I graduated this past May from Sonoma State University with a degree in English, concentration in Creative Writing. Through my time at Sonoma State, I held a number of leadership positions through which I learned key skills that have helped me immeasurably in the mere 6 months since my graduation.
Fall of my freshman year at Sonoma State, I was shy, scared and nervous. I wanted to be a part of something, but I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I was enrolled in all GE classes and University 102. I found none of these classes to be challenging, and I skated by without caring a whole lot.
In the Spring Semester of my freshman year, I took University 238. This was the first class I took at Sonoma State where an instructor respected my academic ability and desire, then challenged me to do better in an intentional and supportive way. I strongly believe that this is one of the things that kept me at Sonoma State at a time when I was seriously considering transferring or dropping out.
It is important for students to feel like they are a part of something positive and significant. University 238 is a course that activity engages students to learn and gain skills that support and further the mission statement of the university.
The mission statement of Sonoma State says that the goals of Sonoma State include preparing students to “[contribute] to the health and well-being of the world at large.” The curriculum for the University requires that students do some kind of service-learning project. Often, this involves the students helping the community. Some projects I have seen students in University 238 do include taking food and socks to homeless people in Sonoma County, going to convalescent hospitals to play board games with the residents and creating on-campus initiatives to build awareness for topics such as environmental protection, discrimination and personal health.
The mission statement further says that it wants to develop students who are “active citizens and leaders in society.” What better way to do this than through a class called “Foundations of Leadership?” As a Teaching Assistant for University 238 for three consecutive semesters, I helped and guided approximately 75 students who were enrolled in the course. Over the period of 16 weeks, I saw each group of students grow immeasurably. The respect they grew for diversity (which falls under “having a broad cultural perspective” in the University Mission Statement), the understanding of Leadership theory and models (specifically the Relational Leadership Model) and the ability to look at problems through multiple lenses and perspectives are all tangible results of the course.
I recognize that a series of workshops will be developed for students, and that the majority of the same skills will be imparted to student who choose to engage in these workshops. However, there is the very real likelihood that the students who will choose to participate in the workshops will be solely the students who desire the positions which require participation in the workshops. The University 238 class appealed to a larger, broader group of students, all from different walks of life. While many of these students were seeking the leadership positions, an equal amount were taking it just for the experience of taking a class on leadership. Many of these students want to help move their club or Greek organization forward. Others end up not going into formal leadership positions at all.
In my time at Sonoma State University, I saw school spirit and pride increase tenfold. Much of this was due to student leaders who were inspired to create a change after taking University 238. To go from a campus culture with no homecoming tradition and very little school spirit (quantified by the number of people at the University on the weekend and the amount of SSU T-shirts and sweatshirts one saw around campus compared to other school T-shirts and sweatshirts) was absolutely incredible. Yet there is still a significant amount of growth for the campus in the coming years, and I believe that growth will come from the student leaders.
I know California is in a tight place financially. I know that tough decisions and hard cuts have to be made. I know University 238 is a program that has been on the chopping block. I know that the number of students it reaches is significantly less than the number of students many other programs at Sonoma State reach. But I believe that the impact it has on the students it reaches is incredibly profound and deep.
My involvement in this program (ranging from being a student to being a Teaching Assistant for 3 semesters) is one of the largest reasons for my pursuit of graduate education. I am presently studying College Student Development at Oklahoma State University. I very firmly believe that were it not for the University 238 program, I would not be here studying this subject or pursuing a career in the Student Affairs field.
[My name was here]
Sonoma State University Alumnus
Class of 2011, English (Creative Writing)