Leadership skills can give students a leg up no matter where they go in life or in the workforce, and college is the place to develop a solid foundation.
UCCSlead provides students with leadership training and experience through four programs each semester: the Game Changer experience, a student-led conference, community service opportunities and group workshops.
“With UCCSlead, you don’t have to apply for it, qualify for it, pay for it,” said program director Sloan Gonzeles. “There’s no caveat. With a lot of programs, sometimes you have to have a certain GPA, or you have to meet blank, blank and blank. But the goal of our UCCS program is to provide access to leadership for all students, undergrad and graduate.”
UCCSlead has evolved since its inception to meet the needs of the student population, growing from just one program to today’s four and servicing 500-800 students annually. According to Gonzales, UCCS didn’t have anything like it on campus before.
The flagship Game Changer program is a half-day, peer-to-peer leadership experience. Upon completion of the Game Changer, students receive a leadership certificate and a graduation cord.
“We call it an experience because it’s not a conference,” Gonzales said. “We’re not teaching you leadership for a half day. It’s very experiential based. So, it’s activity focused conversation.”
UCCSlead peer facilitators ask and work through questions with the students on the concept of everyday leadership. “That’s really at our core of everything we are doing,” Gonzales said. “That anyone and everyone is a leader. It’s not something you have to earn to step into. It’s how we just choose to show up every single day.”
The Game Changer is hosted numerous times throughout the year and has averaged around 80 students per event.
Student Leadership Conference
The Student Leadership Conference is an annual event, scheduled this year for Nov. 5. A student-led planning committee decides the theme, the structure and the speakers, while the department provides the resources, direction and training.
“We had great success, great turnout. And so, we’re doing it again this year. This year’s theme is a New Hope,” Gonzales said. “It’s Jedi — just as equity, diversity and inclusion. So, it’s Star Wars and DEI themed, which we’re really excited about. So, it’s going to mix in every day in pop culture.”
Ten of the 11 presenters were students at last year’s conference.
Days of Service and Activism
The Days of Service and Activism are campus-wide service events that run in the fall and spring semesters. The program begins with a breakfast to talk about the importance of service and activism, how it intersects with leadership and why students should do service and activism while they are in school.
Students then choose which service or activism project they want to do based on their interest and go to one of four locations where they can give back to the UCCS and Colorado Springs communities.
The first option is a traditional service opportunity, like cleaning up the trail at Pulpit Rock. Students can also work with a local activist organization, serve at UCCS or join a themed project.
This fall, the theme will be making an impact for local children. Last spring, UCCSlead partnered with the Office of Sustainability with a theme focused on environmental causes during Earth Month.
UCCSlead runs leadership workshops for classes, departments, clubs and organizations that need leadership development.
“We have a list of workshops that provides them a free service, so they don’t have to contract out and pay to bring in somebody,” Gonzalez said. “We can come in and talk about creativity and innovation and leadership or what does it mean to show up as a professional and authentic leader.”
UCCSlead makes their programs accessible with a virtual option, according to Alisha Silkey, UCCSlead program assistant and former student participant.
“Our virtual options are not just like a computer that we spin around on a Teams meeting,” Silkey said. “We put together bags for our students so they can participate in all the activities and they have all the supplies they need to feel like they’re getting the same experience that the in-person folks are getting. And we have people who are working the online experience to do small breakout rooms. So, it’s not feeling disconnected or disengaged.”
Students can sign up for UCCSlead programs through Mountain Lion Connect. Gonzales recommends signing up early so they can accommodate food for all students.
Photo courtesy of runtheworld.today.