Leadership can take many forms, both formal and informal, titled and untitled. I believe intentional effort must be made to constantly improve leadership skills, as well as, to understand what it means to be a leader in academia. Many people may recognize top scholars and high impact-factors as key indicators of “leadership”, and while those may be excellent indicators of scholarship and knowledge, there are many other facets of leadership that are often overlooked.
I have continually pursued education and skills acquisition opportunities in leadership as well as taken on leadership responsibilities. While at Kansas State University I served as President of the Graduate Student Council, which is the university wide student representative body for all graduate students. In this role, I was given the opportunity to serve and represent our graduate students and to find ways to support and enhance graduate education.
While serving as Graduate Student Council President, I was asked to represent graduate students on several university-wide committees and panels. These committees and panels provided me the opportunity to provide input on new policies, including tuition changes, health insurance, student housing, student code of conduct, academic affairs, the university budget, and more.
Faculty Senate – Graduate Senator
Graduate Council, with seat on Academic Affairs sub-committee
University Budget Review Committee
Dean of Graduate School/Vice Provost for Graduate Education Search Committee
Additionally, while serving as President, I was challenged to find unique ways to engage and support our graduate students during the pandemic. Our organization was able to pivot quickly and adapt to a new environment while simultaneously continuing to support our graduate students. Our professional development certificate, student affairs events, and more, all continued without a hitch and we were able to actually increase involvement and participation.
I was able to create and provide several digital methods to communicate with graduate students during the pandemic. One of these informational sources was a welcome video for our incoming Fall 2020 graduate students who were unable to meet us in person.
Within the Agricultural Economics Department at Kansas State, I served as President of our departmental graduate student group (Graduate Students of Agricultural Economics – GSAE). While in this role I was able to get the organization “out of the red” and “into the black” while also improving organization participation. I made sure to gather everyone’s thoughts on what they wanted from the organization and determined what were the major hurdles to participating. By doing so, the leadership team and I were able to provide events and workshops that were highly attended and beneficial to our graduate students.
I have also served our department in the role of Academic Affairs Chair for our Case Study Club. I was responsible for organizing cases to review and providing feedback to our graduate student members. Kansas State University Agricultural Economics Department has a winning history for Case Study Competitions, and I believe that giving back and sharing your knowledge is an important informal method of leadership. The Case Study Club has placed in the top 3 more than 10 times in the last 15 years, with 9 first place finishes at the national level. Such great leadership from Dr. Alex Shanoyan is a perfect example of how leadership can impact student performance.
In the past year, I have not been in a formal/titled leadership position within our department. However, that does not mean my leadership has taken a back seat. When I noticed our department was struggling to stay connected during the pandemic, I set out to organize a Dumb Debates event. Because honestly, what economist doesn’t love to argue? Here is the event promo video I made!
Additionally, in passing conversations with my graduate students, we all felt we were lacking some education and experience in grant writing. So, in effort to fill that gap, I worked with several faculty and put together a Grant Writing Workshop. This workshop will more than likely morph into a series, but once again, this is where informal leadership can make all the difference.