Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC expanding student leadership development

05/24/2019 - 8am
Audrey Adamson

The Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees heard a presentation on May 20 by Vice President of Student Services Dr. Joseph Odenwald about the many leadership-development avenues being offered at the College.

Fresh off the second annual Leadership Summit with 20 students May 6 at YMCA Camp Eberhart on Corey Lake near Three Rivers, Odenwald told trustees about a new 10-week “Lead SMC” class which began May 17. In addition, nine summer orientation leaders (OLs) will help new students during fall orientation sessions – the program represents an expansion of last summer’s Welcome Week leaders. Three fall orientation sessions have already taken place, with eight more scheduled.

Odenwald introduced business administration major Audrey Adamson, who participated in the Leadership Summit.

Adamson, a Georgia native, an OL and a summer RA, determined SMC to be her college destination through online research. “For me, SMC has been a wonderful experience,” she said. “I want up-and-coming students to know this college is here to help you succeed in anything you might want to do. I’ve always enjoyed putting myself in leadership roles. I love helping people grow and learn. One day, when I’m a business owner, a financial advisor, a CEO or even a mother, I will be a good leader and role model to those who look up to me. I’m considering staying here for the Ferris program so I can be an RA all four years.”

“You are a great ambassador for SMC,” Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon said.

“Part of Student Services’ overall strategy is providing multiple student leadership-development opportunities to support a dynamic student-led campus life,” Odenwald said. “There are seven students in the inaugural Lead SMC.

Class meets every week; we’re going to Lansing June 13 to talk with state government officials and to South Bend Aug. 1 to meet the Cubs organization. We’ll also have lots of opportunities on campus for the atmosphere to be livelier for our growing number of summer students.”

Odenwald, Office of First Year Experience Manager Katie Hannah, Director of Residence Life Jeff Hooks and SAC Assistant Manager Branden Pompey, who will be advising the Council of Clubs this fall, gave an overview at the first class.

Speakers tentatively include Registrar Steve Carlson, who is also a certified strengths assessment administrator; accountant and SMC Trustee Becky Moore; Dowagiac City Manager Kevin Anderson; SMC President Dr. David Mathews; veteran Andrew Churchill of Ferris State University; Testing Center Manager Kristen Lownds, a former school counselor whose topic will be inclusion; and alumnus Terry Groth, a Dowagiac school board member who works as an engineering supervisor in the nuclear power industry.

There is a required service component, including United Way of Southwest Michigan’s Rock the Boat, including building a cardboard craft to race on July 18, and Steve’s Run benefiting cancer research July 27.

Each participant will complete a portfolio by Aug. 1 comprised of short exercises, journal entries and the individual’s personal leadership vision, mission and style. They completed an application process, including obtaining a recommendation letter from a faculty or staff member.

Odenwald taught graduate-level leadership for seven years and “I’ve always wanted to do this for undergraduates.”

“Students, and employers, too, are looking for soft-skill development you get in programs like this to be competitive,” Odenwald said. “They’re not being compensated. Students are doing this because they want to. I haven’t found any Michigan community colleges doing this much leadership development. We’re going to have an army of student leaders as this grows.”