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Issue No. 7—Summer 2013
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How to develop leadership skills without (necessarily) holding an office

“We aspire to build innovative leaders … by empowering students with unique developmental experiences at Rice and beyond, increasing relationships with alumni and other mentors, and equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to make unparalleled contributions to society.”
~ Student Vision for the 2nd Century (2012) 

While approaches to leadership training may vary, most experts agree that greater opportunities for communication, self-reflection, experiential learning and mentorship will increase a student’s odds of becoming an effective leader.  At Rice, students from all majors have a surprisingly wide array of options to hone their leadership skills, from dedicated leadership and co-curricular programs, to specialized leadership and communication centers, to student organizations or residential colleges.  Here are just some of the ways that students can develop their leadership abilities at Rice:

Practice leadership through civic engagement
The Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), formerly the Center for Civic Engagement, creates opportunities for undergraduates to engage with the city of Houston and beyond via research, outreach and mentorships. Through three overarching programs — the Community Involvement Center, Leadership Rice and the Office of Fellowships and Undergraduate Research — the CCL fosters engagement opportunities for students from all majors and class years. Examples of opportunities include Alternative Spring Break, Urban Immersion, independent research guided by a faculty member, the Summer Mentorship Experience, and even $2,500 Envision Grants that students may apply for to create their own leadership projects.

Be a mentor through the Summer Mentorship Experience
Parents who hold a leadership role in their organization are invited to serve as a mentor in the Summer Mentorship Experience (SME), a highly selective internship program for Rice undergraduates who aspire to become leaders in their chosen fields. In addition to employing bright, motivated and productive summer employees who come into the position prepared to make an impact, mentors offer positive feedback and constructive criticism and give insights on handling challenging situations and priorities.

Read more about how you can help develop the next generation of leaders through the SME program.

Put academic knowledge to the test
Several of Rice’s academic schools and programs provide opportunities for students to apply and expand their leadership toolkit. For example, through the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, engineering students can take leadership courses and work on real-world design challenges and ultimately may earn an engineering leadership certificate.  The School of Social Sciences’ Gateway program allows social sciences majors to apply classroom knowledge through internships, independent research and international ambassadorships.  The business minor offered through the Jones Graduate School of Business allows a number of students to complement their primary discipline. And the Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication, located in Fondren Library, offers one-on-one feedback and workshops to sharpen communication skills essential to leadership.

Participate in a student-run business, club or sport
These leadership experiences may seem familiar, but that’s because there is a ton of value in running a business, leading a club (or starting one) and playing collegiate or intramural sports.  Student organizations and activities — from the Rice Coffeehouse to Habitat for Humanity — allow students to network, work on teams and creative positive change on campus and beyond. That includes student-led leadership programs, such as OwlSpark, which allows student teams to incubate business ideas with professional mentors, the Impact Rice Retreat, a weekend-long event planned by upperclassmen for underclassmen, and Women LEAD, a series of networking and speaking events highlighting women leaders.    

Rise to the challenge in a residential college
Rice’s 11 residential colleges are one of the foremost symbols of student leadership at Rice. It starts with the honor code and the long-running tradition of self-government. Although each college has leadership positions such as president and vice president, leadership experiences can also be found in staging a production of "Hello Hamlet" or teaching a college course for credit on the history of jazz or the mathematics of aesthetics.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Rice encourages students to communicate with their advisors, college masters, professors and peers about leadership opportunities. Regardless of their major or starting point, students can seek out, or even create, a path that is right for them.