill joined the Emerging Leaders certificate program as a freshman because she was interested in leadership but could not see herself as a leader.

Three years later, Gill is the director of the Cougar Leadership Team, which organizes the three-tier leadership program starting with Emerging Leaders.

“I’m not a super extroverted person. I’m definitely more of an introvert. For a long time, I thought that meant I couldn’t be a leader just because I’m not someone who loves public speaking,” Gill said. “[I’ve learned] how me, as myself, can connect people and bring people together and amplify other voices.”

She said she gained confidence as a leader in the program and even decided to run for student government. Now she is part of the ASWSU Senate and served as the agricultural and natural sciences senator last year.

The program offered includes Emerging Leaders, Crimson Leadership VIP and Leadership WSU, Gill said.

As students go through the program, they gain more knowledge about leadership, said Keanna Maki, a recent WSU graduate who went through the program.

Emerging Leaders focuses on personal leadership while Crimson Leadership VIP addresses how to be a leader in a community, Gill said. Leadership WSU looks beyond the community.

Maki said Leadership WSU students go to Spokane to hear from people in leadership positions and learn how they got started and how leadership has impacted them.

However, the program has more benefits than solely learning to be a leader, said Jordan Goggin, Crimson Leadership VIP coordinator. The students gain friends, which helps them create a support system of like-minded students.

Maki said she enjoyed the program. While she realized anyone can be a leader, she thinks the most important part of her experience was the friends she made that she would not have known otherwise.

The program draws students from all walks of life, Goggin said. With students from so many different backgrounds, they meet other students like them who are passionate about leadership but who may have different struggles and are in different places in their leadership journey.

“It’s through those different backgrounds and different experiences that we can come to one whole solution when creating things,” he said. “It just made me realize how important it is to have a diverse set of voices to listen to on any given problem.”

Emerging Leaders is a one-semester workshop-based certificate, Goggin said. One workshop the students participated in emphasized effective communication. The workshop also taught students that if they give constructive criticism that included positive and negative reinforcement, it is more likely they will see the results they want.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson has come to speak to the students on topics such as public speaking, Goggin said. Many students struggle to deliver speeches in class, so the leadership program can help them develop skills that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to.

The yearlong Crimson Leadership VIP program focuses on helping others in the community. Last year, students participated in Adopt-a-Block, in which they cleaned up different streets and were able to connect with the community, Gill said.

The Crimson Leadership VIP students also advise the students in Emerging Leaders, which helps them practice their leadership skills, Maki said.

This year, the entire leadership program will be online, Gill said. The leadership team is navigating ways to continue connecting and engaging with students in a virtual format.