Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Hands-on Community Leadership
The HWS Update
Boys and Girls Club 1

Hands-on Community Leadership

Through the Junior Board Member program, Hobart and William Smith students develop leadership skills alongside community members by serving on local non-profit advisory boards.

Community engagement and community leadership play an integral role in the Hobart and William Smith curriculum. Since 2019, the Junior Board Member program has embedded students among the leadership boards of non-profit organizations to learn what it takes to make change at the local level.

Organized by the HWS Centennial Center for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL), the program foregrounds the connection between service-learning projects and leadership coursework. In addition to attending regular board meetings, students support organizations through their work on specific short-term projects, fundraising, social media outreach and marketing, and participation in subcommittees.

“Students are eager to learn from local community leaders about how non-profit boards work to support the mission of the organization,” says CCESL Director Katie Flowers. “By having a local and civic application for HWS Leads course content, students are able to reflect on one of the many ways they can launch a ‘life of consequence,’ and our community partners are eager to have HWS student perspectives on various aspects of programs, outreach and development.”

“Over the past few years, we have shifted HWS Leads to include a more evolved Leadership Fieldwork experience. These experiences allow students to explore opportunities in areas where they have professional interests in a very applied manner, finding real world connections to the Leadership Theory they were introduced to earlier in the program,” says Cait Finn, assistant director of leadership programs at the Centennial Center.

Students are required to log 45 hours of engagement throughout the academic year. In addition to the time spent at the partner organization, students receive ongoing support and mentorship from their fieldwork advisor at the Centennial Center.

Chris Lavin ’81, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva, which currently hosts two Junior Board members from HWS, says students have “instantly…elevated discussions on club policy and it has been fun watching them find their leadership footing among a board of seasoned professionals.”

During the 2019-20 academic year Tobey Eveleth ’20, Alex Cottrell ’20 and Samantha Buckenmaeir ’20 served at organizations in Geneva (the Geneva Industrial Development Agency and Family Promise) as they fulfilled their HWS Leads Certificate requirements.

This year, 11 students have been placed at eight partner organizations: Litzy Bautista ’23 and Bailey DiSanto ’21, MAT’22 (Boys & Girls Club), Katie Percoski ’20 and Laurel Soulier ’21 (Ontario ARC), Lauren Rohlfs ’20 (Lochland School), Cuinn Lauten ’20 (Geneva Music Festival), Jacqueline Cook ’20 and Julia Ricciareli ’20 (Geneva Industrial Development Agency and Local Development Corporation), Drew Moriarty ’22  (Habitat for Humanity), Saige Arsenault ’21 (Waterloo Library and Historical Society) and Caroline Bryceland ’21 (St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy).

At St. Peter’s, which is in the midst of an extensive renovation and preparing for its 10th Annual Dinner with the Arts, “working alongside the board has opened my eyes to the importance of leadership and teamwork,” Bryceland says. “Each person on the board brings a different perspective and idea that benefits everyone and most importantly the Academy.”

Students will share their work at the end of the spring semester, when the HWS and Geneva communities will be invited to hear the impact of the Junior Board Program.

To host a Junior Board member, please contact Katie Flowers at kflowers@hws.edu.

The photo above features HWS students volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva.