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Learning to lead: Advice from student leaders

By Natalie Irwin

In September of 2018 I attended the 2017-2018 Student Life Awards of Recognition ceremony celebrating students for their leadership and community involvement. 

I interviewed three of the Student Leadership award-winners at the ceremony this year: Lawrence Akintoye-Bentola, Marissa George, and Megan Weales. According to some of our school’s award-winning student leaders, here are the best suggestions for being involved leaders on campus.

Lawrence getting awardLawrence Akintoye-Bentola

Accountability (Ethics) Award

“I’ve always wanted to be someone who made a difference and inspired people to do things.”

Lawrence is a Masters student focusing on inequality in crime and black identity development. Lawrence was awarded the Accountability Award at the Student Leadership Awards ceremony this year.

Lawrence’s top three tips for getting the most out of your university experience are: to work as hard as you play, get as much sleep as you possibly can, and be fearless. Lawrence suggests that getting involved in things that make you feel uncomfortable only foster growth. Again, Lawrence says that working hard is important, and you should strive for the grades you want, but don’t hesitate to go out and have fun, meet new people, and get involved. According to Lawrence, “university is the time you can invent who you are as a person and you shouldn’t take that time for granted.” Lawrence’s last tip: sleep. In Lawrence’s words, “life is going to be really fast and you’re not going to have a lot of time to sleep, so cherish it when you can!”

I also asked Lawrence what has motivated him to be involved and be a leader on campus. He responded, “I’ve always wanted to be someone who made a difference and inspired people to do things. I always found with me being so tall and muscly and stuff like that, I am fortunate enough to help people.” Not only does Lawrence suggest taking advantage of your own strengths, he also suggests that getting involved and being an active participant is one of the best ways to help people in ways that are beyond average.

To students who want to be involved, Lawrence simply said, “Be fearless; do everything you can, have fun, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. The hardest part is the lead up to you doing something. The moment you actually do it, you learn how much fun you’re really going to have.”  

Marissa getting awardMarissa George

Community Building Award

“Go to classes, have fun, and even if you don’t pay attention, you’ll make friends.”

Marissa graduated from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s Communication and Digital Media Studies program. Marissa was awarded the Community Building Award, and recently got engaged!

When I asked Marissa what her top tips are for getting the most out of your university experience, Marissa said, “Go to your classes. Your professors will see your face and recognize you and you’ll build more relationships like that. Join clubs and societies because that is the best way to make friends. And go to events on campus; there are a lot of fun ones I’ve been seeing and I wish I could go to them now.”

Marissa said that she has been involved as a leader because “growing up [she] was a little bit more quiet, and coming into university [she] wanted to change that. [Marissa] was involved in high school in the last year of [her] experience, and wanted to do more of that because it was so fun.”

Marissa suggested that students wanting to be involved should “just talk to somebody. If you talk to one person, and they don’t really know how to help you, talk to another person. Just keep talking to people because that’s how you’ll get involved. And if you don’t want to talk to people, email somebody and tell them you want to get involved, and ask them how you can.”

Megan getting awardMegan Weales

Innovation Award

“Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.”

Megan graduated from the Communication and Digital Media Studies program and is now the Digital Community Coordinator at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in the Office of Student Life.

Megan’s suggestions for getting the most out of your university experience are, “one, step out of your comfort zone. Two, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Three, balance is important.” Megan said that “being able to see the impact that I make for my actions” has motivated her to be involved and take on a student leadership role.

For those wishing to be involved on campus, Megan says, “Do it. Just jump in. Don’t think “oh I’ll wait and see how my classes are and then I’ll join,” just join and then automatically start balancing it with your classes because it just gets easier to keep adding on to that because it’s natural, otherwise you’ll be like “oh classes are too busy so I won’t get involved” and then you just never get involved.”

Nominate someone for the 2018-2019 Student life awards of recognition