It is not enough to simply create a job description and assume your program will develop from there. There are many critical components that also need to be considered once the job description(s) are created. The Advancing Community Engagement With Student Leaders Manual and Workbook provides overviews and examples for each of these activities. A brief outline of important tasks is provided here for your consideration:
- Secure Funding & Non-Financial Incentives (Manual, 59-70; Workbook, 23-26)
After developing initial ideas about the roles and responsibilities for student leaders, it is logical to begin thinking about sources of funding that can provide incentives for participation, pay wages, and cover overhead costs. The programs featured in the Manual have been successful because they all used critical funding strategies, many of which are described in detail in the manual.
- Recruiting Student Leaders (Manual, 71-74; Workbook, 27-30)
Finding the right students for the job is an important step in creating a student leadership for community engagement program. Once you have developed the job description(s), it is important to develop an action plan for recruiting the right student leaders.
- Selecting Student Leaders (Manual, 75-78; Workbook, 31-34)
This is one of the most important steps in cultivating a successful community engagement student leadership program and as with any professional staff position; it is also one of the most intensive and time-consuming processes! What is different and unique in the information provided in the Advancing Community Engagement With Student Leadership How-To Manual is how tried-and-true proven methods can best be used to select qualified, dedicated, and creative student leaders.
- Training, Ongoing Support, and Evaluation (Manual, 79-90; Workbook, 35-40)
Because many students come to your program with limited experience, it is critical that you provide thorough training prior to their first day of work in your office. The approaches and topics are as varied as the positions you might create and can range from a one-day meeting with a newly hired student leader or a small group of students, to a multiday retreat either on- or off-campus, to a training/orientation at the community partner site.
- Address Growing Pains (Manual, 71-74; Workbook, 41-44)
Developing a new program is never perfect, and the process can be challenging. It is important to remember that “growing pains” are normal for any new efforts. This section of the Manual provides a list of some of the typical challenges you might encounter and is followed by strategies and suggestions that have been used by the model programs and their professional staff to survive. Perhaps most important of all is the idea that you do not need to create your student leadership in community engagement program overnight. Starting small can help you discover unforeseen challenges before the program gets too big to manage.
- Develop an Alumni Relations Plan (Manual, 71-74; Workbook, 45-48)
According to a 2005 research report by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, 29 percent of service-learning students reported frequent monetary donations to their alma mater in comparison to only 11 percent of students who frequently donated but did not participate in service during college. Students who take on leadership roles will be even more connected to the university and are more likely to support the community engagement program that they were a part of when they graduate.
The CSU Center for Community Engagement gratefully acknowledges the Surdna Foundation for its generous and visionary support of The Next Stage: Boosting Service Learning to New Heights, three-year grant initiative.