Leadership isn’t about just having an official title – it’s about making an impact.
“We help to create change makers,” says Jarrod Rudd, associate director of leadership with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement (OLCE).
One way OLCE at UNC Greensboro creates those change makers is through the Spartan Leadership Challenge.
The Spartan Leadership Challenge (SLC) is a three-tiered journey students can participate in throughout their college career. Each tier – bronze, silver and gold – has different training, workshops, and requirements to prepare students to be effective and productive leaders. About 250 students go through the program each year.
“We really believe in non-positional leadership. You lead from who you are, and you lead from where you are,” Rudd says. “We talk a lot about dismantling some of the ideas of what it means to be a leader.”
As a commuter student, junior Arlinessa Abreu Martinez felt disconnected at UNCG. In Fall 2022, she was determined to become more involved in the UNCG community and started joining clubs. She then became aware of the SLC and started the bronze experience.
“Leadership can be shown in so many different ways. I just really wanted to make a difference,” says Abreu Martinez, who is studying international business with a minor in Spanish. “I knew that through community service, I would be able to serve others and help them with their needs.”
The bronze experience can be completed in either one or two semesters where students participate in five workshops, ten hours of community service, and five hours of professional development.
A LEADERSHIP IDENTITY
“The bronze experience is all about how we are creating our leadership identity,” Rudd says. “So who am I as a leader? What do I believe in? What are my values? How might my values and identity align with someone else’s?”
For Abreu Martinez, both the leadership values and social identity workshops have been insightful.
“The leadership workshop helped me understand different leadership styles and how to lead effectively. I was also able to identify areas in which I could improve and develop my leadership skills,” says Abreu Martinez.
INVESTING IN THE COMMUNITY
The silver experience focuses on setting personal, professional, and academic goals. Participants are paired one-on-one with volunteer graduate students, staff, or faculty who serve as coaches.
“I always set goals for each semester, but I don’t really name them, or share them with another person,” says Rachel Tang, a junior participating in the silver experience. “So the process has pushed me to stick with my goals.”
Tang, a UNCG Reynolds Scholar in the Lloyd International Honors College and enjoyed the bronze experience when she went through the program in 2021 with a Housing and Residence Life cohort as a resident advisor.
Students in bronze can do their 10 hours of community service at various locations, but students in silver complete 30 hours in one area. Tang has completed more than 190 hours of service over the course of two semesters. She chose to work with New Arrivals Institute, an organization that helps refugee families with language learning and employee readiness.
“What I love about working with New Arrivals is meeting so many people from varying backgrounds and cultures,” says Tang, a social work major with a minor in classical studies. “I enjoy seeing the parents interact with their children, and I love seeing children from different cultures play together. Seeing friendships blossom between children is so encouraging and fun!”
Tang says she’s developed a strong relationship with the organization along with new friendships. OLCE hopes the silver experience community service aspect creates this bond between the student and her chosen organization.
“Investing in both my community and my future is worth it,” says Tang.
TELLING YOUR LEADERSHIP STORY
Graduate student Brent Archie is a textbook definition of a leader: an Eagle Scout, former resident advisor, and a former Coast Guard military officer. The SLC allowed him to find a new way to give back to his community.
Archie is now going through the gold experience – the final tier in the program that lasts for one academic year. Students work on a community project with the goal of making a larger impact on the Greensboro area. Archie is working with Joyous Transitions, a nonprofit that helps domestic violence survivors.
“With the project that we put together, I came with my financial knowledge, and some of the contacts that I have, to help people create a budget and make sure they’re spending their money correctly, so they can get back on their feet,” says Archie, who’s in his second year of studying for a master’s of business administration, concentrating in international business.
Even with his past experience, Archie says all three tiers have been helpful in shaping his view of himself as a leader and what he can offer.
“If you consider yourself a leader, or you are in a leadership role, we help you to be able to articulate some of those things,” says Rudd.
But even if you’re not in a leadership role, the program sets you up for success.
“You’ll be able to tell your leadership story and articulate who you are,” says Rudd.
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona and David Lee Row, University Communications
BE A CHANGE MAKER AT UNCG