Friday, 11 April 2014

Leading Questions: Part 2

With the last week of classes here, it’s time to start finishing up our final papers, putting the finishing touches on our assignments, power reading the final few chapters of our text books, and getting ready for exams…. AND, I’m going to suggest that we take a few moments to try and really appreciate the people that we’ve had around us all year. We are fortunate enough to have strong and positive community of students in our classrooms, residences, student groups, and in student governance. Each one of us contributes to our campus, and hopefully we have each been able to positively impact one another. 

This week, YouAlberta will be celebrating a few of the individuals who have made an effort to improve your student experience this year. Some might call these individuals leaders, others might simply see them as that face that they see around campus, while others still would just call them “friend.” 

Here's a look at one of our student leaders:

Student Leader - Sharon Mvundura

 “Everything that I’m involved in is something that I really believe in whether it’s food insecurity on campus or promoting engagement for political science students or just giving an avenue for students to be involved on campus, I think a good leader cares about the greater U of A community and wants to make connections.” 

These are the reasons that Sharon Mvundura has chosen to get involved on campus. And these are the same qualities that have inspired me to get involved too. 

Sharon, who has been a mentor to me both personally and professionally, is the Assistant Executive Director of the Campus Food Bank and the President of the Political Science Undergraduate Association. As I’ve known her, Sharon has served as a lightning rod of enthusiasm and compassion, as she’s acted as a rallying point for volunteers. Over the course of her journey from a volunteer to a team leader and finally to Associate Executive Director, her enthusiasm has been infections and the support she offers to others is unrivaled. 

When I first joined the CFB as a volunteer, I only expected to pitch in a few tasks here and there during my obligatory 2 hours per week. However, over the course of my time with the organization, I’ve been given the room and the encouragement to do so much more. Sharon was vital to my development as she continually reassured me that I had what it takes to tackle more responsibility and she encouraged me to push myself to be better. By working with her more, my perceptions about my own leadership abilities began to change – I began to recognize that maybe I too could take on more challenges. “Leadership isn’t always about being the person at the front of the room,” she said,  “sometimes it’s about being supportive and empowering the people you’re working with.” That approach to leadership is definitely what motivated me to pursue my own leadership opportunities.  She supported me unwaveringly and the combination of her encouragement, belief, and necessary nagging resulted in me doing more and more in the organization.

Supporting students, one meal at a time
When asked about what motivates her to take on so many roles, she happily replied “I personally feel better when I’m doing more things. The more engaged I am, the happier I am.” 

The relationships she builds with the CFB volunteers makes the whole organization run more smoothly while also empowering volunteers at an individual level. She has taught me the type of work ethic, openness, and compassion that not only makes a good leader but also makes the CFB a great organization. Leaders like Sharon tap into the enthusiasm and energy on campus while coordinating and organizing people to help them harness, develop, and channel their skills and passions. After all, like Sharon likes to say “the U of A has really special students and as a whole the campus is made up of people that are different in so many ways and really want to be involved and passionate about things no matter what they are.”  

Looking to inspire

Despite how much I’ve learned from her, it turns out that Sharon still feels like she’s learning too. She’s told me that for her “involvement on campus has made me so much more open-minded and so much more aware of other people as well as the values that I cherish the most. It’s helped me grow and learn the value of community." In thinking about her words, I can see what she means; as students, we’re all learning more about ourselves through our experiences and encounters both in and outside the classroom.

Thanks to Sharon, I believe that I (and my fellow CFB volunteers) have gained a lot, and I hope that someday, I might be lucky enough to inspire inspire someone as much as she’s inspired me. When reflecting on how leadership and involvement in the U of A community has changed her since her first year, Sharon departed with these salient words: “I've gained so much from this community and I'm really sad to be leaving. I think my leadership roles on campus have given me what I need to be able to go on and do whatever I choose in my life and I think everyone who's involved on campus, whether it's a leadership role or a smaller role, can really attest to that. It really prepares you for the world after graduation. Just because we're students or just because it's at the university, it doesn't make it any less important or valuable."


About the Author

Hello there! I'm Trenton and I'm super excited to be a YouAlberta Student Communicator. Though I spend a staggering amount of my time thinking about a syllabus for an imaginary Batman 101 class, my major is actually Political Science. I love to read, eat, and play around in Photoshop (sometimes all at once). If you're ever looking for someone to debate about a variety of nerdy topics, I'm your man.

It is my hope to tell a wide array of stories about the sides of campus life and student life that may not be immediately apparent. In doing this, I want to showcase the diversity, passion, and community at the U of A that constantly inspires me. My time at the U of A has been truly trans-formative and, as I enter my final year here, I can't wait to listen to and tell stories about the University and its students.


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