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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

New leadership office focuses on volunteerism

Students and faculty filled the newly renovated 235 Student Union - formerly a commuter lounge - for the grand opening of the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement.

According to Andrea Costantino, director of Student Life, the new center will enhance UB's ability to reach out to the community.

"Part of the University's mission is connecting our campus to the local community...(the office) will service the Buffalo and the Amherst community," Costantino said. "So many more students can actually be serviced than in the commuter lounge."

The center will play a role in developing UB 2020 strategic strengths by offering students opportunities to learn leadership skills and to get involved in community service.

According to Barbara Ricotta, dean of students, the center hopes to establish a sense of volunteerism that goes further than just tallying hours.

"Community engagement is not just about checking off those hours," she said. "I hope for our students, it's about dedication to the community that they live in, to find that cause or that purpose in their life that they want to dedicate their time and their effort to."

Amy Wilson, associate director of the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement, thinks that the addition of the center will give students more opportunities.

"Whether it's an individual or a group, whether it's to get academic credit or just the mere experience, there's really a broad range of ways for people to get involved," Wilson said.

Students will be able to experience all aspects of the center through the Leadership Certificate Program, according to Wilson. Some of the programs offered are an online leadership program called SOUL, the Emerging Leaders Forum for first-year students, the one-day shadowing program through Real Experience and Leadership Mentoring (REALM), and Women Empowered to Lead.

A new program, Stay Up UB, is a dance marathon that will benefit UNICEF and begins in November.

The center will also sponsor a community engagement fair and hold the first annual Western New York Student Leadership Conference at UB in February.

Speakers at the grand opening emphasized the "social change model of leadership," in which people learn leadership skills in order to put them into practice in their societies.

According to Ricotta, UB has a long history of leadership programs, which have influenced what UB is today.

In 1987, Ricotta taught a class called "Practicum in Leadership." Students taking the course established some of UB's traditions including the Senior Breakfast, now the Senior Brunch.

At the time, only a small Student Activities Center existed. The students involved in Ricotta's class campaigned for a center dedicated to their clubs and organizations. They were then involved in the development and naming of the Student Union building.

Tianna Porter, a senior psychology and sociology major, and the current president of the Native American People's Alliance, thinks the addition of the new program will benefit students.

"Improving upon the programs that they already offer is a good way to keep many students involved and engaged," Porter said.



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