The Collegian
Sunday, April 11, 2021

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New and old leadership school groups provide opportunities for Jepson students

Editor's Note: The managing editor of The Collegian is a Jepson Corps member.

 Jepson School of Leadership Studies classes teach students about leaders and leadership. But leadership school students are also encouraged to develop their own leadership skills in real-world situations, said Kerstin Soderlund, the school's associate dean for student and external affairs. 

Students can do this through Jepson student organizations such as the Jepson Student Government Association, Jepson Corps and Science Leadership Scholars. 

Jepson Student Government Association

JSGA is the only Jepson student organization recognized by the University of Richmond, Soderlund said. JSGA members talk to fellow students about parts of the leadership school, such as its culture, community, curriculum and policies, Soderlund said. 

To join JSGA, students need to be elected by members of their class. This year, students sent written descriptions about why they wanted to be JSGA senators; the descriptions were put into a virtual booklet for students to look at before voting on Blackboard, sophomore JSGA senator Kathrina Durante said. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, campaigning students were allowed to put up posters throughout Jepson Hall as well,  Soderlund said. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, students running for JSGA campaigned on social media instead, Soderlund said.

JSGA contributes to leadership school traditions, such as organizing the Prelude program, a welcome event for newly accepted leadership students, Soderlund said. JSGA also coordinates the composite photo displays of each senior leadership class, Soderlund said. 

Additionally, JSGA assists with the senior banquet that is held at the end of each year, which gathers the community to celebrate leadership school seniors, Soderlund said.      

Aside from helping to run the leadership school's annual traditions, JSGA senators pick a personal project to work on to help the UR community, senior and JSGA co-president Alexandra Beran said. 

Senior JSGA senator Grace Miller said: “My first year [as a JSGA senator], my project was working on a major mentorship program. I helped connect underclassmen with upperclassmen with similar second majors or career interests in an academic mentorship, but also to find friendships with upperclassmen.” 

This year, JSGA members focus on how they can bring together leadership-school students and faculty while observing COVID-19 restrictions, senior and JSGA co-president Nora Apt said.

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Jepson Corps

Jepson Corps was formally created in 2011 as a group of approximately 10 students, mostly seniors, invited to help with admissions programming, orientation for new leadership school students and various other programs, Soderlund said. 

“I was asked to do a lot of presentations for [the Office of Undergraduate Admissions] and other things, talking about the Jepson School, the Jepson curriculum, what we’re about,” Soderlund said. “I feel very competent to do that, but I also think that I’m not going through the Jepson School. I’m not taking the classes. I’m not getting the degree.

"So, pretty early on, when I would get asked to do those programs, I would go out and recruit some students.”

When deciding which students to invite to join Jepson Corps, Soderlund tries to find a balanced group, she said. For example, Soderlund finds representatives of different genders, with different major and minor combinations, who have done research, who have been involved with the Jepson at Cambridge Program or who are Science Leadership Scholars, she said. 

“[Jepson Corps is] really critical to Jepson,” Soderlund said. “It’s much more interesting to listen to the students talk about their experience."   

Science Leadership Scholars

Students must apply to join the Science Leadership Scholars their sophomore year, according to the program webpage. Science Leadership Scholars major or minor in both leadership studies and one of the natural sciences or computer science, mathematical economics, mathematics or psychology, according to the Science Leadership Scholars webpage.  

“Roughly three, four years ago now, the faculty in Jepson School decided to create a program that's tailored to our students who are in the sciences, to give them a space to converse with each other,” said leadership professor Christopher von Rueden, the academic adviser for Science Leadership Scholars. 

The program was also created to encourage more students majoring in the sciences to consider the leadership school as a complement to their course of study, von Rueden said.

Throughout each year, the scholars listen to speakers and go on field trips, according to the program webpage. During one semester of senior year, they complete an independent study in leadership studies or the sciences, according to the webpage. 

“We're not privileging science students with this necessarily but just saw it as an opportunity to reach out to one at least one segment of our Jepson community that maybe have had a tougher time,” von Rueden said. 

Currently, students are reforming the Science Leadership Scholars program. Senior Nicole Miller and junior Juliette Copeland, both part of the program, decided they wanted to try to do more with it after attending a lecture specifically for the scholars, Miller said.  

“[Miller and I] saw that there was potential there because there are 25 of us and that’s a big group," Copeland said.

“We didn’t really know any of the other scholars. There weren't ways for students to connect with each other. So, we wanted to see what we could do to bulk up the program to make it meaningful and make it a good experience for students.”   

Currently, Miller and Copeland are planning another lecture for the Science Leadership Scholars, Miller said. They also hope to create career networking events for current scholars to connect with alumni who were in both the leadership school and the sciences, she said. 

Miller and Copeland are also organizing small Zoom hang-out events to get to know other scholars, Miller said. Eventually, they hope to create leadership positions within the Science Leadership Scholars program as well, Copeland said.  

Contact features writer Lauren Olignio at lauren.olignio@richmond.edu.

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