From student to facilitator: My experience with the Student Leadership Program

students talking in a group

I started the Student Leadership Program, a series of twelve workshops led by the Student Success Office, during my undergraduate years with the motivation to improve my leadership skills and add an extra line on my resume. However, before finishing the program, I became a workshop facilitator. 

I did the Student Leadership Program with a mindset to learn new skills to help me navigate the various challenges of graduate school. When I spoke about these workshops to my peers, I was very surprised that most did not know about these resources. The few who knew about this professional development gem were under the impression that the program is only for undergraduate students. The truth is that anyone can take these workshops regardless of their level of study at the University and the information is applicable to challenges that graduate students face.

As a participant in the workshops, I often left feeling energized, motivated and equipped with new tools to help me overcome challenges such as leading a team, presenting my own research or managing conflicts. I often left workshops in awe of the general ease with which workshop facilitators taught their material.

In the winter semester of 2016, the program began recruiting facilitators and I decided to apply. I felt drawn towards the position because it would allow me to improve my facilitation skills in a non-achievement setting. Training for the position spanned two days. Amongst other things, I learned how to create a positive learning environment and how to continue presenting even when you make a mistake. These are two things that graduate students constantly strive to do, for example, through our own teaching and conference presentations. While supervisors and colleagues can help us prepare for guest lectures or conference presentations, I felt a lack of input on how to foster an engaging environment or how to deal with the little ‘hiccups’ that can arise. The Student Leadership Program filled this gap for me. I continue to learn something new from every workshop that I facilitate.

My advice to graduate students looking to improve their leadership skills is to sign up for the Student Leadership Program workshops. Even if you don’t complete all 12 workshops, I recommend checking any one of them out and if something piques your interest, then sign-up for it. There is no timeline for completing the program so you do not have to rush. Who knows- maybe you will be impressed by the program and get involved as a facilitator!

Jhotisha Mugon is a PhD Candidate in Psychology, researching the cognitive mechanism of boredom and engagement.

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