The Centennial Center for Leadership selected three students, Wendi Bacon ’12, Lily Farnham ’11, and Sam Georgian ’10 as the 2010 recipients of the Cohen and Centennial Fellowships. These recipients will implement their service-based leadership projects during the summer and fall of this year.
These fellowships provide financial support for the Colleges’ student-leaders. The funding helps students practice the art of leading through projects that develop the student as a leader and simultaneously positively influence the community in which they are involved. The Centennial Center defines leadership as “creating a vision” and achieving it while motivating others to do the same.
“We purposely didn’t define ‘leadership project.’ We wanted students to craft what they think leadership is. Proposals conceptualized leadership in different ways; they let students define what leadership is,” says Lynn Shollen, Leadership Development Coordinator.
The Centennial Center on South Main Street is a space dedicated to enhancing leadership on campus and in the greater community. The Center was established as part of the William Smith Centennial celebration in 2008, and this is the second year for the Cohen Fellowship and the first year for the Centennial Fellowship.
Funding received can be put toward project materials, project costs, travel/transportation, living expenses, or other associated costs. Upon acceptance, recipients must agree to complete a weekly journal, speak at HWS about their experience (usually in the Senior Symposium), and turn in a synopsis of the project for CCL to use in the future.
Cohen Fellowships are made possible by HWS Trustee Dr. Stephen Cohen ’67, who wanted to give students the opportunity to thrive as leaders. Dan DeNose ‘10 was the first winner of the fellowship last summer. This year, Sam Georgian ’10 is interning with the Audubon Seabird Restoration and Conservation Program in Maine for eight weeks, working with a small team in a remote, challenging environment collecting field data, banding seabirds, improving their habitats, and working on community education and outreach. The leadership skills gained by working in a small group toward a shared vision will help Georgian in attaining his goal of becoming a professional conservation ecologist.
Wendi Bacon ’12 was also awarded a 2010 Cohen Fellowship for her proposal to create a sustainable Tae-Kwon-Do program at the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva, N.Y. With a goal of providing exercise and teaching children values such as integrity, discipline, and perseverance, Bacon began this project last year, and the results were a huge success. Ten of her initial group of students completed the program and successfully tested for higher belts, and parents and students alike had noticed a positive change in behavior. The Cohen Fellowship will pay for much-needed martial arts equipment at the Boys and Girls Club, and aid in recruiting more students and instructors for the program.
In addition to Cohen Fellowships, in honor of the 100th anniversary of William Smith College, the Centennial Center now offers Centennial Fellowships. Unlike the Cohen Fellowship, only current HWS students who have completed the HWS Leads coursework or formal HWS Leads Reader’s College are eligible to submit a proposal, and completion of the Public Speaking Reader’s College is preferred but not required.
Lily Farnham ’11 is this year’s recipient of the $5,000 award, and she is implementing a community service club for Operation Military Kids: Vermont, a program that supports children from military families in Burlington, Vt. A member of a military family herself, Farnham looks forward to providing support for military children and developing her skills as a leader. “Vermont has just experienced the largest deployment since World War II and many children and families have been affected,” she says. “The benefits would be far-reaching as they would help support military children by building confidence and friendships and creating a strong relationship with the community.” A combination of various service projects and fun activities led by Farnham and funded by the Centennial Fellowship will make her proposal a reality.
In terms of choosing this year’s recipients, Shollen and Susan Pliner, the associate dean for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment and the interim director of the Centennial Center for Leadership, had a difficult task in front of them.
“I don’t think we looked at any one proposal and said ‘that’s a bad idea,'” adds Shollen.
What set the winners apart from other projects was the idea of sustainability. “A one-time thing serves you more than it serves the community,” says Pliner. Also, the winning proposals had truly thought through the logistics of the project and demonstrated the impact the project had on the leaders themselves and on the community. Georgian, Bacon, and Farnham’s proposals stood out because they focused on the difference between leadership and management, or actually going out and physically practicing leadership versus simply organizing/planning a project.
More information about the Cohen and Centennial Fellowships, along with details of the HWS Leads program and leadership-based Reader’s Colleges can be found at the Centennial Center website.