Story by Kevin Doucette
The iLEAD (Leadership Education and Development) Whatcom program at Whatcom Community College fosters personal and professional development for students, and helps them build leadership skills through a variety of workshops each year.
“It’s a way for students to receive free professional development,” said Laura Singletary, Whatcom’s Student Programs and Leadership Coordinator.
Singletary facilitated this year’s first iLEAD workshop, held Oct. 3, and said that she leads many of them but tries to bring in speakers from campus and the community that can share their areas of expertise with students as well.
These workshops are provided for students to help them develop leadership, communication, multiculturalism, civic engagement, personal, professional, and academic skills.
These categories are broken down into a large variety of topics including team building, goal setting, talking about diversity, stereotype threats, communicating with others, stress management, and self-esteem.
Aside from developing a multitude of useful skills, students who finish the program will receive a certificate and a Leadership in Service Honor Cord when they graduate, and are entered to receive a $500 dollar scholarship.
Singletary said the program and scholarships are available to all Whatcom students. “I think one surprise from last year was that we didn’t have anyone apply for the scholarships, and the money went unfunded.”
In order to complete the program, students must earn 20 points in each of the three program components over the course of the year: Whatcom Community College campus leadership, community leadership, and service learning leadership.
These points are earned through things such as attending the workshops, club meetings, Student Senate meetings, leadership conferences, Statewide Legislative meetings, interviewing a Whatcom faculty or leadership staff member or a City of Bellingham council member, and volunteering in the community.
Students who successfully complete the program will also write a resume, cover letter and personal statement, go through a Leadership Assessment with an adviser, create an academic plan, and submit a final portfolio in spring quarter.
At the end of each workshop students who are in the program fill out a reflection sheet which they put in their portfolio.
“We developed the reflection portion of the workshop to help students immediately identify this information and write it down so when they need to access it in the future for personal use, resumes, [and] university applications, they have it,” said Singletary.
Speakers in the past have included Eric Davis,s who leads workshops and gives presentations on topics such as racial issues and equality, and is known for using music and pop culture to facilitate discussion, and Whatcom’s Human Resources director Becky Rawlings. Rawlings worked with students on how to give peer evaluations and feedback, Singletary said.
Singletary said participation in iLEAD can be used on a resume. She also said the program holds mock interviews, where students interview with different administrators and receive feedback on how they did.
“Nobody really enjoys the process,” said Singletary. “But they are very much appreciative of the information they are able to gather in order to improve their interview skills.”
More than 20 Whatcom students attended the first session, which focused on racial issues.
“In my opinion the best growth happens outside our comfort zone,” said Singletary during the session. “We need to take risks. You’re going to face plant, but you are going to get better.”
The students watched a video of a TEDx Talk given by Jay Smooth, founder of New York City’s longest running hip-hop radio program Underground Railroad. Smooth talked about how people discuss race and what some effective ways to improve how we talk about race are. After the video, students in smaller groups discussed their personal encounters dealing with conversations on race.
“We get to open up, and hear what others think,” Whatcom student Jonathan Boe, who attended the workshop, said. “Stereotypes and racism [are] everywhere, and everyone thinks about it.”
Boe said not only are the sessions a good way to learn, but you can meet new people as well.
Jessica Duncan said that the video focused on “what we can do” to change the way of thinking around talking about race.
“I think it just made me more aware of how sensitive the topic is perceived to be and how unnecessary that is,” Duncan said. “People should be celebrated for who they are, not afraid to talk about themselves and express their views and culture.”
Ambrose Zhi, an international student from China who also participated in the workshop said he didn’t know completely what race was or what racism really meant.
“It’s probably a good way to improve your resume, and I think I can get something out of this,” said Zhi of the workshop.
Schedules for the iLEAD workshops are available in the Student Life Office in upstairs Syre. The next workshop is Oct. 17, and any Whatcom student is welcome to join.