By Isaiah Reese
Elm Staff Writer
Washington College Interim Provost and Dean Dr. Michael Harvey and Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Sarah Feyerherm are working with others on a new initiative that plans to highlight leadership at WC and the surrounding community.
The Leadership, Environment, and Community Initiative was created by Dr. Harvey and other faculty and staff. Currently, there is a group of 25 people in the planning committee, which will soon seek to hear the voices of the students to round out the project’s overall vision.
Though it is still in early stages, LEC aims to offer internships, micro-internships, externships, funding for student projects, mentorship, and other important opportunities for WC students to showcase their leadership skills.
The idea to highlight leadership at WC comes from the various displays of communal activism that have occurred over the last few years, especially as it pertains to the protest against racial bias at the annual WC Convocation Ceremony on Feb. 21, 2020.
“The student protest of a year ago helped make a lot of people become aware that there are invisible walls around campus,” Dr. Harvey said. “There are zones of exclusion that some students could point to right away and other people are oblivious to.”
Though the complete initiative is still in the brainstorming stage, Drs. Harvey and Feyerherm gave me the impression that LEC will be comprised of multiple programs and projects — for example, the implementation of a group of student ambassadors, or a group of young leaders who are willing to push WC to collaborate with all members of the Chestertown community.
Drs. Feyerherm and Harvey both work with student leaders in everything from academics to residential life, meaning that they both have a keen sense of what organizational student leadership should look like.
“Leadership matters because it is about individuals helping groups and communities solve problems. It’s not the person who gets the most money, or the person with the fanciest job title, or the person at the top of the organizational chart,” Dr. Harvey said. “It is a person, by some kind creative or courageous act, [who] helps a group or community confront a problem, tackle a problem, solve a problem.”
Leadership on a college campus is very important. Students should be the backbone to every college institution. The implementation of LEC may open the doors to more student leadership and involvement at WC.
“[Dr. Caddie Putnam Rankin] in business management has an idea for a social impact lab, where WC students would get support to go out and try entrepreneurial ideas, study business from an ethical perspective, and go out and help local business initiatives in the community,” Dr. Harvey said. “So there is a social impact for business education at the college.”
The social impact lab can put students’ visions and ideas to the test while gaining authentic entrepreneurial skills.
“I’d love to see [Dr. Putnam] Rankin’s idea of this concept that comes up in career development called micro-internships, where essentially an organization has one, or two, or three, week problems they need somebody to come in to solve,” Dr. Feyerherm said. “Maybe I need a student to come up and get my website up and going, develop a social media campaign, or do a short video for me, or figure out how to do a balance sheet for a non-profit.”
Dr. Harvey also mentioned the possibility of there being a new leadership minor made available for students at WC.
“There are many wonderful ideas. One that I can see being nice is that every student at the college, whatever their major, can have the opportunity to minor in leadership in a way that it connects with biology, sociology, or history, or communication and media studies,” Dr. Harvey said.
Dr. Harvey also emphasized his wish for the program to be well-funded and supported.
“It would be much better and much truer to our vision if leadership came to be understood to be woven throughout the WC experience in a whole variety of ways,” Dr. Harvey said.
It is possible that LEC will encourage more engagement within student-led organizations, to make the overall college experience representative of everyone enrolled at WC.
LEC seems to be an acknowledgement of the bravery that students have displayed in the past. This idea commends and honors the students’ willingness to help solve the issues had by the WC community and presents opportunities for students to make more of those efforts in the future.
“The SGA and some others are leading, and they are making those connections,” Dr. Feyerherm said. “Our students are connected to the community already, but let’s build on that energy. We need to be good community members at WC. Has WC made a huge impact as a partner with this community? I don’t notice we have. I think this is a great time to do that both symbolically and practically.”