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New Leadership Councils align goals of similar student groups

Soon after Hurricane Sandy devastated oceanfront communities along the East Coast, many of Northeastern’s 325 student groups began working on ways to individually respond to the ongoing crisis. But it wasn’t until several weeks had passed that many groups joined forces to formulate a cohesive response to the disaster.

But this semester’s creation of 16 new Leadership Councils will bring together like-minded student groups for monthly meetings that aim to build strong bonds, making it easier for them to organize events, share resources, and even respond to humanitarian crises like Sandy.

Laura Wankel, vice president for student affairs at Northeastern University. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

“Part of our goal is to strengthen a sense of community within our campus,” said Laura Wankel, Northeastern’s vice president for student affairs. “We’re already a university focused on experiential and co-curricular opportunities and this enables us to target our work a bit more specifically toward certain areas.”

Chaired by a member of the Student Government Association and Student Affairs staff, the new leadership councils serve as a platform for student groups to work together on programming, thus solving long-standing funding and work space issues. The leadership councils will focus on six core themes—self-efficacy, community and civic engagement, leadership, innovation and creativity, assessment, and collaboration and communication.

“Our goal is for these student groups to take advantage of the opportunity to enact change and take ownership over a much broader university community,” said Jason Campbell-Foster, director of Northeastern’s Office of Campus Activities, which launched the new Leadership Councils. “Now we have these groups meeting in the same room, so they’re much more able to work together on projects like this.”

“The Finance Board often sees events that are similar in nature and occur around the same time,” added Kate Chandley, the SGA’s vice president for student involvement. “If we can clearly identify earlier in the process organizations that are planning similar events and foster collaboration before they go to the finance board, we can hopefully avoid repetition and have more successful and unique events.”

The councils’ structure is similar to that of the Multicultural Greek Council, which governs Northeastern’s fraternities and sororities, and aims to encourage student groups and members of the university community at large to become more engaged.

In addition to creating a framework for similar student groups to work together more closely, the leadership councils also make it easier for the university to tailor programming to particular clubs and organizations. One could envision a first-aid course for outdoors groups, for example, or an intellectual-property seminar for media groups.

The first wave of Leadership Council meetings wrapped up this month, garnering a largely positive response from student leaders. “We are hoping to see that this will foster a strong sense of collaboration between organizations that we haven’t seen in the past,” Chandley said.