Women student leaders reflect on their roles

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Women student leaders reflect on their roles

Saah Wallen on the Alumni lawn, BJU, Greenville, SC, March 17, 2019. (Rebecca Snyder)

In light of March being women’s history month, it seems fitting to acknowledge the influence of women across campus who are doing great things through their leadership positions.

Some of these women work in the spotlight, while others work behind the scenes to unify various groups of people and lead them toward a common goal. Humility and gratitude are common traits among these leaders.

Natalie Dunphy, a junior resident assistant in Nell Sunday residence hall and president of the International Student Organization, said she feels more and more inadequate to fulfill her roles as time goes on because she notices areas where she needs to personally grow and change.

“It’s made me appreciate my leaders more, because I see how difficult it can be,” she said.

Sarah Wallen, president of the Beta Epsilon Chi Cardinals, said God has been so good to allow her to take on this position.  “It was very humbling to know that I got the position,” Wallen said. “I was a little nervous, because it’s a big responsibility.”

Wallen said her role involves finding how she can best serve the girls in her society and on her officer crew.  She said that her society has been so supportive and encouraging throughout her experience.

Emily-Rose Zhou, the women’s senior class representative and vice president of the University Premed Association, said being in these positions of leadership has helped her see her own strengths and weaknesses in communication, planning events and promoting unity.

Zhou worked closely with Joel Bauman, the men’s senior class representative, to arrange a senior breakfast on Senior Appreciation Day last semester.  Zhou said she and Bauman have skill sets that complement each other well. “He’s really good at setting a vision and going after it and getting people inspired,” Zhou said. “I’m good with details.”

Shelby Colledge, president of the Zeta Tau Omega Seagulls, said that before she was in any leadership positions, she sought them for selfish reasons. “I just liked being in charge,” she said.

Now, Colledge realizes the influence she can have on others through her leadership positions and wants to use them as a platform for personal growth and investment in others. “I’ve made the mistakes, and I can build off those and do a better job,” she said.

Leadership roles provide these women with opportunities to invest in others and see God do amazing things through them and other people.

Wallen said grounding herself and her society officer crew in Christ through prayer is crucial to ensuring unity and preventing discouragement. She said society is a low-risk environment to grow and learn through mistakes and to point others to Christ.

“This is the only time ever in the history of the world—in the universe—that God has put us here, and it will never happen again the same way,” Wallen said. 

Zhou said the best part of being in leadership is the variety of people she has met and built relationships with. 

This semester, Zhou and Bauman worked together to plan the senior class gift and its announcement to the senior class on March 1 in War Memorial Chapel.  Zhou said it was so rewarding to see the hard work and planning for this event finally come together and to receive such positive feedback from the senior class.

“It was exciting to see [seniors] getting passionate about something and thinking, ‘Wow! I inspired them to do this,’” Zhou said.

College said her focus when planning society events as president last semester was on numbers, but that focus has shifted this semester to the quality of the event for whoever chooses to attend.

College said she has learned to enjoy the moment and seek to make the events for other people instead of for herself.  It isn’t easy to fill positions of leadership, and every leadership role poses a unique set of challenges.

Wallen said it’s challenging to be president of a society with over 100 members, because there is a greater risk of someone falling through the cracks and feeling left out.

However, she said this also provides more opportunities for people to get involved.  “We may not see the harvest of what we’re planting right now, but we’re trying to keep a strong foundation and prepare for the future leaders of the society,” Wallen said.

Zhou said her positions as lab assistant in the science building, vice president of the PMA and women’s senior representative have taught her so much about her own strengths and weaknesses while leading a team.

College said she has learned a lot about time management from her leadership positions and gained a greater ability to think on her feet and adapt to unforeseen circumstances, focusing on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.

“Focus on what works and move on,” College said.

Dunphy said both of her positions require unifying diverse individuals and helping them see that different doesn’t automatically imply negativity. “In the ISO, being different is what brings us together,” she said.

Dunphy tries to focus on differences between herself and the girls on her hall because that demonstrates her interest in them, and she learns something new at the same time.